Note: I may earn money or products from the companies, products, or links mentioned in this post.
Are you determined to improve your credit rating in 2012? Or even find out what your score is (and what it means!)—not to mention how it affects your overall life? taking care of your personal credit score could save you thousands of dollars in interest during your lifetime. Also, potential employers and insurance companies check your credit reports so it’s especially important to stay on top of credit scores in today’s economy. The good news is—it’s not hard! A few simple things can really help! Whether you have no credit, a few blemishes on your report or you want to maintain stellar credit standing – here are 4 ways on how you can help your credit score:
1. If you don’t have a credit card, get one! In order to build your credit score, you have to establish credit. This doesn’t mean you need to carry a balance on the card in order to improve your score. Rather you should make purchases that you know you can pay off at the end of your billing cycle. Paying a card off in full each month demonstrates your ability to pay off debt in a timely manner, which is important in building good credit. If you can’t get a regular credit card, you can obtain a secure credit card (where a bank or lending institution gives you a card limit that’s equal to the amount of money you deposit into an account). Just make sure the card reports to all three credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – so that you’re actually building credit with the card.
2. Manage your credit card well: Don’t overuse and always pay your bill on time. Carrying a high balance on your card is damaging to your credit score – even if you pay it off each month. Try to keep your monthly charges at less than 30% of your credit limit. If you exceed this amount, pay your balance before your statement closing date to reduce the balance that’s reported to the credit bureaus. If you can’t make a payment before the statement closing date, make sure you still pay off the balance in full if possible and get the payment in on time. Late payments are reported to the credit bureaus and can have a negative impact on your score.
3. Monitor your credit report. You should regularly check in to ensure your credit is in good standing and that you don’t have any negative marks on your reports. If you find unauthorized charges or accounts on your report be sure to dispute them with the credit agencies. You are entitled to receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the national consumer credit bureaus. You can request your report online at annualcreditreport.com or by phone at 1-877-322-8228.
4. Take out a loan. There are two main types of credit (revolving and installment) and if you want the best possible credit score, you need to establish creditworthiness with both types. Credit cards fall under the revolving credit category, so if you don’t already have an installment loan (for a student loan, car, or mortgage) you should consider getting a small personal loan that you can pay back over time. Just make sure whatever loan you have is reported to all three credit bureaus.
Did you have a must-know tip for improving credit? Or do you have an idea on financial management you would like to share?
Jodi Bakken blogs over at http://www.justmilitaryloans.com/. Jodi is a navy veteran and is currently a freelance writer.