Want to know how to build your credit score in just five minutes?
I’ve got an easy tip that you can accomplish in about five minutes…
Ask your credit card company to increase your credit limit. This will lower your utilization rate and, as a result, help you build your credit score.
You see, the credit-scoring bureaus place a lot of emphasis on your balance-to-limit ratio (also known as your utilization rate). The lower your balance as a percentage of your limit, the higher your credit score will be. Credit bureaus prefer that your utilization rate is never higher than 30 percent, meaning that if your credit limit is $1,000, your balance is never more than $300.
So when a credit card company increases your limit, be sure you do not increase your balance.
A lot of people worry that asking for a limit increase will hurt their credit scores. While it is true that your credit card company might need to pull your credit report, the credit inquiry will hurt your score only nominally, and only for a few months. In the long run, the limit increase (coupled with a balance that stays the same or decreases) will help build your credit score.
And in some cases, you might be able to ask for a limit increase without having an inquiry added to your credit score.
If you are worried about adding another inquiry to your credit request, ask the credit card company these three questions before making a request for a limit increase.
1. “Do I qualify for a limit increase without having you run my credit report?”
If you do, simply ask for the full amount you want your limit increased to. If the creditor wants to run your credit report, remember that an inquiry will be added to your credit report, and your score will drop slightly. Ask the next two questions and decide whether you want to take the chance or not. Like I said, if your request is granted, the inquiry won’t matter because the limit increase will help your score in the long run. But if your request is denied, your score will suffer for a few months.
2. “Can I request the maximum increase, or must I provide you with a specific limit request?” If the creditor requires that you provide a dollar figure to which you want your limit increase, you will need to ask the third question. If not, you can request the maximum increase.
3. “If I request too much, will you deny the request completely, or will you make a counteroffer?”
If asking for too much means that creditor will deny the request completely, you might want to start by requesting a 10 percent or 20 percent increase, especially if your credit report is going to be pulled. If the creditor will make a counteroffer, request the full amount you need to raise your limit enough so that your balance is less than 30 percent.
If your request is denied, your score might drop a little due to the inquiry. But don’t worry too much about it—inquiries stay on your credit report for two years, but they only affect your credit score for twelve months. And inquiries from several months prior won’t impact your score more than a few points. Just work on lowering your balance, which will build your credit score by lowering your utilization rate.
“But Phil,” my client was saying, “I don’t want to pull my credit report. Won’t that hurt my credit score because of the credit inquiry?”
My response was, “Nope. A credit inquiry won't hurt your credit score—at least, not if it is soft.”
Let me explain …
The only kind of credit inquiries that hurt your credit score are “hard” inquiries. Hard inquiries are defined as inquiries into your credit score by a lender for the purpose of determining whether to extend you a loan.
All other inquiries are considered “soft” inquiries, and while they appear on your credit report, they do not hurt your score. So pulling your own credit score is considered a soft inquiry. Likewise, if a landlord or a potential employer pulls your report, the inquiry will not hurt your score. A lender’s inquiry might even be considered soft if it is done to determine whether to change your interest rate.
In other words, pull away! Checking into your own credit report is considered responsible behavior, and you won’t be punished for doing so.
So how many times can you pull your credit report? As many as you want. You can pull your own credit report every single day of the year, and your score won’t drop a single point. But if you have more than two credit inquiries by a lender within a six-month timeframe, your score will probably dip a few points.
There are a variety of reasons why you’d want to improve your credit score. You could be getting ready to make a big purchase such as buying a house, or you may want to make sure your options are open in the case of an financial emergency. In fact, in today’s world, your credit score is a key element to financial freedom. In addition to higher interest rates, low credit scores can affect your life in many other areas as well. Companies run credit checks before employment, and low credit scores can affect your auto insurance rates. All of these are great motivators for making improvements, but there isn’t always a great amount of information on exactly how to improve your score.
