Five Ways to Get Your Credit in Shape
Written by Gerri Detweiler, host of Talk Credit Radio
Trying to get your credit in shape is a lot like trying to get your body in shape. You have to cut through a lot of hype and figure out what's going to work. Here are five ways to whip your credit into better shape.
1. Look forward: Your best approach is to focus on what you can do right now to move in a positive direction rather than dwelling on any past mistakes. Making a disciplined effort to pay your bills on time each month is one action that will pay off in the long run. You may not see results instantly, but over time, if you keep up good payment habits, you'll find your credit will get stronger.
2. Do it the right way: You don't have to have a credit card to build credit, but it sure helps. One of the best ways to build credit is with a major credit card paid on time over a long period of time. That's because most credit scoring models look for a mix of positive credit references, and without a credit card it can be harder to get a top score. But qualifying for a credit card if you don't have excellent credit can be tough.
3. Lie Low: There's a common misconception that you build better credit by charging large balances and paying them off over time. But you don't have to go into debt to build credit. In fact one of the smartest ways to use your card is to treat it like a debit card, and only purchase items you can pay off right away.
Keeping a low balance on your card won't just help you save money interest, it's also beneficial for your credit scores. Many credit scoring models compare your available credit to the balance reported by your card issuer, and consumers who use around 20% to 25% of their available credit â€" or less â€" tend to have stronger credit scores.
4. Reward yourself: Using a credit card that earns rewards can make you feel like you're doing something positive for yourself every time you make a purchase. But just like a good workout at the gym doesn't mean you get to stop at the bakery on the way home, remember that you want to use your card responsibly when earning rewards. Charge things you would buy anyway: groceries, gas, your cable bill, for example, and then pay the balance in full to avoid debt.
5. Set the bar higher: One of the most frustrating aspects of building or rebuilding credit is that at times it will feel like it is taking forever to see results. After all, it takes time for those new payment habits to have a positive impact on your credit scores. That's why it's nice to use a card that rewards you sooner for positive behavior.
This article was written by Gerri Detweiler, a nationally recognized consumer advocate and Director of Consumer Education for Credit.com, one of the web's leading personal finance websites. She is also the the author and co-author of a number of books on credit and the host of TalkCreditRadio.com. Ms. Detweiler's opinions, analyses, reviews and evaluations provided here are hers alone. Union Privilege compensated Ms. Detweiler for authoring this article.
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