Raising your credit score can sometimes be a long, slowly evolving process. But it doesn’t always have to be. With a little knowledge and focus, you can pinpoint the areas of your credit that need the most work, and begin the process of repairing your credit.
While it may take longer for a significant transformation — like jumping from a rating of “poor” to a rating of “excellent”, pushing your score up by 200 could be a realistic goal. There are two parts crucial to succeeding at the 200 point equation: practicing fiscal responsibility with current credit and evaluating areas of weakness on your credit report.
Your Credit Report
Whether you have a good or poor credit score, knowing what’s on your credit report can greatly assist in moving your score upward. Monitoring your credit is crucial in light of the seemingly countless security breaches into major financial corporations to include Equifax in 2016, one of the three credit valuation bureaus. According to CNBC, only half of all Americans have checked their credit report since the Equifax breach, despite 147.9 million consumers being affected.
The only way to understand if and/or how your credit has changed is to know what’s on your credit report. Having a copy will help you find inconsistencies and mistakes that need to be corrected or removed from your report entirely.
Obtaining Your Report
Every consumer is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus: (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It’s easy to order online at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. All you need is information to verify your identity such as name, date of birth, address, and social security number.
When obtaining your report, each section of your credit history should be reviewed. You’ll be able to see information on each of the following categories: summary, revolving accounts, mortgage accounts, installment accounts, other accounts, consumer statements, personal information, public records, and collections.
Check each section for accuracy. Any credit-related mistake you find and rectify should help boost your score to some degree. Even the smallest bump is movement in the right direction.
Listed Credit Lines
The most important thing to look for when reviewing your credit report is fraudulent or inaccurate credit line entries. Review each account to confirm that it’s one that’s been opened by you and that the balance reported is accurate. Review all of your closed accounts too. Depending on the length of your credit history, this may take some time and a bit of memory jogging.
One area of your report worth taking a look at is the payment history on each of your credit accounts. Payment history accounts for at least 30% of your overall credit score. Make sure all information is accurate, even on closed accounts.
Another important section of your credit report worth checking is Hard Inquiries. This section will list inquiries made by companies at your request that may impact your credit score. If there are entries in the hard inquiries section you do not recognize, you may be able to dispute it.
How To Dispute
Each credit report provided by either Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian will contain a section for disputing file information with a web address to enter and check on the status of a dispute.
Even the most dedicated financial wizards slip up now and then or neglect an area of their credit from time to time. When working to improve your score, the areas that will give you the biggest boost – close to that 200 point mark, are a debt-to-credit ratio (30% of your score) and payment history (35% of your score).
No matter how much or little discipline you’ve practiced in the past in this department, your credit score will be dynamically impacted by any future payment timeliness. If you ensure that 100% of your accounts are paid on time from this point on, you’ll see your credit score begin to climb.
Even a thirty-day late payment will be registered into your score, so the timelier you are with all of your payments, the better. This can be tricky for those who practice the credit card rewards points chasing game, which requires juggling several rewards cards at a time. But as long as you stay organized, you can ensure solid numbers in this category.
Debt to Credit Ratio
This may be the harder part of the equation depending on your financial situation. Whether it takes you years, or you’re able to allocate money now, paying off debt will help that ratio improve — which means big jumps in your credit score.
Beware of zero balances though. If you decide to no longer use one of your cards at all, the creditor may close the account, which may shorten your credit history. The more established your credit is, chances are the better your credit score will be.
Type of Credit
Although this is a smaller category (10% of your score), every bit helps. When assessing your creditworthiness, many creditors look at the mix of your current credit profile. This is where having a mortgage, as stressful as they can be at times, is a very good thing. The more distributed your credit, the healthier you appear credit-wise to potential lenders. Be careful of having too many credit cards compared to other lines of credit, especially if you’re a rewards chasing superstar.
New credit lines account for 10% of your overall credit score. Be careful how much new credit you take on or inquire about obtaining. Too many credit lines opened recently will hurt your credit. Instead of opening new lines, you may want to consider contacting your current lenders and renegotiating the interest rates or terms.
A building or growing credit is neither quick nor easy. It takes time. But, it also takes diligence and mindfulness. With one eye on your credit, you’ll be able to keep a handle on your spending and conduct best practices to help your credit score soar.