To help address these concerns, we’ve compiled a list of five ways you can improve your credit score. Some actions may have an immediate positive result, while others will help improve your score over time. It’s important to remember that there are no fast fixes, however, your efforts will be rewarded with lower interest rates and better credit opportunities. To get started, read on…
1. Keep your credit balance below 30% of your credit limit.
Credit bureaus determine whether you are living within your means by evaluating how much debt you obtain in relation to your credit limit. This is referred to as your utilization rate. The bureaus reward consumers with a rate of 30% or lower. That means if you have a $1,000 credit limit, you will never want your credit balance to exceed $300. In fact, to be safe, it’s better to aim lower than the 30% rate because some credit card companies erroneously report lower credit limits, which would result in a higher utilization rate.
2. Make your monthly payments on time every month.
Your credit history is one of the largest factors in determining your credit score, with your recent activity weighing in considerably. In fact, your payment history makes up roughly a third of your credit score. That’s more than any other factor. If you’re at a loss as to where to start building your credit, creating a good payment history would be the best place to focus.
3. Maintain three to five credit cards and one installment loan.
Credit bureaus need to see credit history to determine whether you are a good investment. To provide this, you need to show credit activity. Having three to five credit cards that never go over the 30% utilization rate and a monthly installment loan that is reported to the credit bureaus each month will help to establish your credit habits. Keep in mind that retail credit cards are NOT a good option. This is due to the fact that they typically have very high interest rates and you are forced to shop at their location to keep the card active. If you do not shop there on a frequent basis, you may find yourself making unneeded purchases to maintain current credit history.
4. Check your credit report for inaccuracies and report them.
Did you know that nearly 80% of all credit reports have errors on them? These errors can negatively affect your score and therefore increase your interest rates resulting in higher payments. As a beginning step to building your credit, you should always get your credit report and check for errors. If you find any, you’ll want to report the credit errors to the appropriate credit bureaus.
5. Don’t close older or unused credit accounts.
Fifteen percent of your credit score is derived from the age of your credit cards, with older credit accounts giving you a better score. If you close these accounts, your average age immediate lowers and can result in a lowered credit score. Instead of closing these accounts, use them to pay small recurring fees such as Netflix or gym memberships. Then set up an auto-payment from your bank to pay the credit card a day afterwards. This way, you never have to actually use the card, however, you still reap the benefits of active payment history and an aged credit card.
For more information on how your credit score is determined, download our free eBook, What Your Bank Won’t Tell You About Credit.
Similar to the belief that no credit equals good credit, having lower limits can actually be extremely harmful to your credit score. To understand how this works you need to understand utilization rates, or what we call the 30% rule. Credit bureaus look to see that you are maintaining less than 30% of your credit limit at all times. If you go over the 30% marker, you are considered to be living above your means and this will be reflected in your credit score.
The problem with lower limit credit cards is that it is far too easy to go over the 30% rule. If you only have a $250 credit limit, you can never have a balance of over $75 without creating a negative reaction to your credit score. In addition, many credit card companies report your credit limit lower erroneously. Meaning you may be right under $75 each month, but your credit limit is being reported at $200 instead, putting you over the 30% limit.
In some cases, when you’re rebuilding your credit you may have to work with these lower balances. This will take careful planning to avoid any issues with errors. However, if you have higher balances, you do not want to ask for your rates to be lowered. You can never have “too much available credit.”
The best way to make sure you don’t go over the 30% rule is to use auto payments. You’ll want to schedule a monthly payment for a bill such as a gym membership or other monthly payment you need to make to be taken directly from your credit card. Then, from your bank account, schedule another auto payment to pay the credit card for the same amount.
This may sound like taking a few extra steps, but it keeps your accounts active and you can control exactly what spending is happening on your cards so you don’t go over the 30% limit.
To learn all all the facts on your credit score, get the book that will walk you through the 7 steps to a 720 credit score.
What do you think is better? Having only one credit card that is near it’s credit limit that you pay in full each month or three to five credit cards with low balances that you pay off each month? If you picked the first option, you might be surprised to find out how harmful having a high credit balance actually is to your credit score.
Why would you want MORE credit cards with lower limits?
