It’s Your Credit – Take Control Of It!
If your credit score isn’t as high as you want it to be, know that you have the power to improve it. The way in which you handle your finances plays a huge role in your credit rating meaning if you have healthy finances, you’ll also achieve a healthy credit score. It takes discipline and dedication, but it’s worth – especially when you reach a credit standing that allows you to qualify for loans, lower interest rates, and more.
1. Pay your bills on time.
This is the single most important factor in determining your credit score, making up 35% of its total. Missing just one payment on a credit card or car loan can take 50 to 100 points off your credit score. And if you miss an entire month’s worth of payments, your score could easily drop 100 to 200 points.
2. Pay down your debts, and once you have paid them off, charge less in the future.
Creditors expect a certain amount of room between the amount of debt on your credit cards and your total credit limits. The more debt you pay off, the wider that gap and the better your credit score.
3. Don’t automatically close older accounts you have paid off.
This way of thinking has been updated over the past few years. The rule of thumb had been to automatically close every account that had a zero balance to improve your score. Now, the strategy is just the opposite. When you close an account, you lower the total amount of credit available to you, which in turn raises the ratio of balances (on your other cards) to credit limits. By closing your oldest accounts, you may actually be considered less creditworthy.
4. Try credit counseling.
We may be preaching to the choir, but it’s true: Legitimate credit counseling agencies, like InCharge Debt Solutions, a non-profit consumer organization, can help you improve your credit situation, which in turn can help improve you credit score.
A study conducted by the Fair Isaac Corporation, creators of the FICO credit scoring service, found that DMP clients were less likely to default on their loans or to declare bankruptcy than other consumers. And because a debt management program requires that you make on-time monthly payments to your creditors, eventually it means a faster trip to an improved credit score.
5. Avoid bankruptcy.
What is the worst thing you can do to your credit score? Declare bankruptcy. It can take 200-300 points (or more) off a score. Those who file bankruptcy will find it very difficult to obtain new credit, and when they do it will be at much higher rates that before they filed. A bankruptcy will typically stay on a credit report for a very long time, up to 10 years. And during that time, it will be seen by everyone from lenders to landlords to employers – anyone who has access to your credit report.
© 2008, Young Money Media, LLC