Is your credit score far less than ideal these days? If your FICO is lagging, just like about 30 percent of all Americans, it may be holding you back from getting a better credit card, applying for a mortgage loan to buy a house or even being hired for your dream job.
But the good news is that there are strategies you can use to build your credit, raising it to the point that you are considered a prime candidate for the best interest rates and credit approvals from banks, lenders, and other financial institutions.
Some of these strategies are part of a long-term plan to maintain good credit, but we also have ways to almost instantly boost your score.
If you are planning to apply for a home mortgage, finance a new car, or try to get a job that checks credit as part of the hiring process (like about 45 percent of all employers these days), you’ll want to utilize these five tactics.
Remember that Nationwide Credit Clearing is the U.S. leader in fast, effective, and affordable credit repair, so call us if you’d like a free credit report and consultation to get started!
- Pay down balances.
We know that the ratio of your debt to total available credit – called credit utilization ratio – makes up about 30 percent of your credit score. Therefore, people with maxed out credit cards or high debt loads compared to their available credit will see their scores steadily sinking.
So, the first thing you want to do when improving your credit score is to pay down as much debt as possible.
It’s important to get your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent (so you only owe $3,000 or less on a credit card with a $10,000 available balance). Credit experts even suggest keeping a utilization ratio of 10% or less to achieve a great credit score. However, don’t go all the way to 0% because it won’t show an established payment history they can use in their calculations (since you won’t have any payment).
- Request a credit line increase.
Don’t have enough money sitting around to pay down your credit balances enough to raise your scores? Another sneaky-good way to improve your credit utilization ratio – without paying down one cent of debt – is to increase your total available credit. For instance, let’s say you had a $10,000 credit line but owed $4,000 (so your utilization ratio was 40 percent).
Instead of paying down your debt, if you could get the credit card company to increase your available limit to $15,000 from 10k, your utilization ratio just went down to about 27 percent – and your score would go up! To do this, simply call the credit card company or lender and make your case over the phone and they’ll either approve or deny your request or approve a lesser increase.
- Ask your creditors to remove late payments from your credit report
Did you know that you can simply ask your creditors to remove evidence of late payments from your credit report? Why not? It’s free for you to ask (nicely), and the worst thing they can say is “no.” Called ‘Goodwill late-payment removal,’ this practice is more common than you may think. In fact, any creditor has the power to remove a late payment from your credit report.
For instance, department store credit accounts and other retail accounts are usually pretty liberal with goodwill late-payment removals. They may do just that if you can make a good case that it was a one-time incident because you didn’t receive the bill on time, an address change, etc. and that you otherwise have a perfect record with them.
Once they tell you that the late payment is removed, ask for payment history update letter, which is your confirmation in case you need to present documentation to the credit bureaus.
- Pay for deletion of collections
Many of us have collections on our credit reports, which can do some serious and ongoing damage to your score But there may be a way to get it removed. If you’ve missed enough payments to have an account in collections, your creditors may agree to erase any negative credit reporting for that account if you pay it off.
The good news is that you can also negotiate your payoff, and if it’s in collections, they may accept less than the full amount to settle you up – sometimes even 50 percent of your balance or far less!
Once you negotiate the payoff amount AND they agree to remove the item from your credit report, only pay the collection via a mailed certified check, with “Cash only if you delete account from credit report” written above the endorsement line. Also, make sure you get their promise in writing via a letter of deletion. We can use the letter to apply for a rapid rescore instead for you, so you won’t have to wait a month or more to see your credit score rise!
- Dispute any errors on your credit report.
Most people don’t realize that credit reports often contain mistakes, misreporting, duplicate items, or outdated information. All of these things may be lowering your score, but they can also be removed. Start by contacting Nationwide Credit Clearing for a copy of your credit report, and we’ll help you review it carefully for any errors or inaccuracies.
By reviewing it line-by-line, we’ll be able to highlight inaccuracies or items that are lowering your score. Remember that there are three major credit bureaus and they each may report different information, so it might be a good idea to check all three. Look for errors on larger accounts first, length of history, payments reporting on time, and that your balances are accurate.
The last step is formally disputing each inaccuracy or error with each of the credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, separately. They are legally obligated to get back to you in a certain amount of time with proof that the information you’re disputing is correct – or they have to change it or remove it.
If you have more questions about disputing items, how to boost your score quickly, or want a free copy of your credit report, contact Nationwide Credit Clearing!