The proportion of debt that you carry on credit card to your credit limit is called a “utilization rate.” Credit bureaus look at this ratio as a factor in determining your credit score. The lower your utilization rate, the better your score. An ideal utilization rate is anything below 30%. We call this the 30% rule. That means that you only want to have credit balances that make up less than 30% of your actual credit limit. For example if your credit limit is $1000, your credit balance should never exceed $300.
What about if you pay your bills on time each month?
Credit bureaus are looking to see if you live within your means and use this 30% rule as measurement. Paying your bills on time shows you’re responsible for your debt, however it doesn’t reflect your lifestyle choices as well as the 30% rule does. That means you should NEVER let your balance exceed the 30% marker.
What about if you don’t have a preset limit?
In some cases, such as with American Express, you may not have a spending limit. In these situations the credit bureau will take the highest balance you ever had on your credit card use that amount as your default balance. If you’re highest balance was $8,000 that would mean your balance should never exceed $2400.
What should you do if you currently exceed the 30% rule?
The first option is to pay off any debt until your balance is under 30% of your credit limit. If this is not an option for you, you can transfer your debts between cards to keep them under 30%. In addition, you can try asking your credit card company for an increased balance. Just make sure to check they are reporting the new credit balance on your credit report or you may find yourself over the 30% limit.
Lastly, if you have less than 5 credit cards, you can try opening a new credit card to help move the balances around.
Credit is a tricky subject. Everyone thinks they know the right thing to do, and everyone seems to be an expert. The fact is, there are a lot of myths and untruths about the way your credit score is compiled. The biggest and first mistake most people fall for is believing that no or little credit equates to good credit. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Imagine someone you didn’t know came up to you and asked if they could borrow money from you. They promised they’d pay it back to you in a week. How would you know they were responsible or even ethical enough to return your investment? Now, let’s say a trusted friend you’ve known for years came up to you and asked you for the same favor. Your response would more than likely be quite different than the one you had towards the unknown person.
When you have little or no credit, credit bureaus view you as the stranger asking for money. They have very little information on whether you are a good investment and whether they are likely to see a return. You have to become like the trusted friend and create credit history to have a valued and trusting relationship.
This doesn’t mean go out and apply for multiple credit cards and start taking out loans. While you need to show credit history, you also don’t need to go into debt. To create a good credit score, you need at least three credit cards with balances below 30% of your credit limit and an installment loan.
Now, you may be thinking that credit isn’t really a big of deal and you don’t want to have credit cards and loans because they are a hassle. This way of thinking can hurt you financially more than you know. Your credit score is used to determine a number of things including, believe it or not, your automobile insurance and even your job worthiness.
When it comes to purchasing a house, your interest rate is determined by your credit score. This means you could be paying thousands more for your home because of bad credit decisions. Think about this:
On a $300,000, 30-year fixed rate mortgage, a person with poor credit (below 620) would pay $589 more a month than a borrower with a 720 credit score. That’s $589 a month! Imagine what you could do with an extra $7,068 a year. You could buy a new car, save for your child’s college tuition or with wise investments, double, triple, or even quadruple the money!
The bottom line is, your credit score can either help or hurt you financially. Learning the ins and outs of how to maintain a high credit score will give you a great return on your investment of time and research. It may even help you live the life you dream without overextending yourself.
Credit is a modern convenience that many of us could not live without. It allows us to buy things that are well out of our immediate price range, like a home, a car or even a business. For the average American today, credit is pretty much a necessity.
However, with credit so readily available, and the downward trends of our economy, credit has become a system that is very much abused.
The majority of Americans just don’t understand how to use credit properly and make it work to their benefit. Unfortunately, that sometimes leads to people using credit for things that do nothing, but hurt their credit scores. Like the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Not knowing how your credit decisions can affect you could harm your financial standing significantly.
If you have a have a credit card, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to help use it for what it was meant for – improving your credit score.
- Never use your credit card for pulling cash out of the ATM.
