The average FICO score in the US hit a record high of 703 last year, according to the 2019 Experian Consumer Credit Review. That’s an increase of nearly 15 points since the start of the decade. What’s more, 59% of Americans have a credit score of 700 or higher, which is the biggest percentage reported at that level ever.
If you haven’t checked your credit score lately, do so immediately. Because the better your score is, the better your offers and interest rates are on everything from credit cards to car and home loans. Plus, it’s free. You can request one from the three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) each year through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Annual Credit Report program. Once you know where you rank, you can make the call whether or not your score needs a boost. But we’d all prefer the highest possible credit score, right? And while raising your score takes time and a consistent history of payments, there are a few proven ways to lift it higher and faster.
Focus on your
It can be tempting to clear away small debts first. But in terms of your credit score, it’s more important to utilize no more than 50% of your available credit—what they call a credit utilization ratio. Prioritize payments to the credit card with the lowest available credit limit. You can also ask your credit card company for a credit line increase. If you’ve been making regular payments and aren’t too close to your credit max, they should grant you an increase. This, in turn, lowers your overall credit utilization ratio and can result in a 10 to 15 point boost in your credit rating. That’s also why you shouldn’t close unused credit cards when you’re trying to boost your rating.
Dispute even the
Make sure you’re taking advantage of the free credit reports you’re legally owed. Review it for any errors. Things like accounts that you didn’t open, paid balances that show up as being unpaid or incorrect credit limits on active accounts. This will keep your credit safe. But if you’re looking to boost your overall credit score, you’ll want to scrutinize everything carefully and dispute even the smallest of errors. For example, did a creditor check your credit without permission? Was a balance reported higher than it really was? These can be disputed and resolved, resulting in a higher credit rating.
Once you feel like your credit history and report are clean, look for ways to build it. Go over your credit report and look for any regular bills you pay that aren’t listed there. Cable or internet provider, maybe? How about your cell phone? Some of us have been dutifully paying our wireless provider for the better part of a decade. Thankfully, in 2018 most credit bureaus began allowing these accounts to be factored into a person’s overall credit score. But the responsibility falls on you to get it on there. All you need to do is call your cable or wireless provider and ask them to report your payment history to the credit-reporting firms.
Diversify your credit
Even with a decent credit score, you can sometimes be denied for a loan if you don’t have a sufficient mix of credit types. Lenders prefer to trust those who’ve proven they can manage multiple accounts and loans at once. If all you’ve got are standard credit cards, consider applying for a small installment loan from your bank (one with fixed monthly payments) and then pay it back within 12 months. Adding this to your revolving credit lines can boost your overall credit score by 25 to 30 points.
Pay by your
Payment history makes up 35% of your overall credit score, so it’s essential that you pay your bills on time. Regular late payments can harm your rating for five to seven years. If you’re looking to boost your rating quickly, consider paying some accounts earlier than your due date—before the balances are reported to credit reporting agencies. Because if your credit is run while you’re carrying a balance (but before you pay it off at the end of the month), that will still count against your overall credit. You can call your creditor and ask when they report credit histories. This way, you can pay off your balance (or at least lower the amount charged) by the time your credit is reported.