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In the current era, you need a good credit score for many purposes, such as buying or renting a house, purchasing a car, or borrowing money at an affordable interest rate. As you have already greeted a new year, you can change your money habits and start a new journey to attain a good credit score. Here are a few tips that can make your journey smooth.
Get your credit score check report:
In the United States, there are mainly 3 credit report providers: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Once a year, you can get a free credit report from each. Usually, a credit report contains your payment history, credit history, and credit application activities. Have a close look at your credit report to check whether there are any errors in it or not. Also, check which factors are dragging down your credit score and work on it.
Avoid missing the payment deadline
In your busy schedule, it’s apparent that you may miss the deadline for bills. Set instructions in your bank account to pay them through the automatic route. The longer you pay bills on time, the better will be your credit score.
Maintain a low utilization rate:
The utilization rate of your credit card plays a significant role in your credit score. Maintain the utilization rate of your credit card below 30%. To calculate your credit utilization rate, divide the outstanding balance on your credit card by your total credit limit.
You can keep the utilization rate of your credit card in control through the following 3 ways:
Pay your balance multiple times a month:
Credit card companies usually send their customers’ balance statements monthly to the credit bureaus. Depending upon your balance in that statement, they prepare your Credit Utilization Ratio or CUR. Unfortunately, there is no particular schedule for sending the balance statement.
Therefore, to keep your utilization rate lower, paying the balance on your credit card more than once a month rather than waiting for the due date is better.
Raising your credit limit:
Increasing the limit of your existing credit account is another way to keep the utilization rate lower. But this method is apt for those who have control over their spending rather than for spendthrifts.
Keeping the old accounts open:
If you’re planning to close any old credit cards you no longer use, stop and think again. Keeping the old credit accounts open will help you to enjoy a higher total credit limit. As a result, your credit utilization rate will go down. At the same time, a more extended credit history will positively impact your credit score.
But if the card carries a higher interest rate and annual fees, go ahead with your plan to close the account. You can even ask your credit card issuer to lower the interest rate or downgrade the card to a no-fee version.
- Limit your credit applications: Multiple applications for credit in a short period can also stain your credit score. When you formally apply for new credit, the lender will approach the credit bureau to pull your credit report. In financial terms, it’s called a hard inquiry. The credit scoring system counts all hard inquiries, and a hard inquiry’s impact can stay on your credit score for up to 1 year.
- Stop withdrawing money from credit cards: To attract and retain customers, credit card companies allow them to withdraw cash from credit cards. In case of an emergency, it works as a quick fix. But don’t make it a habit. It can ruin your credit score in no time.
The money you withdraw from credit cards falls under cash advances or, in layman’s language, it’s a loan. Therefore, you need to pay interest on it. Unlike your purchases through credit cards, these advances won’t have any grace period. The interest on them will be charged from the date you’ve withdrawn the cash.
Further, with these advances, your credit utilization rate will go up, which can take a toll on your credit score. Remember, cash advances you have made through credit cards won’t reflect in your credit report.
- Monitor your credit score: Lastly, check your credit score periodically. It helps you to take timely measures if your score goes down.
At this time, a question might have arisen in your mind. Does having more than one credit card boost my credit score?
Having more than one credit card has its advantages. But if not managed properly, it can turn into a nightmare.
Suppose you’ve multiple credit cards. You’re using them regularly and paying the balance on time monthly. In this situation, you’re managing your cards correctly, which helps you improve your score. As discussed earlier, maintaining more credit cards will help you to have a higher credit limit.
In contrast, holding multiple credit cards can prove dangerous if you have the habit of spending more, paying only the minimum and carrying forward the balance to the next month.
Besides, keeping track of the deadline for each card is challenging and can result in late payment. Paying the balance late can also hurt your credit score. The impact of late payment can stay on your credit report for a prolonged period.
Again, if you’re not using a credit card for an extended period, that account will become inactive. Usually, credit card issuers close an inactive account after a period, and the length of this period varies from one issuer to another. It’ll not only lower your overall credit limit but can also trim the length of your credit history if it’s an old account.
The benefits of having a good credit score are immense. But improving it is not an overnight process. A credit score of 670 or above is considered good; to attain that, you must adopt financial discipline. Using your credit card wisely can improve your credit score to a large extent.