There are plenty of things you can do to maintain the good credit score youve worked so hard to build, and one excellent reason why you should care: money.
A good credit score typically means lower interest rates, and that means more cash in the bank. Itll also be easier for you to get loans and credit.
1. Treat all of your debts equally when it comes time to pay
It doesnt matter that your line of credit, for instance, has a lower interest rate, you shouldnt prioritize other loans if it means neglecting that payment. Constantly having a balance on your credit cards can lower your score and hurt your chances for getting approved for loans or any other credit card accounts you may want to open.
2. Keep old credit cards open to maintain the longer history
There are a few reasons why keeping old cards open can benefit your credit score, and one is the length of your credit history, which accounts for 10% of your score.
3. Consolidate cards to have fewer balances
Having a number of small balances spread out over several different cards may seem smart, but this approach can actually backfire if you overuse it.
Instead, John Ulzheimer of Credit Sesame says you’re better off paying these amounts down. “A good way to improve your credit score is to eliminate nuisance balances,” he says. This is because having multiple cards with balances can lower your score rather than boost it.
If you’re looking to pay off credit card debt quickly, consider a balance transfer card to consolidate all your monthly payments onto one card.
4. Make sure you pay every bill on time, every time
Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score. If you have trouble keeping your bills in order and staying organized with payments, set up electronic billing and payment reminders to stay on top of your bills.
If you’re terrible with being on time, you can set up auto payment plans through your bank or with your credit card to ensure that bills are paid for you, on time, every month.
While youre paying credit card bills and rent on time, make sure you also get credit for paying for your utilities and phone. You can sign up for Experian Boost , link your bank account, and get credit for paying those bills on time, too. The service is free and includes a free credit report and myFICO score.
5. Try not to rack up the balance on your credit cards
If you have one credit card with a $1,000 limit and have a $500 balance, your credit utilization ratio is 50%. Aim for South Dakota installment loans 30% or lower.
6. Keep an eye on your credit report and make a stink about errors
Errors on your credit report are more common than you might think. Luckily, you can keep an eye on them by taking advantage of the free yearly credit reports you’re entitled to from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
When you get the reports, go over them carefully to look for errors, and get on the horn right away to dispute ones you find.
7. Avoid applying for new credit whenever possible
New credit applications account for 10% of your score. Each time you apply for credit that prompts a hard inquiry into your report, your score will take a hit.
Unless its absolutely necessary, dont apply for new credit cards or loans if you want to keep your score up.
8. Make payments in full when possible, and otherwise pay at least the minimum
There are at least two reasons why you should never just pay the minimum on your cards, and one is because this is a terrible way to pay off debts! Paying just the minimum means even small debts could be stretched out over years, and this means exorbitant interest fees.
However, if the minimum is all you can manage, make sure you pay at least that every month, otherwise you’ll have late or missed payments on your report for seven years.
9. Creditors are real people too, so contact them if you encounter problems
If anything should ever happen and you face financial troubles that could affect your ability to pay your bills, then call your creditors right away. Often, you’ll be able to arrange alternative payment solutions, negotiate a lower interest rate, or otherwise mitigate the situation.
10. Live within your credit means and dont exceed your limit
According to Wells Fargo, a rule is a good rule of thumb for credit. Dont “let your credit card debt exceed more than 20% of your total yearly income after taxes. And each month, don’t have more than 10% of your monthly take-home pay in credit card payments.”
11. Chip away slowly to reduce your overall debt load
If you currently have debt of any kind, taking steps to eliminate it will gradually improve your credit score. Stop using your cards, make a budget, and start paying down your high-interest cards first while maintaining minimum payments on all the other debts.
12. Get all your rate shopping done within a two-week period
To avoid having inquiries impact your score when you apply for a new loan, finish your rate shopping within two weeks because there’s a 30-day grace period during which inquiries wont affect your score.
13. Consider using a credit monitoring service
Credit monitoring services watch your credit daily for unexpected changes. On top of alerting you to dips or increases in your score, it can also serve as an early warning sign of identity fraud.
14. Use credit boosting services
There are a couple of innovative ways of boosting your credit score, above and beyond the ordinary “pay on time” methods. One company is Self, helping individuals take out a loan and pay it off each month. Whenever you make a payment, theyll report the good behavior to the credit bureaus and your credit score and profile will likely improve.
Another is Experian Boost, which allows you to include your positive payment history for utility bills and cell phone bill payments to your credit score – payments which otherwise would not affect your score at all. Best of all the service is completely free.
There are plenty of tips, tricks, and healthy habits you can use to maintain and even improve your credit score. Some of the best things you can do involve being consistent with payments, not overspending, and paying bills on time.
On top of that, other things you can do include avoiding applying for new credit, keeping an eye on your reports for errors, and taking steps to eliminate debt and lower your credit utilization.