If you have a desire to improve your credit score, you’re not alone. A study done by the National Credit Counseling Foundation found that over 40 percent of people would rather not speak to people openly about their credit scores. To put this figure into context, that is four times as many that say the same thing about their weight. Thankfully, improving your credit score quickly has proved to be far easier for most people than losing weight. However, according to one finance counselor from Citigroup, 30 to 60 days should be considered quick when it comes to improving your credit score.
Nothing will improve unless you begin acting now. If you are serious about turning your credit around, these four steps can help begin a new chapter in your financial life today:
- Credit Reports: The first and most important step in the process is to get a copy of your full credit report from websites such as AnnualCreditReport.com. Rather than doing this just once, make it a habit to order this plan once every four months. Study the report and aim to understand exactly why you have received the poor score. Without this level of understanding, disputing errors will not be possible either because you never find the errors or cannot substantiate your claims concerning them.
- Negotiation – Yes, denying that you paid a certain bill while you were looking for a job earlier this year is not possible. But many people do ask their creditors to forgive past mistakes. Successful negotiators provide a detailed description of the context that surrounded this failure as well as reasons for why they do not need to worry about it going forward. It is best to write a letter that consists of an offering to pay any remaining balances if the lender agrees to report all of the payments in an alternative way. For example, rather than describing them as “late” they could describe them as paid when “agreed”.
- Consider a Credit Card – It may seem counter intuitive that having one of these cards can actually improve your score, but it is true. However, this only works if you make sure to not max it out each month. Prioritize paying back all charges on time and in full. Consider the full range of card options that best suit your income. The point is not to continue using credit in a different way, but rather to under-use the card. Aim for a credit use ratio of no more than 20 to 30 percent of the ceiling. Beware too not charge up your credit cards too much and go into debt.
- Authorized users – For those with a troublesome financial history, asking a loved one to be added to their account can have immense benefits for your credit score. While many may tell you no, it is worth a shot. Offer to make an agreement in writing that details exactly how you plan to turn around your credit history and how you will carry your share of the burden. Specify that this is just a temporary plan. The goal of this method is to learn how to begin using your credit more responsibly, so emphasize spending modestly and wisely.