Many of us don’t consider our credit scores in our daily lives, especially when we’re younger. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of mistakes and poor decisions when it comes to how much we put on our credit cards or take out in loan amounts. It’s easy to fall into the trap that missing a couple of payments here and there isn’t the end of the world, but it can have some severe repercussions.
Your credit score is a three-digit number that is calculated via your previous spending habits relating to loans, credit cards, and more. It is essentially a financial record that keeps track of your money management habits, which future lenders or companies will take note of when assessing whether they want to take you on. This includes mortgage lenders, insurance providers, and landlords.
- 1 The Importance of Good Credit
- 2 How To Improve Your Credit Score, Fast
- 3 Summary
The Importance of Good Credit
Why is it so important to have a good credit score? Well, you might be surprised just how much it can affect your financial standing. It’s easy to miss a couple of payments on your credit card or outstanding loans when you aren’t mindful of the consequences, but by doing so your harm future investments.
Landlords are well within their rights to refuse tenants with bad credit scores. When you come to purchasing a house, you’ll find it far more difficult to find a mortgage lender if your credit isn’t good, and this is also true for when you come to purchase a car. It can also affect future credit card rates or the interest on loans you take out. Lenders want to know you aren’t a risk. A bad credit score is a big red flag.
How To Improve Your Credit Score, Fast
While it may take some time to completely undo the mistakes of the past, if you’re looking to improve your credit score for a specific purpose (such as taking out a mortgage or applying for a loan) then it’s absolutely possible to see significant improvement in just 30 days if you employ the right strategies.
We’ve compiled the following tactics as they’ll benefit your score both in the short-term and long-term. Remember, employing any of these will improve your credit score quickly, but if you just fall into bad habits again it will undo all your hard work. Consistency is key!
Amend Any Late or Missed Payments
A little secret that a lot of people aren’t aware of is that your missed payments don’t necessarily have to be a smudge on your record forever. Some creditors will agree to wipe previously missed payments from your account if you offer something to them in return. This could be paying more than the usually required amount or (if you have the money) paying off the balance in total.
Creditors want your debts cleared as soon as possible, so they’re surprisingly willing to negotiate on past missed payments if it means paying a higher amount than your agreed premium on one or two occasions. However you decide to negotiate, just make sure it’s all in writing as evidence. Credits may decline your offer, but you lose nothing by trying, and the removal of late payments is a big plus.
Stay on Top of Your Payments
Of course, instead of negotiating with your creditors, you could just ensure you don’t miss any payments at all. Prevention is cheaper than the cure, after all. This is easier said than done, that goes without saying, but if you have outstanding loans or credit payments to make then staying on top of them is essential.
Luckily, doing so doesn’t have to be a test of your memory. If you have numerous outgoing payments all leaving on different dates it’s understandable that you could lose track of them. For this reason, countless apps and services exist solely for tracking your payments. If you’re more old-fashioned, write up your payment due dates on a calendar.
However you decide to do it, ensuring you don’t miss any payments throughout the month will result in an improved credit score by the end of it. It isn’t a miracle cure, but it’s an essential first step if you’re hoping to see any meaningful improvement moving forward.
Correct Any Mistakes on Your Credit Report
Mistakes happen, and sometimes they aren’t your fault. Sometimes a mark on your credit report can be dragging your score down when it was recorded in error all along. You’re entitled to a full, free credit report every twelve months from one of the three big credit bureaus in the US: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion from AnnaulCreditReport.com
It’s strongly recommended that you take advantage of these free reports and comb through them for any inconsistencies. These can include records of missed payments when you know they didn’t occur, or entire transactions that you have no record of ever happening. Your chosen credit bureau has thirty days to respond and rectify any mistakes you’ve highlighted.
It might sound like dull, methodical work, but don’t underestimate the impact removing mistakes from your record can make. You shouldn’t have to pay the price for falsely recorded information, but you will if you don’t accuracy-check your credit reports.
Work to Reduce Your Outstanding Debts
The debts we accrue throughout our lives contribute heavily to our overall credit score, especially if there are no meaningful attempts made to pay them off. At the beginning of the month make a game plan to pay off extra on your outstanding debts throughout the month. This could include your mortgage, student loans, or your credit card balance.
You’ll have to look through your budget and see where you can tighten things up to release some extra cash, but making extra payments to reduce your debt pile will benefit you enormously in the long-run. For instance, if you can keep your credit card balance down to 30% or below you will see a significant improvement in your credit score. This renews in each billing cycle so this is a great way to give your score a quick, positive boost.
Use Your Credit Card Frequently
This might sound counterproductive at first, but trust us on this, it can help. The overuse of credit cards has the reputation of ruining your credit standing, but this is only true if you have no means or intention of paying off your outstanding balances. If you are able to keep up with payments (in full and on time) then you can actually use your cards to boost your score.
Many people with great credit scores exclusively use their credit cards for more expensive purchases which they can then pay off later. As long as your payments are made on time, this is a great habit to have on record as it demonstrates a capability to pay off large debts responsibly. Just make sure you don’t spend beyond your means. If you put an amount on your card that you realistically can’t pay off on time, you will sabotage your own credit score.
Don’t Be Too Quick to Erase Debts
This might sound a little strange, but having an outstanding debt for an extended period of time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your credit record exists to highlight how capable you are of handling money and paying off debts. Lenders don’t want to part with money to someone who has a history of missed payments, but they also don’t want to take a risk on someone who has no record whatsoever.
Someone with no debt at all might sound great, but if you’re applying for a loan with no history, your prospective lender has nothing to judge you from. If you have a debt on your record with no missed payments that you’ve held for years (think student loans, or a loan taken out to make a past big purchase) a lender will have clear evidence you’re responsible with your finances. Don’t be afraid of loans or credit cards. Using them can be highly beneficial for your credit score.
Make Use of Credit Utilization
A surefire way to provide a quick boost to your credit score is by making use of credit utilization. This is the name given to the portion of credit you have access to across all of your credit cards. Essentially, by making smaller payments across all of your credit cards as opposed to focusing on one larger payment you can actually significantly boost your overall credit score.
It might be tempting to focus your efforts on paying off your largest credit debt first and moving through them that way, but by paying all of them off little-by-little you can actually create a more meaningful change to your credit score. Additionally, as advised above, having your debts extend over time isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. It can actually work in your favor.
Building good credit takes time and there is no quick-fix, but there are numerous ways you can provide a boost to your credit score in a short amount of time. The key is to keep up good habits permanently. Employing any of the above tactics and dropping them after a month is a waste of time. Staying on top of your finances doesn’t have to be complicated, it just requires some organization and dedication!
Additional Useful resources:
- The 5 Best Credit Repair Companies of 2020
- Credit Repair Resources: Tools To Repair Your Credit
- Credit Repair Questions: 10 Questions To Ask Your Company
- How Much Does Credit Repair Cost?
Matt is the founder of CreditInformative.com and holds a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) with a major in Finance and Marketing and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) with a major in Economics and History. Matt’s advice has been featured on Business Insider, Fox Business, Newsday, Money Under 30 and many other publications.