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How to Increase Credit Score

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How to Increase Credit Score

Most New Year’s resolutions require consumers to spend money, but here’s one that actually doesn’t cost anything and ultimately helps people save: Boost your credit score.

Low credit scores result in higher interest charges for all types of debt, including credit cards and home loans. Borrowers with a FICO credit score (the score used for most consumer lending decisions) of 700 save an average of $648 in interest on their credit card, $1,392 on their car loan and $2,340 on their mortgage each year, compared with borrowers who have scores below 620, according to a study by CardHub.com , a credit-card comparison website. Those savings get even larger for borrowers whose credit score is above 700. Separately, lower scores can lead to larger home and car insurance bills and make it harder to rent or buy a home.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve a low credit score and most involve scaling back on credit-card usage. That’s because in the world of credit scores, all debt is not treated equally. FICO scores tend to drop as consumers rack up more credit-card debt but don’t decline as much if someone signs up for a student loan, car loan or mortgage. Here are five steps to improving your credit score.

Pay down credit-card debt
To improve their credit scores, borrowers need to lessen their credit-card debt.

Once a borrower surpasses a 10% “credit utilization ratio” — that is, the amount of their credit card debt in relation to their total spending limit — their FICO score will likely drop, says John Ulzheimer, consumer credit expert with CreditSesame.com, a credit-management site, and a former manager at FICO. For instance, borrowers whose credit-card spending limits total $10,000 should not surpass $1,000 in debt — whether or not they pay off their balance in full each month.

That can be an onerous task for many borrowers. They’ll need to adhere to stricter limits if they want the highest score possible. According to FICO, borrowers with the best credit scores — of 785 or greater — use an average of 7% of their total credit-card limit. In contrast, student loans, car loans and mortgages are not considered by the credit-utilization ratio.

Consumers can consider asking their card issuers to increase their credit-card limits, which could in turn increase their credit score. Of course, that will require not swiping for more purchases on those cards.

Convert credit-card debt to personal loans
Borrowers with a lot of credit-card debt aren’t out of luck. They can actually improve their score before they even pay down their debt — with a bit of strategizing: They can consider rolling their credit-card debt into a personal loan.

Here’s why: Credit-card debt tends to be more damaging to credit scores than a personal loan, which is considered installment debt. The credit-utilization ratio (see previous section) does not take installment debt into account. This strategy would result in zero dollars of credit-card debt on the borrower’s credit report, which could boost their score by 100 points or more, says Ulzheimer. They’ll also pay lower rates to boot: The rates on personal loans currently average 11.36%, according to Bankrate.com. In contrast, rates on credit cards average just over 13% to 15.4%.

This strategy will only help borrowers if they stop using their credit cards or if they pay off the charges they make on their card quickly. Otherwise, their score won’t stay up for very long. Of course, consumers should pay off all their credit-card debt with their savings rather than signing up for a loan. But that assumes they have enough cash set aside after paying this debt for their emergency fund. (Financial advisers typically recommend people have savings equal to six to eight months of living expenses in a savings account.) More at 5 ways to boost your credit score

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How to Check Credit Score for Free Tips

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Ways to Check Credit Score for Free

The Fair Credit Reporting Act required consumer reporting agencies, like credit bureaus, to provide their records of you at least once ever twelve months. Since your credit report, and credit score, as so important in your financial life, it makes sense that the law mandates you are able to review it annually without cost. This is why credit experts recommend that you check your credit report at least once every twelve months for errors, omissions, or other inaccuracies so that your report is an accurate reflection of you.

There was one crucial aspect of the credit reporting system that the FCRA did not address—credit scores. When it comes to credit of any kind, whether it’s a mortgage or a new cell phone, your credit score is what creditors look at.

Oftentimes, when someone pulls your report they only get your FICO credit score. My friend is a landlord and when he pulls credit he only get their score and a few stoplight metrics like payment history and age of credit lines. He doesn’t get a full report.

It is only a matter of time before the credit score will be a required annual disclosure in conjunction with your credit report. Until then, the only way to see your credit score for free is to sign up for a credit monitoring service trial and canceling before the trial ends.

I won’t recommend any one service, they’re all pretty much the same, but I recommend one that promises to give you an official FICO credit score, not a credit bureau score. One reputable company is Fair Isaac Corporation, the originators of the FICO score, and they have a consumer facing site called myFICO (they always have plenty of myFICO promo codes flying around).

If you don’t go with Fair Isaac, choose one associated with one of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion). I don’t recommend signing up for these programs for no reason. If you are planning on getting a loan and are curious about how good your credit score is, then getting your official FICO score is important. It’s a soft inquiry so you won’t have to worry about taking a credit score hit.

If you aren’t planning on getting a loan, I wouldn’t worry about it. Checking your credit report annually is good enough and already more than what most people are doing. As long as your credit report is accurate, your score should be accurate. By checking your score prior to getting a loan, you give yourself a better idea of what your payments will likely be. More at How to Check Your Credit Score for Free

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