“What’s your credit score?” For some, that question can strike a lot of fear. Maybe you don’t have one, maybe it is low, or maybe you are protective of the score you have. Don’t worry, Zebit doesn’t affect your credit score, but we figured sharing a few tips on how to improve your score will help you get it where you want.
What is a Credit Score?
To start, a credit score is a three-digit number (300-850) that creditors use to determine the risk involved in lending money. Someone with a lower credit score is less likely to repay their loan, which leads to creditors to either deny a loan or increase the interest rate on the loan. A higher credit score means the opposite; someone with a higher score is less risky, so creditors are more likely to approve loans with a lower interest rate.
Your actual credit score number is calculated through several factors including your payment history on loans and credit cards, how long you’ve had credit accounts, how often you apply for credit, how much credit you regularly use, and the type of accounts that you have.
Tip 1: Don’t Miss Payments
Having an excellent payment history is one of the best ways to improve your credit score. If you pay all your bills on time, creditors will see you as reliable to pay back what you owe on any outstanding debt. Paying late or settling an account for less than what you agreed to pay, will lower your credit score. Your late payments will stay on your credit report for seven years, but as time goes on, the less they’ll impact your overall score. Don’t worry if you have a few late payments on your credit report today, just focus on avoiding them in the future.
Tip 2: Calculate your Credit Utilization Ratio
Another major factor in determining your credit score is how much of your credit you use. The general rule of thumb is to use around 30% of your available credit. This shows lenders that you are responsible and you’re not maxing out your credit cards. Not only will this help your credit score, but it will also force you to take control of your budget. Knowing what you owe and tracking what you are spending takes a lot of the fear and stress out of managing your finances.
Tip 3: Don’t Close Your Accounts
Credit history is one of the hardest things to build, simply because it takes a long time to build. Closing old credit accounts will remove some of your credit history and will impact your overall credit utilization ratio. For example, if you’re using $3,000 of credit out of $10,000 total, you’re at 30% credit utilization. If you close an account that carries $2,000 credit, even if you’re not utilizing it, that moves your total credit to $8,000 and moves your credit utilization ratio to 37.5%, which could negatively impact your score.
Tip 4: Open New Accounts Cautiously
It’s important to know when applying for credit if they’re going to do a hard inquiry on your credit report. This inquiry will lower your credit score. While applying for new credit can be helpful for your utilization ratio, applying for multiple lines of credit at the same time can decrease your score quite a bit. When joining Zebit, we don’t perform a hard inquiry and your FICO score will not be affected.
Tip 5: Work with the Creditor
If you need a quick change and can’t afford to wait for these other tips to take effect, try writing a letter to the credit reporting agency that has reported late payments on your credit report. Explain any outside factors that caused your late payment, mention it was a one-time mistake, and ask for the late payment to be removed from your report. Generally, these types of letters only work if your late payment is out of character, but it is worth a shot!
Tip 6: It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
The last tip is to give everything some time. Chances are you won’t be able to reduce your credit utilization ratio to 30% overnight and you will need time to show good repayment history. However, by utilizing these tips your credit score will improve, which will allow you access to better interest rates and access more credit.
Do you have any of tips that you use to help improve your credit score? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!