1. Get a copy of your credit report.
Your personal credit report is an easy-to-read record of your credit accounts and total indebtedness. It is a good idea to review your credit report at least once a year and when you’re getting ready to make a major purchase. You can request a copy of your report directly from any of the 3 major report bureaus.
2. Know your credit score.
A credit score translates the information in your credit report into a number reflecting the risk of doing business with you. While there are many different types of credit scoring models, a higher score generally represents lower risk. To check your risk, request a credit score when you order your credit report. You will receive an explanation of what the score means and what from your credit report is most affecting it.
3. Provide complete, accurate and consistent identification on your credit applications.
This helps set up your credit history correctly from the beginning, ensures that your new accounts will be matched to the correct report and minimizes the chance that your credit file will be incomplete.
4. Set up a budget and live within it.
Credit should not be used to live beyond your means. By setting a budget and living within it, you will avoid using credit to overextend yourself.
5. Have some credit, but not too much.
A credit history shows creditors how you manage your debts. Having no credit history can make it difficult to qualify for new credit because creditors have no information to help them make a lending decision. You only need a few active accounts reported to the credit reporting companies to demonstrate smart credit management.
6. Pay your bills on time.
Late payments, called delinquencies, negatively impact your credit scores and affect your ability to get credit, since they indicate a stronger likelihood that you will make late payments again or will be unable to pay your debts in the future. If you fall behind on your payments, contact your lenders, which may work with you to set up a different payment schedule or interest rate.
7. Have a mixture of credit types.
A mix of accounts can show that you know how to manage all types of credit. It is good to have a history of repaying an installment loan, such as a car or student loan, but a revolving account, such as a credit card, demonstrates more clearly that you can responsibly manage credit because you have to control how much you charge and pay each month.
8. Keep credit card balances low.
High outstanding debt can affect your credit scores because it results in a high utilization rate, or balance-to-limit ratio, making you appear to be an increased credit risk. Keeping your balances low compared with credit limits shows that you aren’t tempted to charge more than you can pay and can handle larger amounts of available credit.
9. Use caution when closing accounts.
Closing an account isn’t always a good thing because it can result in an increase to your utilization rate. However, if you want to eliminate a few cards with high interest rates or fees – and you have ample credit available to you – the impact on your credit score should be relatively minor.
10. Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed.
Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Recent inquiries indicate you may have taken on new debt that isn’t yet shown on your credit report, and many inquiries in a short time might suggest you are trying to live on borrowed money.