How to Increase Your Credit Score — Week 3
Having a high credit score is important for so many reasons, whether you are buying a home anytime soon or not. Your FICO score and credit report are key to getting any type of loan, and this series will give you the financial strategies you need to get your credit score as high as possible.
Whether you know it or not, there might be things you are doing that can affect your credit score for the worse. Even if you aren’t buying a home anytime soon, you don’t want to be surprised by your credit score when you want to buy a car or refinance, for example.
The decisions you make can hurt or help your score, and that’s why it’s better to have an understanding of what can impact your credit score up front. Even decisions or actions you think will help your score can actually hurt it!
Sound confusing? You’re not alone since many really smart people don’t know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to building a good credit score.
Let’s clear it up for you so you can avoid making these mistakes below:
Mistake 1: I’m caught up now with late payments so my score is fine.
It’s important to pay all of your bills on time, every time! Doesn’t matter if you’ve caught up … you were late and your account knows that.
If you must pay late and want to avoid damage to your score, pay the accounts that report to credit bureaus first. You can find this information by getting a copy of your credit report.
For example, credit reporting agencies say their records are updated “routinely,” but this does not mean instantly. It may take one to three weeks for your credit card company to report a payment or paid balance to the credit agencies, then more time for the agency’s reports to reflect the update.
This is where your own credit report and the dates indicated can tell you which of your credit card companies are more prompt in reporting and which ones may take a few more days.
Mistake 2: Dollar amounts matter in credit scores.
It may sound crazy but dollar amounts don’t matter in FICO scoring. The effect on your score is the same for a $1 late payment as a $1,000 late payment.
So don’t pay the highest bill first, if you can pay off smaller bills first.
Keep in mind that the fewer late payments on your credit report, the higher your score—regardless of their dollar amounts.
Another way to increase your score is to have a high credit limit but low balance. It signals that you are credit worthy and have paid your bills.
Call your credit card companies to increase the credit limit as high as possible but just don’t use the credit and pay down the balance so that it’s about half of the credit limit or lower.
Mistake 3: Closing credit card accounts helps my score.
Don’t do this!! If you cancel a card, you may have just thrown away your chance to increase your score by continuing to build on years of positive credit.
Remember – it’s all about your capacity for credit – how much credit you have access to, compared to how much you’re actually USING (as a percentage). So canceling a credit card account lowers your capacity, and actually moves you in the WRONG direction!
When you have a long-term and positive account history with an account, it can really boost your score. It’s better to keep your cards open and active, using them for small purchases. You can also do this to help build up your score if it isn’t high enough.
Avoid these mistakes and keep your credit score high. You never know when you’ll need a loan for a new home, a new car or want to refinance at a lower rate! If you have any questions, email me anytime!
I'm Mike and I love helping buyers discover what's really important in their forever home, then working to find that in Chicago's
Northwest Suburbs. I also have a soft spot in my heart for teachers and love giving back to them whenever I can. Let me know how I can help you make your real estate dreams come true.
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