STEP 1: Know the score. What's your credit score? A recent study found that 63% of people do not know what their credit score is. So if you're not sure, now is the time to find out. Lenders use your credit score as part of their evaluation, and credit scores generally range from 300-850. Anything over 650 is usually considered a fair score that qualifies you for standard rates. The higher your number, the better shot you have at getting great interest rates.
So if your score is a little low, you'll want to boost that number. Otherwise, you could pay way more interest on loans and big purchases than you should. But first things first: order your credit report to see where you stand. You'll get unlimited access to your scores and credit reports from all three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You'll see where you rank and how you compare to others. Plus, you'll get a personalized analysis that gives you specific suggestions on how to improve your individual score.
STEP 2: Make sure your credit report is correct. There are a bunch of different factors that help determine your credit score. Things like your payment history, outstanding debt, length of time you've had credit, number of inquiries and the type of credit you have make up your score. All this information is found in your credit reports.If your information is not correct, your credit score could be affected. Take a look at your Credit Report. Go through each section and make sure everything is 100% correct. There's a handy checklist you can use that'll show you exactly what to look for as you go over your credit report. If you find wrong wrong information on your credit report, dispute the items with the credit bureaus to have inaccuracies on your credit report corrected. And now you can easily file your dispute online. The credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your claim and make any appropriate corrections.You'll find the creditor contact information right on your credit report.
STEP 3: Pay on time, all the time. It's simple: Late payments, collections and bankruptcies have the greatest negative effect on your credit scores. By being punctual, you can keep your score up (and your interest rates down). Some people struggle with making payments on time. Are you usually late? The best thing to do is sign up for automatic payment. Or try banking online with email reminders. You'll be surprised at how doing something like changing your bill paying routine can help. And if you do pay on time, do not change a thing!
Following these 3 steps will get you headed in the right direction to a better credit score. There are more ways to improve your score. For additional tips, visit the Credit Learning Center. Also be sure to check out the Credit Score Simulator to see how scores can be affected by changes in credit behavior. By taking aim at a higher credit score, you're taking control of your finances. So the next time you need a mortgage, a car or any kind of credit, you'll know your number is going to get you the interest rate you deserve.