With how much a credit score impacts your life, maintaining a high score is a virtual necessity. If you’ve damaged your credit, you need to start taking steps to fix it immediately.
How Credit Scores Work
Credit bureaus base your credit score on your financial history, and your score is a representation of whether you’re a trustworthy borrower. The higher your score, the more likely you are to pay back your debts.
While a number of factors play into your credit score, there are three that credit bureaus value heavily – how long you’ve had your accounts open, your payment history, and your credit utilization. To fix your credit, you should focus on those three factors.
The longer you keep your credit card accounts open, the better. This means that it’s best for your credit score if you avoid closing credit cards, especially credit cards that you have already had for a long time. Put them away if you don’t want to use them anymore, but only close them as a last resort. If a card has an annual fee that you don’t want to pay anymore, call the card issuer and ask to downgrade to a card without an annual fee.
Making late payments or failing to make a payment at all can quickly bring down your credit score, and it can also lead to late fees. Even if you don’t have the money to pay your bills in full, at least make a partial payment on the due date. Having trouble paying on time? Consider setting up automatic payments.
Your credit utilization is the portion of your available credit that you use. For example, if the total combined credit limit on all your credit cards is $10,000 and you have combined balances of $5,000, your credit utilization is at 50 percent.
To avoid a negative impact on your credit score, you need to keep your credit utilization below 30 percent. Keeping it below 20 percent is even better. If you’ve racked up credit card debt, this can be the most difficult aspect of fixing your credit score. One option is transferring your balances to a 0-percent APR credit card, which will keep them from accumulating any more interest during the introductory period.
It’s always a good time to improve your financial habits. Over time, keeping your credit cards open, paying bills on time, and maintaining a low credit utilization will help you build a high credit score.