You’re in the market for a mortgage or other type of loan, but are consistently turned down. Or, you do get a loan offer, but the interest rate is staggering.
Most likely your credit score is the culprit.
The higher your score, the better your chances of obtaining a loan, and the better your rates and terms. Here’s how to improve your credit score fast so that you can get the loan you need.
Check for errors on your credit report
If you’ve regularly paid your bills on time and never had any issues with lenders or credit card companies, yet you have a low credit score, it could be that there’s a mistake on your credit report.
According to a Federal Trade Commission study in 2012, about 25 percent of people had some error on their credit report, which had a negative effect on their score.
The credit reporting agencies corrected errors for about 20 percent of consumers who reported them while about 1 percent of those who reported errors saw a change in their credit score after the mistakes were corrected. In some cases, individual scores went up by 25 points. In very rare cases (1 in 250), a person’s score went up by more than 100 points.
You’re allowed to review your credit report for free once a year with each of the three credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get access to your free credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Start paying on time
You can’t always blame the credit bureaus for a low credit score. In some cases, a low score is a result of your payment habits. Your payment history has a big effect on your score.
According to the Fair Isaac Corp., which calculates the FICO score, payment history makes up 35 percent of your score. If you aren’t already in the habit of paying your debts on time, doing so can improve your credit score quickly.
Keep balances low
How much you owe makes up 30 percent of your FICO score. The less you owe in comparison to what you could borrow, the higher your score.
One trick to try is to pay your balances off before the closing date of your credit card statement. If you charge $1,000 to one card during a month, but pay the balance in full before the statement period ends, the credit card will report that you owe nothing, making it look as if you’re not using your credit at all.
Even if you can’t pay the entire balance off before the statement closing date, try to keep the amount you charge less than 30 percent of the amount of credit available. That means if your limit is $10,000, you want to charge no more than $3,000 over the course of a single billing period. Keeping your balance below 10 percent of your total available credit will improve your credit score even more.
Be cautious about new credit
Your credit score drops a bit every time you open a new credit card or other account. If you’re wondering how to improve your credit score fast, one option is to be cautious about opening new accounts or cards.
The one exception to this is if you don’t have much of a credit history and need a credit card to get started. In some cases, opening a new account can help improve your credit mix, raising your score in the long run. Only opening new credit accounts when absolutely necessary will help you improve and maintain your credit score.
Also be careful about closing credit cards you’ve paid off because it can lower your credit score. Closing a card causes your available credit to drop, reducing your borrowing power.
A good credit score is above 700. Very good scores are above 740 and exceptional scores are above 800. Raising your scores after a blemish on your credit report or building credit for the first time will take patience and discipline. You can expect it to take a few months to two years to build a good credit score, buy you can hasten the improvement by following Bankrate’s strategy.