Think you need that cash ASAP? Think again. When you use your credit card to take cash out of an ATM, you’re being charged twice. You’re charged once for the ATM fee, and again with the interest on your credit card. In fact, most people don’t realize that credit card cash withdrawals are not eligible for interest-free periods. This means you start getting charged interest from day one. On top of that, you’re likely to get charged a higher interest rate on cash advances than on normal purchases. Your $100 dollar cash advance quickly spirals into a significantly higher amount. If you have any other option, it’s probably best to get the money you need a different way.
- Just say NO to retail credit cards.
The lure of saving 10% – 15% off your purchase can be a strong one. How many times have you been offered such a discount on your purchase at a retail store if you apply for their store credit card? Have you ever stopped to think why they are pushing these deals if it’s such a “savings” for you? Let’s break it down.If you are late on a payment or only pay the minimum amount, the interest rate of retail store credit cards can be significantly higher than regular credit cards. Retail stores send you promotions and offers to get you to spend more at their store. Often, you’ll just put it on your card and keep accruing debt. Remember that it hurts your credit if your balance goes over 30% of your credit limit.Lastly, your credit score is determined by active credit. If you get a card at a store that you don’t frequent, you’re not providing good credit history and therefore the credit card becomes a liability. The better option is pass on the offer of “savings” and, if you really need to purchase something on credit, use a non-store-specific card instead.
- Don’t incur more debt by using credit cards to pay bills.
When it comes right down to it, paying a bill on your credit card is going to do a lot more to damage your credit than it will to provide the help you seek. The problem is, you’re not actually paying anything. You’re simply transferring the debt from the company the bill is from to your credit card company. That’s not solving any problems. Not only are you not reducing the debt, you’re incurring new debt from the interest on our new balance. You also need to be careful that moving your debt from one place to another doesn’t increase your balance to over 30% of your credit limit. Credit cards should be used to increase credit, but only on things that help build your financial and personal worth – not things that decrease it with added charges.
Credit cards have gotten a bad reputation as more and more people view these cards as vessels for temporary financial freedom. The thought of being able to buy whatever you want even if you don’t have the cash readily available is exhilarating. As times have gotten harder and more and more people are relying on credit to help them through, retail therapy has become a quick emotional fix. Unfortunately, if you don’t know how your spending habits hurt or help your credit, you could be paying for more than a quick dose of endorphins.
While credit cards certainly provide access to splurge on these instincts, that doesn’t mean they are all bad. In fact, it’s actually important to maintain three credit cards in order to improve your credit score. This may sound confusing, but your credit card history is a crucial factor in determining your overall credit score. As with many things, there are some points to watch out for. When using credit cards, you’ll want to keep these tips in consideration:
- Always remember the 30/30 rule. 30 percent of your credit score is based on your outstanding debt, and if your credit balance is more than 30 percent of your credit limit, your score is going to drop. Never exceed 30% of your limit.
- Make sure your credit card companies are reporting your actual credit limit. If they are reporting a lower credit limit, then your calculation for 30% of your credit debt is going to be reported incorrectly, therefore damaging your score.
- Be aware of the credit balance myth. Some people believe that they must keep an ongoing balance on their credit card in order to improve their credit score. This mistaken belief causes some consumers to make unnecessary interest payments. The truth of the matter is that credit bureaus have no way of knowing whether you pay your balance in full or make monthly payments. If you have the financial resources to do so, pay your balance each month. That said, keep your cards active. If you never use your credit card, it will become inactive and stop helping your credit score.
So if you need the credit cards, but credit card debt is also damaging, the question then remains: What exactly should you be spending your money on? How can you use your credit cards to build good credit?
To keep things in perspective, consider the following statement: wealth is creating a state of abundance. If you are using credit cards to pay for something, not only are you paying for the item, but you’re paying extra for the right to “pay later.” So instead of moving forward financially, you’re actually creating more debt. With this in mind, it’s important to examine exactly what you are using your credit cards for. Buying a shirt or even a tank of gas for your car at an inflated rate doesn’t really make any sense when you factor in interest. However, purchasing a book on finances or taking a course that will teach you a skill you can monetize will be well worth the extra interest you incurred.
