September 13th, 2012
5 Clever Ways to Improve Your Credit Health
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**Welcome to Self-Improvement Month here on the Credit Karma Blog! Each week we’ll bring you content about how to improve you overall credit and financial health, as well as tips and personal stories from some great personal finance bloggers. Stick around!**
Here’s the situation: Your credit score is OK, but it’s not great. And you’re at a loss of what to do to build your credit further for that home you hope to buy in the next year or so.
That’s where this post comes in. I’ve collected some of the best and most effective tips for improving your overall credit health. Let’s get started!
Open a new credit line
Not revolutionary, huh? But this can be especially helpful if your percent of on-time payments is looking a little low. Lifehacker suggests a more extreme move—open and immediately close a new credit account. In the article, ReadyForZero co-founder Rod Ebrahimi says that opening a new credit card, making one on-time payment, and closing it so that you’re not tempted to spend further will add to your overall number of payments. Subsequently, your percentage of on-time payments will be boosted from the new account.
Opening a new credit line is also helpful if you have just one or two credit accounts in your entire credit history. For instance, a year ago I had just one credit card and no installment loans on my credit report. Although I had always made payments on time, my credit score was stagnant at 678. After I was approved for the Chase Freedom credit card (which is awesome for its cash-back perks), my credit score jumped to 742 and has stayed there for nearly a year now.
Use your old credit cards
I still carry my first credit card—a bank card that doesn’t come with any rewards or cash back. Once I opened my second credit card I knew I would be tempted to stop using my bank credit card. But I also knew that leaving a card inactive can cause it to eventually stop reporting to the credit bureaus. I couldn’t let that happen—it would greatly decrease my open credit card utilization, for one. So I put just one, monthly recurring payment on my bank credit card: my gym membership. Of course, I pay off the small balance each month. It keeps that card active, and I can keep larger purchases on the money-maker: my cash back card.
Get rid of credit report errors
I know I’ve harped on this before, but it’s crucial to your credit health that you take care of any erroneous information on your credit report. Think about it this way. If you have an old, closed account reporting as open on your credit report, it could artificially decrease your credit score. But don’t worry, we’ve laid out a step-by-step guide on how to clean up credit report errors. You can also solicit the help of a credit repair company, such as Lexington Law Firm.
Negotiate your credit limits
One of the best ways to maintain a good credit score is to keep a low credit utilization rate. One of the best ways to keep a low credit utilization rate is to have high credit limits on your credit cards. While most credit card companies will reevaluate your credit limit (and usually raise it) regularly, you can also ask for a credit limit increase on your own by calling up your credit card issuer directly. Just watch out—sometimes this initiates a hard credit inquiry.
Check your credit regularly
Ok, so just checking your credit score on Credit Karma won’t boost it. However, our data shows that people who return to Credit Karma regularly show an average credit score increase of 6 points per year. The “why” is likely due to the fact that they’re paying attention and making credit-boosting moves. Psychologically speaking, if you’re aware of what’s going on in your credit, you’ll be more likely to work toward improving it.
To help you along, set up a calendar reminder to check your credit. Each time you check, decide if there are any actions you can take to help improve your credit health.
Have you tried any of these methods? How about others? Share in the comments!
Have a Karmic day!
Bethy Hardeman, Social Media Maven
Stay tuned for more Self-Improvement posts on the blog!
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