Techniques for Building Strong Credit
Building credit can take time. In order to build credit, you must use credit, which can be confusing for those who are just starting out. Unfortunately, credit scores don’t work in such a way that your score starts off high and only drops when you misuse it. Rather, you need to slowly build up your score over time by following good credit use practices. To get started building your credit, consider the following few tips.
How to Check Your Credit Score
FICO credit scores range goes from 300-850. According to Experian, scores 300 – 579 are considered poor, while scores over 800 are considered excellent. Most people range between 600 – 750, putting them at the fair to very good range.
You can request a copy of your credit report for free once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. You’ll receive your credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies, which are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can also use services like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to access your credit score anytime.
Certain financial institutions will also allow your free access to your FICO score any time. This is a type of credit score that is used by 90% of top lenders, so it’s a useful tool to monitor where you’re at on the credit score range when trying to build your credit.
How to Increase Your Credit Score
Especially when you’re just beginning to build credit, it can feel like a challenge to achieve good credit. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can grow your score.
Pay off Debt Quickly and Regularly
The first step to building strong credit is to make sure you pay off your debt as quickly as possible. Begin by making a list of all loans and credit cards you currently have and the amount that you owe for each. Then, determine the monthly minimum payment and due date to ensure you never miss a payment.
If you choose the “debt avalanche” approach to paying off debt, you’ll prioritize the account with the highest interest rate while making minimum monthly payments on your other debt. If you choose the “debt snowball” approach, on the other hand, you’ll pay off the debt with the lowest balance first, knocking them off one by one. No matter which approach you choose, making regular, on-time payments will help you slowly but surely build your credit score.
Get Any Collections Accounts Removed from Your Credit Report
If you have an unpaid collections account on your credit report, it will stay there for up to seven years, impacting your overall credit score. There are a few ways to be rid of these blemishes on your report, however.
Start by scouring your credit reports for information on any and all collections accounts. Then, determine whether or not there are any mistakes. If a credit bureau has made a mistake by showing a paid account as unpaid, file a dispute with the proper documentation. If the fault is with the debt collector, ask them to validate the debt.
Lastly, if the debt has been paid off in full, then you can ask the current creditor for a goodwill deletion. They are not required to remove it, but they may be inclined to do so if you make all your payments on time while paying off the debt.
Report Your Rent Payments to Credit Bureaus
Making on-time rent payments doesn’t normally impact your credit score because credit bureaus don’t usually receive that information. While you can’t report this information to them yourself, you can employ rent-reporting services to report it for you. This may help you build credit.
These services usually have a fee that can go as low as $50 a year depending on which service you choose. However, you may be able to get it for free if your landlord agrees to pay it. Ask your property manager to see if they already work with a service. If not, make sure your landlord is willing to verify your rent payments before signing up for an independent service.
Having a bad credit score or no credit score doesn’t have to prevent you from achieving your financial goals. By being responsible with your credit and employing these techniques, you can build your credit.