If your goal for the new year was to get your act together financially, then you should start by looking at your credit score.
Your credit score is the foundation of your financial identity. Most of the time, people have no idea what their credit score number is and what actions will impact it – positively or negatively – until it’s too late.
There are many things that will impact your score, but this list is a collection of some of the most common things that will hurt you and some things you can do to help it.
Keep in mind, if something is reported to the credit agencies and shows up on your credit report, it will be there for 7 years plus 180 days from the date of the missed bill.
How To Improve Your Credit Score
It’s very possible that your credit report may include errors starting from simple things like an address you didn’t live or a misspelling of your name. But there’s also a chance there are some line items on the report that don’t pertain to you but instead belong to people with similar names. There’s also a possibility of identity theft so it’s important to monitor your credit on a regular basis.
If you have too many inquiries into your credit in a short amount of time, this can also hurt your score. This includes any loans – car, home, etc. – and insurance agencies, cell phone companies and even employers can all pull your credit score.
Bank information isn’t typically reported to credit agencies but if you have overdraft protection that is tied to a line of credit, you have to make good on any overdrafts or you will hurt your credit
When it comes to paying bills
1.Pay all bills on time
This is the first and best thing you can do to improve your score over time. Paying all bills on time – from hospital bills to credit cards bills to the electric bill to parking tickets and more – will help to build and establish positive credit. If you miss a bill or are late in making a payment, understand that different companies and agencies will report this to credit organizations differently.
2.If you can’t pay on time, check into payment plans
There are some bills that you just might not be able to pay on time. For instance, large hospital bills or doctor’s bills that insurance didn’t cover may be unexpected expenses. However, you can typically arrange a payment plan for those types of bills. Specifically, for the hospital, you can usually negotiate a monthly payment plan based on what you can afford. They will do this for you without charging interest and then you won’t have a large credit card bill that you charged the payment on.
- Pay off debt rather than moving it around
Instead of shuffling debt from credit card to credit card or moving something like that hospital debt to a credit card, work on a realistic plan for paying it off. It doesn’t help you to move you the money from one spot to another. The debt is still there.
1.Apply for and open new credit cards only as needed
Don’t just open credit cards because you can. You don’t need one for every store you love or a Visa, Mastercard and Discover. Having too many open lines of credit can impact your scores just as much as not having any can impact it. Pick and choose wisely.
2.Manage current credit cards responsibly
Having credit cards and installment loans (or loans you pay monthly) will generally help build your credit. But you have to make sure that you’re making the payments to them ON TIME or, even better, paying them off within the month if you can afford to do so.
- Close cards you don’t need
While closing cards won’t automatically remove them from your credit report, you should close excess cards you may have opened. Again, you don’t want to have too many cards open – just the ones you need. HOWEVER, if you close a card that has a balance on it, that will hurt your credit
If you have had any liens on your property it will hurt your credit score and it doesn’t matter the lien amount. The lien, like all credit report line items, will stay on your credit report for 7 years but could even show up beyond that.
More than likely, everyone will experience unemployment as some point in their lives. Credit bureaus don’t know that you’re unemployed, but they do see a reduction in your income and that will impact your score.
Credit to debt ratio
Your credit to debt ratio can impact your credit score because you may be seen as not having the fund to pay back all your debt. For instance, if you make $40,000 a year, but have $20,000 in student loans, a $1,500 a month mortgage payment, a $300 a month car payment and credit card debt, then you are probably pushing you credit to debt ratio.
For more information on repairing your credit, visit Lexington Law here.
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I found some errors on mine that I had to dispute. It wasn’t something I thought about prior to it happening to me.
I knew about frequent inquiries, but was not aware unemployment would affect it. I had no idea prospective employers could check it as well!
Amazing tips! I honestly don’t get the point of having multiple credit cards. It just seems like an easy way to overspend.
It is so important to really understand how credit scores work. There are things we can do to help fix them and things we do that hurt them – and most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it!
These are such important things for people to know. You should always be aware of your credit score and how what you are doing impacts upon it.
We recently finished paying off all debt – except the house. Living without debt feels amazing and I was worried it would affect our credit score. So glad that didn’t make the list 😉
These are excellent tips for anyone who is wanting to improve their credit score! I’m glad you listed “errors” here. I’ve noticed my name misspelled a couple of places and I can see how this could be an issue if you weren’t aware of the problem.
These are all great categories to include, especially the unemployment. Many people don’t realize that it could impact there credit.
Great advice here and really useful information for those wanting to raise their credit score. Ours is doing okay thankfully!
I had no idea that unemployment would affect credit scores. I wonder how many people don’t know this?!
“Keep in mind, if something is reported to the credit agencies and shows up on your credit report, it will be there for 7 years plus 180 days from the date of the missed bill.”
So what happens after 7 years? This was a great read, I appreciated learning so much that I didn’t know. Who knew being a SAHM would put me in debt! For me to go back to work was pointless as daycare in Toronto can $1200 + and I have twins!
Excellent suggestions! I didn’t realize the importance of good credit until my husband and I decided to buy a home. A decade later I can honestly say that working hard to improve our scores was a wonderful decision!
We finally got rid of all of our debt, other than our home. It feels so good to know we are improving our credit score and opening ourselves us to new possibilities that weren’t available when we were drowning in debt.
This is such an important list of tips on credit scores. It’s something that everyone should be aware of and make adjustments to be sure they don’t harm their scores.
I knew about alot of these but didnt know that unemployment can affect your credit score. That kinda sucks. Its bad enough that you dont have a job but then the credit score too. Thanks for sharing
Paying off debt rather than moving it around is solid advice!!! Being an adult is tough sometimes
I used to shuffle my debt around and we had too many credit cards. Now my husband and I only have one each. I need to take a closer look at my credit report and check for any errors.
We have credit cards and we use it a lot. But the rules for us are to pay on time and pay in full.
I never got so curious of my credit score until now!! Credit score is really important and I experienced unemployment last year which badly affected my credit. It’s so easy to drop down but so hard to make it up!
Thanks for all these helpful tips. I will be more careful about the credit score, and I will check everything twice!
I need to check my credit score, as I haven’t done it lately. Thanks for sharing – this is a good reminder to check my score and make sure that I am keeping up with my credit.
These are great tips. Especially for those who need to improve their scores!
I think these are tips a lot of people from my generation need. When I was becoming an adult I remember credit cards being shoved down my throat with no real explanation of what can happen with them.
This is such a complex issue. For instance, having too many credit cards can hurt your credit and not having enough credit cards can hurt your credit. LOL. You almost need to have a Masters in Personal Finance to understand it.
Great information! I am going to pass this on to my 21 year old daughter as she is building credit.
It is important to check your credit report regularly. Out of the blue I found some credit cards and loans my parents had suddenly began being reported on one of my credit report. Cleaning that up made sure if I needed credit it didn’t appear to lenders that I had more debt than actually had.
Very helpful tips – I feel very inspired to make some positive credit changes.
These are some great tips to raise your credit score. I know I need to up my score a little myself. Thanks for the info
These are some great tips that I did not even think of. We are trying hard to pay off debt now!