Therefore, credit cards should be used to increase your quality of life or your wealth, not used as a means to create more debt. The next time you’re about to charge something, consider whether that purchase is going to create a state of abundance or create a state of debt. This type of control will not only help you improve your credit rating, but it will also help you make better long-term financial decisions.
Everyone seems to have a different viewpoint on what affects your credit score and what doesn’t. Some of this is because the credit bureaus do not let their formula for computing credit scores become well known, while even more of it is due to companies or people trying to make money off of the misinformed. If you have questions about your credit, you’ll find these facts about your credit score interesting and informative.
80% of people have errors on their credit report. It’s important to check through your credit report to ensure everything is being reported accurately. If you haven’t done so, before making any changes to your credit you should always get your credit report to know where you stand.
Pulling your own credit report will NOT hurt your credit score. It’s true that credit inquiries count for ten percent of your credit score. However, you will never hurt your credit score by pulling your own credit report. You could pull it once a day for a year and your score would not be hurt.
You have more than one credit score. In fact you have three. Most lenders consider scores from the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). Lenders will use the middle of the three scores in determining your credit worthiness. Because of this, you should monitor your report from each of the three bureaus.
Your credit score can affect your employability. 60 percent of employers check an applicant’s credit report at least some of the time.
Your salary doesn’t affect your credit score. You could be a housewife with no income or a millionaire. All that matters to the credit agencies is how responsible you are with the money you are borrowing, not how much of it you have or don’t have.
Late payments hurt your score, but your immediate credit history carries more weight. The credit-scoring models assume that your current behavior is a far more important indicator of your creditworthiness than your past behavior. Your current behavior, after all, can better forecast whether you are experiencing a downward financial turn. So while you may have an account in collection for over a year, a late payment on your mortgage this month will be more damaging.
Most of the time, late payments made before 30 days past due are not considered “past due” by the credit bureaus. While you will still incur a late payment fee from your creditor, most creditors will not report a late payment to the credit bureaus until you have gone past the 30 day billing cycle.
When applying for a loan as a couple, the lower of the two scores is used. This means that whoever’s FICO score is lowest will determine the interest rates on a mortgage for the couple.
Always use the same first, middle and last name when applying for credit. You may not think a small thing such as your middle initial can cause significant issues on your credit report, but it’s true. If your name is Robert Michael Jones, Jr., you shouldn’t apply as Bob M. Jones, Jr., or any of the other variations of your name. Pick one name and stick with it, or risk having your credit information divided among the various names. Worse yet, it could be merged with another person’s information. (For instance, if you are Robert Michael Jones, Jr., and your father is Robert Michael Jones, the credit bureaus might combine your files if you do not use “Jr.” when applying for credit.) That said, if you changed your last name upon marrying, start applying for credit under your new name. It might increase the likelihood of errors, but the damage will be temporary; the new last name is forever.
Your collection account history doesn’t stay on your report forever. Collection accounts only minimally hurt your credit after two years, and after four years, the damage is all but erased. After seven years, a collection account is wiped from your report.
There are credit cards for people with bad credit. If you have poor credit, you might not qualify for traditional credit card accounts. Instead, open a secured credit card. A secured credit card requires you to pay a deposit equal to or greater than the balance. Obviously secured credit cards do not come with the same privileges as regular credit cards, which allow you to buy now, pay later. With secured credit cards, you basically pay now, buy later, and then pay again. It might not sound like a great deal, but it will help you rebuild your credit so long as the credit card company reports to all three major credit bureaus—be sure to ask! After six to 12 months of timely payments, ask the company if it will refund your deposit and transform your secured credit card into a regular credit card.
Technology can help keep you in good standing. If you struggle to pay your bills on time because you are too busy, or because you do not manage your money well, try this: Sit down with a calendar and a copy of all your regular bills. Then create automatic payments on all your credit cards, mortgages, installment loans, and finance accounts. If you are a compulsive spender, this might help curb unnecessary expenditures by forcing you to pay the required bills each month.
