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As you know, your credit score determines your access to loans for things like cars, homes, and education. Anyone with a score of 750 or higher is considered to have excellent credit, while a score of 600 or less is considered poor. Don’t worry if you’re not in that 750 or above group. There are some simple things you can do to improve your credit score right now.
1. Double Check Your Credit Reports
The FTC discovered that about 5% of consumers have an error (or several) on their credit report. Obtain copies from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) and double check them for accuracy. You’re legally entitled to one free credit report each year. If you do discover an error, report it immediately to the credit bureau so it can be corrected.
2. Prove Your Track Record
Payment history is one of the biggest factors in determining credit score. To ensure consistent, on time payments, consider setting up automatic payments through your bank. The FICO score is weighted to give more value to recent history, so if you’ve missed payments in the past, you can override your bad history by being on time now. This also means you can’t skip payments. In addition, the age of the account matters. The longer you have a credit card open and in good standing, the higher your score will be.
3. Be Aware of Your Credit Utilization
Lenders look at the ratio of your credit limit and the amount used in a given month. Ideally, this should be less than 30%. Higher than that and you may be considered a poor risk. If you can keep it below 10%, that’s even better. To manage this, set up balance alerts, ask your lender to raise your credit limit, and pay off your balance several times during the month.
4. Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio
The debt-to-income ratio is a reflection of your monthly debt payments as a percentage of your monthly income. Lenders use this to determine whether you have enough excess money to cover your living expenses plus your debt obligations. The lower this ratio, the more income you have for a new loan. To lower your debt-to-income ratio, pay off outstanding debt and/or find a way to earn more income.
5. Consolidate Credit Card Debt
Credit card interest rates are often quite high and the interest rates on personal loans tend to be smaller. If this is true in your situation, consolidate your credit card debt into a personal loan. The lower interest rate could save you quite a bit of money as well as 3-7 years time in repaying the debt. In addition, because a personal loan is an installment loan with a fixed repayment term, you also lower your credit utilization in the process.
Taking one, or many, of these steps will greatly improve your credit score and help put you on the path to financial freedom.