While you can’t boost your credit score overnight, there are things you can do to improve your score in the long run. Vera Gibbons, a veteran financial journalist and founder of NoPoNews, offered four tips to help.
Check your credit report
Gibbons’s first tip is to check your report. Many reports have errors that are serious enough to damage your ability to get new credit. You can check once a year from each of the three credit agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — on Annualcreditreport.com. That’s three times a year, if you time it right (once per bureau).
Pay your bills on time
Your payment history is the biggest factor impacting your credit: it accounts for 35% of the FICO score. “Delinquencies have the biggest negative impact on your credit score,” Gibbons says.
Don’t max out your credit cards
Your credit utilization rate — how much of the available credit you actually use — is a big factor too. Thirty percent of what you have available is the max you should spend, but the ideal is around 10%.
Don’t apply for cards you don’t need
It’s tempting to say yes to 15% off your purchase if you sign up for that store credit card. But don’t do it, at least not on the spot. Opening a credit card is a decision you should consider carefully.
“Every time you open up an account, an inquiry is made, and those inquiries lead to dings.” Gibbons says. “And dings can lead to dents in your credit score, particularly if you are new to the credit world if you don’t have a long credit history.”