April 14th, 2012

4 Ways to Get a Better Credit Score Now

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better credit

We’ve all heard the typical advice for a healthy credit score: Pay your bills on time. Don’t max out your credit cards. Don’t close your oldest accounts. But the problem is, this advice is just that: typical. And most actions that lead to great credit health, like making on-time payments, take months or even years of patience.

Well, never fear. There are some ways you can improve your credit health without waiting it out. Here are four to get you started.

1. Increase your credit limits.

Your credit utilization rate is one of the most significant factors of your credit score. Basically, it tells lenders how much of your available credit you’re using. An overall credit utilization rate of 30 percent or less is generally considered healthy. One way to ensure you always remain below that recommended utilization rate is to ask your credit card issuers for a credit limit increase. Give your credit card company a call and request that your limit be increased. Of course, this tactic works best if you are a customer in good standing.

After a successful credit limit increase, your credit utilization rate should automatically be reduced. You can see how your credit score may be affected with the Credit Simulator. Just don’t let that limit increase encourage you to spend more on your credit cards. This method is most appropriate for those consumers with a good control over credit card spending.

Tip: Requesting a credit limit increase could initiate a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can negatively impact your credit score. The damage will be minimal, but it’s a good idea to ask if this is the case before you request the increase.

2. Correct credit report errors.

As many as 25 percent of credit reports contain serious errors. Certain errors can negatively impact your credit score. For instance, if you’ve had a credit card for 10 years, but the credit history is misreported as two years, your credit score will be artificially lower due to the shortened credit history. Your first step is to get a copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Then, follow the steps laid out in the article “How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report.”

Tip: If you spot and dispute an error, keep in mind that it can take some time before the credit bureau is able to correct it. However, it’s your job to follow up to make sure that your dispute has been addressed. If you haven’t heard back after a month’s time, contact the bureau.

3. Write a goodwill adjustment letter.

If you’ve had a recent late payment on one of your accounts, but it is now in good standing, you could try to get the delinquency removed by drafting a goodwill letter to the company. In the letter, you’ll make a case for why you deserve to have the negative item removed. Show what a loyal customer you’ve been. Tell them how much you have improved your finances since the misstep.

You can find a template of a goodwill adjustment letter here. If you successfully get the items removed, you should see a positive impact on your credit score.

Tip: This isn’t a guaranteed fix. It’s completely up to the company whether or not they want to forgive your mistake. Of course, it’s completely up to you whether or not you want to stay with the company.

4. Use old, “abandoned” credit cards.

A long, positive credit history is one of the best ways to show your creditworthiness. Your credit history length accounts for approximately 15 percent of your credit score. It’s a good idea to keep old accounts open to retain that long credit history. But not only should you keep them open, you should also keep them active. If you haven’t used a card in a while, your issuer might consider the account “inactive” and may stop reporting activity to the credit bureaus. Consider using the old card again to reactivate the account.

Tip: Put a small, recurring payment on your old card. That way, you’ll have current activity, but you can automate your bill payment, since it will always be in the same amount.

Have you ever tried one of these tactics to help your credit? We’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or email us at blog@creditkarma.com. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

is the Social Media Manager and Writer at Credit Karma.

23 Comments

  1. Interesting post. I haven’t heard of number 4 before, but it does make sense. Is there a source for this?

    I always try to educate people that the more accounts you have, the better it is. It shows that lenders are willing to extend you lines of credit. Thanks for the info.

    Personal Finance for Young Professionals: Build Credit Score Fast

    Financial Advice for Young Professionals at 6:12 pm on April 14, 2012
  2. #4 is recommended by Liz Weston in this MSN Money article. I’d be interested to hear of any one who tried and succeeded with this one. Thanks for sharing your article!

    bethy at 9:48 am on April 16, 2012
  3. When the bad reports come off your report will it automatically increase your score?

    donna at 8:09 pm on April 16, 2012
  4. In theory, yes. But remember that there are lots of factors influencing your credit score, so it’s not always so simple. Also, some negative items influence your score less or more than others. They’re not all equal.

    bethy at 10:26 am on April 17, 2012
  5. Still there are things people should do to improve their credit score, but most of them doesn’t know how to start. By having this as their guide they can able to enhance their scores and eventually do it consistently when they see results!

    Trevor Jones at 6:56 am on April 22, 2012
  6. Thanks for the interesting article. I keep on using all my CC at least one time every month to keep them showing up with good creditworthiness. Make your small purchases like coffee or bagel on old not used CC at least once a month.

    Ovidia Vedev at 7:06 am on April 23, 2012
  7. I guess a perfect credit score and history totally depends on how you get to handle your obligation by which will really affect the whole thing pertaining to your score. This must be the reason why we are advice to consider consulting a professional prior applying fora credit. So, ideally in this case professional credit solution is best appreciated.

    Jacob Loveney at 10:46 pm on July 26, 2012
  8. try out Lexington Law. They have been around since 1991 and have an awesome reputation. They really helped my neighbor out a ton.

    Pat at 6:41 pm on December 30, 2012
  9. I’ve tried #3. A lot of people say it works, but the consistent response I get is “we can’t change something that has been accurately reported”

    How do people get around that?

    Tony at 10:27 am on August 25, 2013
  10. Jenna

    Unfortunately, it’s really up to the generosity of the companies to make #3 work. There isn’t a special way people get around that response.

    Jenna at 8:42 am on August 26, 2013
  11. Wait a minute. Something’s not right. Experian, Transunion, and Equifax were NOT created by the Government. They are private entities in business to give information to Lenders.

    The Fair Credit Reporting Act was enacted to help the CONSUMER. This Act tells the Credit Bureaus what to do. One of those things is putting a time limit of 7 years that Credit Bureaus can hold delinquent payments, etc. The 7 year period is a limit. The law does not command the bureaus to keep the information for 7 years.

    Second of all, since the 3 credit bureaus are PRIVATE companies that sell information to lenders, it is NOT LOGICAL to believe that creditors are even REQUIRED to provide this information to the creditors.

    Knowledge is power——Perhaps if we can start a petition of 25,000 or more signatures to the White House, the White house will address the issue.

    Why not give the rest of us legal power to make the 3 credit bureaus remove black marks if those marks damage us?

    I guess I’m trying to pass information that says we don’t have to let a single 3 digit number rule our lives.

    leon at 7:15 pm on December 22, 2013
  12. Here is my proof: the 7 year period is ONLY a limit

    http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/articles/pdf/pdf-0096-fair-credit-reporting-act.pdf

    Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information. In most
    cases, a consumer reporting agency may not report negative information that is more than
    seven years old, or bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old

    leon at 7:21 pm on December 22, 2013
  13. When is the best time to apply for a credit increase and does it as a hard inquiry on your credit report?

    Gray at 5:46 am on January 29, 2014

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