There are a number of habits you can adopt to maintain the good credit score you’ve worked so hard to build, and one main reason why you should adopt them: money.
A good credit score typically means lower interest rates, and that means more cash in your bank account. A good credit score will also make it easier for you to be approved for credit in the first place.
Here are my top tips for keeping up your credit score.
1. Treat All of Your Debts Equally When It Comes Time to Pay
Your credit score takes into account both revolving debt, like credit cards, and installment debt, like mortgages.
It doesn’t matter if your line of credit, for instance, has a relatively low interest rate; you shouldn’t prioritize other loans if it means neglecting that payment. Constantly having a balance on your credit cards can lower your score and hurt your chances for getting approved for loans or any other credit card accounts you may want to open.
2. Keep Old Credit Cards Open to Maintain a Long Credit History
There are a few reasons why keeping credit cards open can benefit your credit score, and one is the length of your credit history, which accounts for 10% of your score.
This is especially important for older cards, because they give your credit report a longer record.
3. Consolidate Cards to Have Fewer Balances
Having a number of small balances spread out over several different cards may seem smart, but this approach can actually backfire if you overuse it.
Instead, John Ulzheimer of Credit Sesame says you’re better off paying these amounts down. “A good way to improve your credit score is to eliminate nuisance balances,” he says. This is because having multiple cards with balances can lower your score rather than boost it.
If you’re looking to pay off credit card debt quickly, consider a balance transfer card to consolidate all your monthly payments onto one card.
4. Make Sure You Pay Every Bill on Time, Every Time
Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score. If you have trouble keeping your bills in order and staying organized with payments, set up electronic billing and payment reminders to stay on top of your bills.
If you aren’t good at keeping track of what’s due when, don’t worry, there’s an app for that.
If you’re terrible with being on time, you can set up automatic payment plans through your bank or with your credit card to ensure that bills are paid for you, on time, every month.
While you’re paying credit card bills and rent on time, make sure you also get credit for paying for your utilities and phone. You can sign up for Experian Boost, link your bank account, and get credit for paying those bills on time, too. The service is free and includes a free credit report and myFICO score.
5. Try Not to Rack up a Balance on Your Credit Cards
If you have one credit card with a $1,000 limit and have a $500 balance, your credit utilization ratio is 50%. Aim for 30% or lower.
The people with the best credit scores only use about 7% of their available credit.
6. Keep an Eye on Your Credit Report and Make a Stink About Errors
Errors on your credit report are more common than you might think. Luckily, you can keep an eye on them by taking advantage of the free yearly credit reports you’re entitled to from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
When you get the reports, go over them carefully to look for errors, and get on the horn right away to dispute any errors you find.
7. Avoid Applying for New Credit Whenever Possible
New credit applications account for 10% of your score. Each time you apply for credit that prompts a hard inquiry into your report, your score will take a hit.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t apply for new credit cards or loans if you want to keep your score up.
8. Make Payments in Full When Possible, and Otherwise Pay at Least the Minimum
There are at least two reasons why you should never just pay the minimum on your cards, and one is because this is a terrible way to pay off debts! Paying just the minimum means even small debts could be stretched out over years, and this means exorbitant interest fees.
However, if the minimum is all you can manage, make sure you pay at least that every month, otherwise you’ll have late or missed payments on your report for seven years.
9. Creditors Are Real People Too, so Contact Them if You Encounter Problems
If anything should ever happen and you face financial troubles that could affect your ability to pay your bills, then call your creditors right away. You’ll often be able to arrange alternative payment solutions, negotiate a lower interest rate, or otherwise mitigate the situation.
10. Live Within Your Means and Don’t Exceed Your Credit Limit
Keep the 20/10 rule in mind. Don’t let your credit card debt exceed more than 20% of your total yearly income after taxes. And each month, don’t have more than 10% of your monthly take-home pay in credit card payments.
11. Chip Away Slowly to Reduce Your Overall Debt Load
If you currently have debt of any kind, taking steps to eliminate it will gradually improve your credit score. Make a budget and start paying down your high-interest cards first while maintaining minimum payments on all the other debts.
12. Get All Your Rate Shopping Done Within a Two-Week Period
To avoid having inquiries impact your score when you apply for a new loan, finish your rate shopping within two weeks. Credit bureaus might treat multiple inquiries made within a short period of time as a single hard check, rather than multiple hard checks.
13. Consider Using a Credit Monitoring Service
Credit monitoring services watch your credit daily for unexpected changes. On top of alerting you to dips or increases in your score, it can also serve as an early warning sign of identity fraud.
Read more: Do You Need to Pay for a Credit Monitoring Service?
14. Use Credit Boosting Services
There are some innovative ways of boosting your credit score, above and beyond the ordinary “pay on time” methods. One company is Self, which allows individuals to take out a loan and pay it off each month. Whenever you make a payment, they’ll report the good behavior to the credit bureaus and your credit score and profile will likely improve.
There are plenty of tips, tricks, and healthy habits you can use to maintain and even improve your credit score. Some of the best things you can do include not overspending and paying bills on time.
On top of that, you might also avoid applying for new credit, keep an eye on your reports for errors, and take steps to eliminate debt and lower your credit utilization.
Self Financial compensates us when you sign up for Self Financial using the links provided.
All Credit Builder Accounts made by Lead Bank, Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender, Sunrise Banks, N.A. Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender or Atlantic Capital Bank, N.A. Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. Subject to ID Verification. Individual borrowers must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident and at least 18 years old. Valid bank account and Social Security Number are required. All loans are subject to ID verification and consumer report review and approval. Results are not guaranteed. Improvement in your credit score is dependent on your specific situation and financial behavior. Failure to make monthly minimum payments by the payment due date each month may result in delinquent payment reporting to credit bureaus which may negatively impact your credit score. This product will not remove negative credit history from your credit report. All loans subject to approval. All Certificates of Deposit (CD) are deposited in Lead Banks, Member FDIC, Sunrise Banks, N.A., Member FDIC or Atlantic Capital Bank, N.A., Member FDIC.