Easy Things You Can Do to Improve Your Credit Score Quickly and Over Time

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There are several easy things you can do to improve your credit score. (Photo: @RLTheis via Twenty20)
When you seek out new credit — a car loan, mortgage, or credit card, for example — the lender checks your credit score and history. The better it looks, the more likely it is that you’ll be approved. But you may run into challenges if you haven’t built up your credit, and it doesn’t take much for a good credit rating to plummet into a less-than-desirable range. 
How can you boost a bad credit score? Here are some tips to raise your credit score without much effort, both quickly and over the next several months and years. 

How Are Credit Scores Calculated?

The most common credit score is from the Fair Isaac Corporation, or FICO. Your FICO score blends five weighted criteria:
  • The amount you owe on credit, comprising 30% of your score
  • Your payment history, comprising 35% of your score
  • New credit products, comprising 10% of your score
  • The mix of different credit products, comprising another 10% 
  • The length of your credit history, comprising 15% of your FICO score
Your credit score is then rated on a scale from 300 to 850, where 649 or lower isn’t very good, 650 to 799 is good or very good, and 800 or above is exceptional. 

Tips to Boost Your Credit Score 

Some tips to increase your credit score are fast-acting, while others take some time. Here are six ways you can boost your credit score with little effort. 
Pay bills on time. When you sign up for credit, you promise to pay your bills on time. If you fail to keep this promise, your credit report shows late payments in your history for as long as seven years. Your credit score suffers, and it makes lenders think you aren’t dependable so they shy away from extending credit to you. 
But if you make your payments on time, your credit score swings in a positive direction. When as much as 35% of your score depends on your payment history, it’s important to pay bills on time. If you haven’t been consistent, start now. In a few months, the change to your credit score could be notable.
Add unreported bills to your credit report. If you have utilities that aren’t showing up on a credit report and you pay them on time, get them added to your report. Credit reporting companies like Experian can integrate your bank account to pull information on utility and phone payment history. 
If you’ve been reliable with your common bill payments, it can immediately boost your credit score. 
Lower your credit utilization. If your credit card is maxed out — or close to it — on a frequent basis, that can impact your credit score negatively. The sweet spot for revolving credit is to use 30% or less of your accounts. So, if you have a card with a $10,000 limit, try to keep your balance under $3,000 at the end of your billing period. 
Credit utilization is averaged out across all revolving credit, but the impact of a single card with high utilization could lower your credit score.
Raise your credit limits. Perhaps your monthly bills are high, even if you pay the balances off monthly. If you can manage your credit well but your utilization is still high, apply for a credit limit increase. For example, if your card has a $10,000 limit but your monthly bill is usually $5,000, your credit utilization is 50%. But if you get a limit increase up to $20,000, the same $5,000 bill represents only a 25% utilization rate. Just be careful not to increase your spending. 
Mix up the types of credit. If you’ve only been using a credit card and don’t have any other debts like recent mortgages, personal loans, lines of credit, or car loans, it could be dragging down your score a little. It helps to have recent credit in a range of products. Take out a small personal loan and pay it off quickly, for example. 
Keep unused credit cards open. Closing your revolving credit accounts is not a good idea. Unused credit adds depth to your credit report and lowers your credit utilization. While it isn’t smart to open new credit accounts for no reason, keeping longer-term credit cards active will help keep your credit score up.