At some point in your life, you may want or need access to credit, whether to carry a credit card or to take out a loan for a large purchase.
Your credit score is a major factor that those of us in mortgage lending use to determine if you’ll be able to pay back a home loan. This means that your score can affect whether you’re able to get approved for a mortgage – or even a car loan, or credit card — as well as what interest rate we charge you.
A good credit score can help ensure you’ll be approved for purchases made with credit, while a low credit score can sometimes prevent you from getting credit to purchase a car or home. The good news is you have a lot of control over your own score.
Here are five ways you can begin to improve your credit score:
1. Pay your bills on time. Missed payments can greatly affect your score. Late student loan and mortgage payments are negatives to your credit score, as are car loan and credit card obligations. Delinquencies and many other public record items can remain on your credit report for up to seven years, sometimes longer, so you want to keep “missed payments” off your history.
2. Pay down your credit card balances. A major part of your credit score is dependent on how much credit you are using versus how much credit you have access to. For instance, if the total amount you can borrow against a credit card is $5,000 and you owe $4,800, your revolving loan balance may be too high in conjunction with the total amount of credit available. This situation could lower your credit score.
3. Leave old debt and accounts with a solid payment history on your credit report. Sometimes it’s very difficult to know how a specific action, such as closing a credit card, may affect your account. But if you have a loan or a credit card on your report with a long history of being paid on time, that generally reflects well on a credit score.
4. Apply for and make new inquiries only if completely necessary. That store offering 15% off for opening a new charge card? Saving $10 now may ding you a lot more later when it comes to getting approved for credit. (Not to mention that carrying any balance on a store credit card will typically result in high interest charges.)
5. Be patient. You may need to complete all of the above tasks, especially paying off debt and paying your bills when due, for several months or longer to begin to see improvement in your score.
Don’t wait until you’re filling out a loan application to look into your personal credit score… taking steps today to ensure your credit history is healthy will be financially beneficial for you in the long run.