According to ValuePenguin, the average credit score in the U.S. is 695, with most people falling between 660 and 720. Of course, the higher the score the better when it comes to getting approved for credit for a new home in Atlanta, for example. If you are approved your score also affects the particular lending terms, which means if it’s on the lower side, you might have to pay a higher interest rate. On the other hand, if it’s higher, you’ll probably get a lower APR.
So how you can you build strong credit to raise your score as quickly as possible?
Pay Down Balances
The company that calculates one of the most commonly used credit scores, FICO, says that 30 percent of your FICO score is based on how much you owe, although it’s not that simple. It takes into consideration that total you owe based on the amount of credit you have available, something called credit utilization. If your credit limit is $5,000 and your balance is $1,500, the credit utilization rate would be 30 percent. If you use all the credit you have available, maxing out that card, it would be 100 percent. Ideally, it should be under 30 percent, but the lower the better. One of the quickest ways to boost that score is to pay down your balances. If you don’t have extra cash to do so, you might consider taking a temporary second job to pay them down or cutting back as many expenses as you can.
Request Credit Limit Increases
If paying down your balances isn’t an option, another way you can raise your score quickly is to improve your credit utilization percentage by requesting credit limit increases. You can usually do so online, or call the creditor and ask. For example, if you’ve maxed a card with a $1,000 limit and that limit is increased to $2,000, you’ll instantly cut your credit utilization rate by half.
Make Sure Your Credit Reports are Accurate
If there are mistakes on your credit reports, they could be significantly lowering your score. And mistakes are common with all three major credit bureaus: TransUnion. Equifax and Experian. It’s a must to check them regularly to make sure all information is accurate. It’s easy to do so as you’re entitled to a free copy of all three reports once a year. You can access them directly via AnnualCreditReport.com, which is government-mandated and run by the credit bureaus. Search them thoroughly for errors, and if you find any, you’ll need to dispute them individually with each of the bureaus, filing a separate report for every error.
Talk to Your Lender or Creditor
If you close an account with a late payment, it won’t disappear from your credit report. The better thing to do if you have any late payments is to ask the lender or credit card issuer if it can be forgiven – if there is just one it might work. Perhaps you were out of the country or had an emergency and forgot to pay it. If you have a long track record of making your payments on time, they’re likely to be forgiving and grant your request which can boost your score significantly. Keep in mind that late payments can remain on your report for up to seven years from the date they were missed, or reported to the credit bureau, so be sure to pay all your bills on time, using a software program or reminder alerts so that you don’t forget.