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Credit Scores and How to Improve Them

Credit scores determine your financial viability and are therefore worth

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For better or worse, your credit score is a big deal if you need a loan, rental housing, or even car insurance, so improving it is a worthy pursuit.

If you think your credit reports contain inaccuracies or have experienced fraud, you can reach out to our intake team for a free assessment.

As a consumer protection law firm, we are often asked by our clients how they can increase their credit scores.  Some of our clients discover inaccurate information on their credit reports, identity theft, mixed files, or other situations that may lead to a lawsuit against the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can read about these issues in the Practice Areas section of our website. 
Those clients need to fix their credit score, which is often achieved by litigation. If you think your credit reports contain inaccuracies or have experienced fraud, you can reach out to our intake team for a free assessment. The path to boosting your credit score, however, will be different. And while the answer depends on each individual’s unique set of circumstances, in this article, we will endeavor to outline a few simple ways to raise your credit score.

Credit Card Debt and Utilization

Starting in March 2022, in an effort to combat the rising costs of inflation, the Federal Reserve has started raising interest rates. While this greatly affects mortgage and auto loan borrowers, making it more expensive to take out these types of loans, this also affects your credit card debt – which is getting more expensive. Since the Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) are based on the prime rate, when the Federal Reserve raises the prime interest rate, your credit card interest rates go up – that is, if you have credit card debt. That is why it is best to keep credit card debt as low as possible. If you can, keep your credit card balance minimal or even pay it in full. If you can catch up on any accounts that are past due, that will help as well. Since credit card utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score, in order to build your credit score or get your credit score up, you should try to keep your credit card balance on less than 30% of the credit limit. 

Payment History

Payment history accounts for about 35% of your credit score, so staying up to date on your payments is key in improving your credit score.  If possible, set up auto pay to avoid late payments. Setting up auto pay can be a mental block for those of us who are just starting out in the professional world or returning to work after the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a lot of people to lose their jobs or reevaluate their career paths. But it can be a simple, technical band-aid in keeping you up to date with your credit card and loan payments.
Limit Your New Credit Applications
As mentioned above, now is not a great time to apply for new credit, since higher interest rates means higher APRs. Every time you apply for a new credit line or an increase of an existing credit line, the creditor pulls your credit file, resulting in an inquiry on your credit report. Not all inquiries are “hard” inquiries, but credit applications usually do result in hard inquiries, which affect your credit score.  Depending on various factors on your credit file, a hard inquiry can reduce your credit score by as little as several points, but if you have other unfavorable factors on your credit report, the decline in your credit score after every new inquiry can also be in the double digits. Be mindful of the credit applications you submit in general, but especially while you are working on improving your credit. 

Secured Credit Cards

Ironically, in order to get credit, you need… a credit score. Some people are able to get their credit score started by being added to someone else’s credit card as an authorized user, such as a family member. That way, parents with good credit can help their kids obtain credit as well. But that is not possible for many of us. A great way to build credit is by obtaining a secured credit card, especially if you don’t have a credit line already, or have limited credit history. A secured credit card is a small line of credit in exchange for a security deposit. The security deposit can be as little as $49 for some cards, and many are in the $200-$250 range. You will only be able to use as much as the security deposit allows, but if you make regular payments and keep your balance low and your credit utilization minimal, you can build and raise your credit quickly.

How Long Does It Take to Improve Your Credit Score?

Every credit file is different and increasing your credit score quickly will depend on the state of your credit file. If you do not have a major delinquency on your credit file, such as bankruptcy – which stays on your credit for 7 or 10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy you filed for – you can see improvement rather quickly. If your credit file does not have major delinquencies, you might start seeing progress in the next credit cycle, which is usually around one month.

Conclusion

Increasing your income or decreasing your spending is always sage advice when it comes to building or raising your credit score. If that is not immediately possible for you, being mindful of how you use your credit can help you make a plan to get your credit score up quickly. Credit won’t build itself, you’ll have to work at it and play the game to get ahead. As some very smart person once said: Increasing your credit score is like trying to get to a higher level spiritually, you’ll get a lot more points for sinning and repenting than if you have no credit history at all.
 

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