A credit score is a three-digit number that is a fast objective estimate of your credit risk based on a snapshot of your credit report at a particular moment. Lenders use this number to make a prediction about how you will behave in the future. A good score will vary from lender to lender.
Do your homework
There are a many things you can do to improve and maintain your credit score. Here's where to start:
- The first thing you should do is request a copy of your credit report and check it for any errors. It can take a few months to resolve any issues and correct the information. Don’t wait until you need a loan to check your report/score. If you find any errors contact the credit bureau – you will need to fill out a dispute form. You cannot dispute negative information that is correct!
- The biggest thing you can do to improve your credit score is to pay your bills on time.
- Keep your credit balances as low as possible but don’t reduce your limits. Closing unused cards will not necessarily help your credit score. And actually reducing your available limit could hurt your score. A good target is to keep your debts to 30% or less of your total limit. For example, if you credit limit is $1,000, what you owe should be less than $300.
- Avoid opening too many accounts in a short period of time – you will appear desperate for credit. Only apply for more credit if you really need it.
- If you have little or no credit history – apply for a low limit credit card or borrow against a savings account with a secured loan, just remember to pay on time.
- When filling out applications, make sure you complete everything accurately. Remember to update your information when a change occurs.
- Establish a payment plan to repay the debt. It’s better to repay debt then to constantly move it around.Pay more than the minimum due, large outstanding balances could hurt your credit score.
- Some utility companies are now reporting to the credit bureaus if you don’t make payments. Like everything else, make sure you pay on time.
- Avoid filing for bankruptcy. You have other options: contact your creditors many will work with you to establish a payment plan or get help from a credit counseling service. Bankruptcy does not wipe your credit slate clean! Bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for up to 10 years and can affect getting future credit.
The thing to remember is that improving your credit score won’t happen overnight. If you change your habits, your credit score will improve.