When NFL Legend Bill Parcells was asked about how to judge a football team he replied “You are what your record says you are.” While life is not the NFL and we are all individuals in this world, when it comes to credit card companies, whether we like it or not, we are what our credit score says we are.
If you've got great credit with a score of 750 and above, you get the best offers from the best companies. You get lots of credit offers with rewards like low interest rates, cash back on purchases, airline miles and other travel perks. If you've got poor credit, chances are you’ll get declines and at best, high interest rate cards from sub-prime lenders. If you've got mid-range credit you’ll get approvals as well as a few perks but you’ll know that the best stuff is still outside your range. Fortunately, no matter where your credit score is sitting right now, there are steps you can take to take control of your credit and boost your credit score. Here are five tips you can use right now to boost your credit score.
Knowledge is power.
Find out what the top three credit agencies are saying about you. You can pull an annual credit report for free once a year and it’s in your interests to see what’s going on. Once you have a full picture of your current credit, you’ll be able to work with it. If you see mistakes on your report you should contact the agencies immediately and work with them to correct any errors in your records.
Put your current performance at the top of the pack.
How you are currently using your credit is more important than your past credit history. In fact, your current usage accounts for over 65 percent of your score. What this means is that simply getting your current payments in on time and keeping your spending in check will earn you points. This is especially true if you have a couple of past credit mistakes. Since current performance counts more than the past, good performance now makes past mistakes fade more quickly.
Keep your balances low.
While companies love to make money by loaning you money, they don’t want to lend it to you if you are desperate or needy. A general rule of thumb here is to keep your balance at less than 35 percent of your credit limit. If you want to be a teacher's pet, bring the balance down to ten percent and watch your score go up. The simple rule at work here is that the higher the percentage of your credit that you use, the needier you look. So keeping your balances low by putting off high dollar purchases and lowering your balances will show lenders that you’re in control of your finances and a better risk for more credit.
Keep your old credit.
Instead of closing old credit accounts that you no longer use, keep them open. This will help keep your overall credit limit high and will send the signal that you don’t need every dollar of credit that is offered. A key actionable tip here is to buy something small every six months on an old account and pay it off quickly. The creditor will see that the account is still in use and being used in a responsible way and report your positive actions.
Improve your limits.
There are a couple of items here that can help your score. The first thing you'll want to do is to check to make sure your lenders are reporting the correct credit limit to the credit bureaus. If they are not reporting the correct limits then you’ll want to contact them and ask them to correct the error. The second item is to look at your current accounts and see if you can raise the limits. You'll want to be careful with this one to not go out and actually use that extra spending power by remembering this is simply to paint a better picture of you as a responsible person. Find out beforehand if a “hard inquiry” will be needed before you request a limit raise. Too many requests for credit can have a negative impact on your score.