The Best Credit Score Advice Experts Have Ever Heard
As far as credit is concerned, there are no hacks that can cause your score to magically skyrocket overnight. (Ahem, we’re wagging our fingers at schemes promising you a “new credit identity.”)
But, what does exist is good, sound credit advice that advocates for responsible borrowing and takes into account the anatomy of your credit score, like utilization and payment history.
Below, experts share more of their best tips for building and maintaining good credit:
Try writing a goodwill letter to speed up your credit recovery
It takes seven whole years before an account in collection is wiped from your credit report. This can be a big bummer if you’re looking to buy a home and have a blemish on your credit report pulling down your score, translating to a higher interest rate.
It may be worth the effort to write a “goodwill letter” to your creditor to see if they’ll help erase a bad mark from your credit report, suggests Brynne Conroy, who runs the women’s personal finance blog Femme Frugality and is the author of “The Feminist Financial Handbook.” The only caveat? You’ll need to have paid the debt.
Your letter should include your account number and when you paid the debt in full. If you paid it off quickly, you should point that out. Then, explain the hardship you were going through and why it kept you from paying your debt in the first place, Conroy suggests. The creditor by no means is required to help you out.
“But if you are thinking about making a major purchase, like a mortgage, in the next couple years, it’s worth typing out a letter and giving it a shot,” she says. “It could lead to a bump in your credit score and qualify you for better rates when you go to borrow.”
Keep old credit accounts open
While you may think it’s a good idea to close out a credit card once you’ve paid it off, your credit score won’t be necessarily be in celebration mode.
“It’s better to leave older accounts open because it can help improve your credit score by adding to the amount of credit you have available,” says Andrew Schrage, CEO of Money Crashers, a personal finance website. “More available credit will help you keep your credit utilization low.”
Plus, closing out a credit card could ding your score because it shortens your credit history, he points out.
“It’s best to leave older credit accounts open, even if you only use it sparingly,” Schrage says.
Make money before you spend it
The problem many people have with credit cards is that it allows them to spend money before they make it, causing them to get behind on payments and hurt their credit scores. It’s important to remember your payment history accounts for a whopping 35 percent of your credit score, says Logan Allec, a Certified Public Accountant who runs the finance site Money Done Right.
“This means that the most important thing you can do to help your credit score is to make payments on time, month in and month out,” he says. “If you struggle with this, live with this simple rule: Make money before you spend it.”
Increase your credit limit a couple times of year
“The best credit advice I ever heard was to set a calendar alert to increase at least one credit card limit every six months,” says R.J. Weiss, Certified Financial Planner and founder of the personal finance site The Ways to Wealth. Since credit utilization is a major factor in your score, you want a large gap between how much credit you have available compared to how much credit you use, he explains.
Regularly increasing the total credit limit you have available (not how much you’re using!), can increase your score over time, Weiss says.
Just be aware that sometimes requesting a credit line increase can result in a hard inquiry on your report, something that can lower your credit score—so ask your lender what type of inquiry they’re pulling before going ahead.
Audit your credit card bill on a monthly basis
It’s easy to delete your electronic statements or toss those envelopes that come in the mail every month. But, taking five minutes each month to do a line-item review of your credit card statements is a worthwhile task, says Dan Soschin, chief operating officer for CardGuru.com, a credit card comparison and education site. Doing this will help you catch anything that is not authorized or fraudulent, remind you what you’re spending your money on, and prompt you to cancel services you’re auto-paying but aren’t actually using.
Now that we’ve covered the good credit advice, here’s some of the worst credit score tips experts have heard.
More about your credit score:
- This Is How You Get a Perfect 850 Credit Score
- Here’s Why Your Credit Score Is Dropping for “No Reason”
- This Is What Happens to Your Credit Score When You Only Use Your Debit Card
- 8 Surprising Reasons You Need a Good Credit Score
- This Is How Often You Should Check Your Credit Score
- My Credit Score Was Actually 70 Points Lower Than I Thought—And Yours May Be, Too
- This Is What Your Credit Score Should Be to Rent an Apartment
- The Best Free Credit Score Sites, According to Experts