We live in a credit-driven society. You need credit for just about everything from buying a house to even getting a job. With so much importance put on using credit as currency, it’s really no surprise that so many Americans are swimming in debt. There are 22 different criteria for determining credit score, but unfortunately, the only ones who know the actual formulas are the credit bureaus themselves.With so little information on how to rebuild credit, people often make common mistakes that seem like the right choice, but in the end actually hurt your credit score even more.
If you’re in a situation where you need or would like to increase your credit score, you’ll want to try the following five actions you can take right now to get you started on the right path. Prior to doing any of these steps, however, you need to make sure you know where you stand. Odds are you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. In the same vein, you wouldn’t want to try to make changes to your credit if you don’t know exactly what needs fixing. Therefore, before starting these steps you’ll want to get your credit report.
Quick Fix #1: Check for Errors
One of the most common sources of a bad credit score can be attributed to reporting errors. The first thing to check, after any obvious errors, is to make sure your credit limits are being reported correctly. Your credit score is affected by your utilization rate, which is based on the percentage of your credit limit you use each month. If your credit limit is not being reported correctly, your utilization rate will be off and can significantly harm your score.
The other main error to check for is duplicated notices on a single collection account reported as active. Often a collection account will be transferred to more than one collection agency to be handled. There’s no real issue with this fact, and all of the collection agencies might be listed on your credit report. That’s normal, and all but the agency currently trying to collect the debt should be listed as transferred. But if more than one collection agency is reporting the collection account to the credit bureaus as active, you have a problem. If this happens, the one collection account is reported as two separate accounts and therefore contributes to a lower score.
Quick Fix #2: Start Reducing Credit Card Debt
This fix should seem like a no brainer, but it’s often overlooked because it’s never really explained why the amount of your credit card debt is so significant. We like to call this tip the 30/30 rule. 30 percent of your credit score is based on your outstanding debt, and if your credit balance is more than 30 percent of your credit limit, your score is going to drop. If you’ve racked up over 30 percent of your limit in debt and you’re only paying the minimum monthly payment each month, you’re score is going to drop – regardless of how “on time” you were each month. With this information in mind, it’s imperative to reduce your credit card debt as much as possible to maintain the 30/30 rule.
Quick Fix #3: No Credit = Bad Credit
Credit scores are created based on information from your credit history. If don’t have any credit history, there’s nothing to base your score off of. This isn’t a case of being innocent before proven guilty. When it comes to lending money, there aren’t many resources that are going to hand over a wad of cash if they don’t know whether you are a good investment or not. Think of it this way: Let’s say you needed heart surgery, and you met a guy who said he was the best heart surgeon in the world. He might be the best heart surgeon in the world, but if he had no credentials and no references, there’s no way you’d ever let him open up your chest. Likewise, you’d never let a guy who lost his medical license open up your chest.
The credit scoring bureaus think of you in the same terms. If you don’t have credentials, they consider you high risk. You have to give them information by which to judge you. To be sure you’re giving them enough information to properly judge your risk, you should have three to five credit cards and an installment loan.
Quick Fix #4: Authorized Users
If you’re in a situation where you either don’t have a lot of credit, or have fairly bad credit, you may want to explore getting added as an authorized user. As an authorized user, you get added to a relative’s (preferably one with the same address) credit account. This allows you to piggy-back on their good credit standing and reap the benefits. This only works, however, if the credit card company reports your status as an authorized user to the credit bureaus and if the outstanding debt on the card never exceeds 30 percent of the credit limit. Keep in mind, that while this is a great way to improve your score, if the account falls into poor standing your score will also be affected negatively.
Quick Fix #5: Use Credit!
It’s a natural reaction for someone to want to steer clear from something that has caused them harm in the past. In fact, it seems to make sense rationally that if you are having credit issues, you probably wouldn’t want to keep using credit. Unfortunately, this way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. For more information on why this is so important, check out the free ebook Credit After Bankruptcy & Foreclosure. You may not be experiencing these particular financial crises; however, the information is still valid for anyone looking to repair bad credit.