Every time you apply for a credit card, mortgage, car loan, or insurance, your application is judged in part by your credit score. Lenders use your credit score to determine whether to grant credit, and at what cost. The higher the score, the more likely you are perceived to repay the credit. Consumers with scores in the 600s and lower usually are seen as higher risk and may pay a higher interest rate or are denied credit.
Fortunately, you can take steps to boost your credit score. These tips can maximize your score and influence your credit-worthiness.
1. Be punctual. Late or missed payments, foreclosures, and bankruptcies have the greatest negative effect on your credit score.
2. Check your credit report regularly. Don't let inaccurate information ruin your credit score. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), which you can get online at annualcreditreport.com. Even though the credit report is free, getting your credit score will cost extra. You can obtain your credit score at myFICO.com, or from the individual bureau's websites, experian.com, equifax.com and transunion.com.
3. Keep debt in check. Try to keep your account balances below 25% of your credit limit. For instance, if your credit card has a limit of $2,000, keep the balance less than $500.
4. When shopping for a loan, submit your applications within a limited time. If done in a short period of time, say 2-3 weeks, multiple inquiries on a credit report will count as one inquiry to a potential lender looking at your report. Excess inquiries strung out over a longer period, however, could negatively affect your credit.
5. Keep accounts open. Time is another significant factor that can improve your credit score. Closing old accounts—especially ones with a good payment history—shortens your credit history and lowers your score. Lenders take into account the average age of your accounts, so an older account can help balance newer credit.
6. Keep a healthy mix of credit. This includes things like a mortgage, a credit card or two, a car loan, and perhaps a retail card. Southwest Heritage Credit Union can help you acquire the mix you need.