Cash may be king, but maintaining good credit is also a necessity. Poor credit can place significant limitations on your life including where you live, the car you drive, and in some unfortunate cases, where you’re allowed to work. Your credit score measures your trustworthiness and significantly impacts a lender’s likelihood of allowing you to borrow your money. Sadly, many learn the hard way, only understanding the importance of credit and the role it plays in their lives after their credit has taken a hit.
If this sounds like you, you may be wondering whether or not you can turn things around. The short answer is yes.
“Generally, there isn’t any action you can take that will immediately result in a higher credit score, but applying good credit practices over time can help improve your score,” Amy Lins, Senior Director of Learning & Development at Money Management International told MadameNoire.
When it comes to building good credit, patience and intentionality are key. Here are six practical ways to get started:
Pay bills on time
“Your credit score is closely tied to everyday financial practices, so improving your credit score begins with understanding your individual financial situation and budget,” Brooklyn Lowery, Senior Manager and Site Editor at CardRatings.com told Madame Noire. “For instance, living within your means and on a budget means that you have the funds to pay your bills on time every month, which is a big factor when it comes to your credit score. Always make sure you’re paying all of your bills on time, every time, particularly any loan or debt statements you owe. It isn’t necessarily the fastest way to increase your score, but missing payments can tank your score very quickly.”
Use on-time bill pay to your advantage
“One other idea is to sign up for Experian Boost. With your permission, they’ll look at your bank account to verify on-time cell phone and utility payments,” adds Ted Rossman, Industry Analyst at CreditCards.com. “These haven’t historically helped build credit. The average Experian Boost user improves his/her credit score by 13 points. That’s great for a free, quick program.”
Open a new line of credit
“One of the fastest ways to improve your score is to open a new line of credit and manage it well. The simplest step is to open a new credit card. There are multiple good options, some that even offer cash back rewards, for people looking to build or rebuild their credit,” Lowery advised. “Opening a card, using it responsibly, and paying it off in full every month ticks off several boxes that affect your credit score. Factors that influence your score include the length of credit history, payment history, types of accounts, and credit utilization, all of which can be positively impacted by the responsible use of a credit card.”
Closely monitor your credit score
“Monitor your credit score,” shared Lauren Robson, Digital Communications Manager at Portify. “Sign up for a free credit monitoring service to receive alerts of important changes.”
Evaluate the type of credit you’re using
“It’s also important to review the type of credit that you are currently using. Different types of credit cards are viewed differently in the scoring algorithm,” adds Lins. “While getting rewards points and a first-time discount sound appealing, department store credit cards are generally not as good for your credit score as a major credit card,” advised Mortgages, automobile loans, and student loans are also considered “good” kinds of credit.
Become an authorized user
“Fill your credit report with positive information. A good way to jump-start that is by getting on someone else’s credit card as an authorized user. This will be most impactful if you have a thin file, such as a young adult who doesn’t have much experience managing credit,” Rossman conveyed. “By being listed on an account that’s managed well, like a parent’s credit card when that person pays on time and keeps his/her debts low, that will help you.”