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    10 Smart Things That People Have Done To Improve Their Credit Scores

    Pro tip: Combing through your credit report can be more useful than you think.

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    Your credit scores have a hand in some of the most important decisions of your life. For starters, they can determine whether or not you're approved for a mortgage or other loan.

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    But making sure your credit score stays in a ~healthy~ range is sometimes easier said than done. So we recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share how they improved their credit scores.

    Here's what they had to say:

    1. Make sure that any collections debts will actually be removed from your credit report once you pay off your balances.

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    "Don’t make the mistake of paying off a collector until they agree to take the account off your credit report. Your score won’t go up much if you have an account in collections, even if it’s paid. I had several collections from medical bills, and I called all of them and offered to start payment plans in exchange for taking it off my credit report. Most agreed; they want to get paid. Also, make sure to dispute collections! Some creditors won’t even bother to respond and then the bad mark comes off your credit (but I paid all of my bills regardless, and now I never let anything go to collections for any reason, even if I had to make payments I knew my insurance should have covered)."

    jenniferj32

    2. Don't avoid using credit cards because you think they'll hurt your score. No credit history does NOT = good credit.

    Credit card and money
    Athima Tongloom / Getty Images

    "Use credit more. People who never use credit simply never get a good score. They think the less you use it, the better it looks. But unfortunately it doesn’t show that you actually can handle credit."

    sharptoaster56

    A healthy credit history can actually help you on your way toward building good credit. Of course, responsible use is key! For example, be sure to pay off your credit card in full every month and try to keep your balance as low as possible. For more surprising credit facts, check out some credit score myths we debunked.

    3. Become an authorized (responsible!) user on a loved one's credit card.

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    "I helped my fiancée’s credit in five minutes: I added her as an authorized user to my three oldest credit cards (all of which have a zero balance). When you add an authorized user, the card goes on their credit report. She agreed not to use the cards (unless it's for an emergency — I get very sick or, I don’t know, get arrested and she needs to bail me out). This gave her $10K in non-utilized credit with an instant six-year average age of credit. It took me literally five minutes and it boosted her credit score by 200 points."

    joeeye

    FYI, when you become an authorized credit card user, good credit habits formed by the owner — like paying their bill on time every month – might help improve your credit score.

    4. Slowly (but surely!) work toward paying off your credit card by making your monthly payments on time.

    Person making notes on a paper
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    "I owed $800 on a credit card with a $200 limit and had a score in the low 600s. I paid off all my debt first. Then, I got a credit card that I only used for gas and I would pay it off every paycheck. That kept my credit active and showed on-time payments (key!), and I never paid any interest. My score eventually went up (slowly!) and I was able to make bigger purchases with lower interest rates. I’ve added more cards but I make sure to pay them off as quickly as I can. And I didn’t get rid of that first credit card! Now I’m debt-free, have a stacked savings, and my score stays in the 800s!"

    karim40e9f9223

    5. Find ways to cut back on spending — then put that extra cash toward paying off debt.

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    "I’m in the UK and my finances were in really bad shape a year ago, but I’ve been one of the few lucky people continuing to work from home during the pandemic. I decided straight away to try to sort out my credit score, and I’ve just moved out of the 'very poor' bracket into the 'poor' bracket with Experian. It might not seem like a big deal but seeing that difference has been really motivating. The pandemic has shown me just how much money I was spending on things I didn’t need. Look at your bank statements and add up all those little transactions under £10 to see how much you’re spending on frivolous things. It may surprise you.

    The first thing I did was pay off my credit cards. They have a high interest rate so the longer you leave them, the more you’re spending; pay them off first. Pay as much as you can each month and it doesn’t have to be in one payment. I paid what I knew I could afford on payday. Then through the month if I had anything extra, it went toward the credit card.

    I registered with a company to include my rent payments on my credit report. If you know that you always pay your rent on time and you are unlikely to have payment gaps, get it on there.

    Once my credit cards were clear, I took them out of my purse and gave myself a strict rule that I could only use them in an emergency or if I ran out of money during the month I could use them for food — that’s it. If I did use them for food, I then paid them off in full as soon as I got paid as it would be a smaller amount."

    kerryb4e7ff4e7a

    Heads up: Experian Boost is a service you can use to get your monthly, must-pay bills (like your utilities, phone bill, and even streaming services) included on your Experian credit report — similar to what this Community member did with their rent payments. Adding this information to your report might give your credit score an instant bump up, especially if you don't have a lot of payment history information on file. It's totally free, so all you have to do is sign up and connect the bank account you use for paying those bills.

    6. If you missed payments for reasons that were out of your control, once you're back on track you can actually ask your creditors to report you more favorably.

    Credit report showing a 540 score
    Courtneyk / Getty Images

    "I’ve been in the financial industry a long time. One tip I’ll give is to start getting an annual copy of your credit report. You have no idea what might be on there and these days, it’s super easy to file an appeal of any adverse reporting. Say you had a late payment five years ago for a specific reason — out of work, medical issue, whatever. File an appeal and state the reason. The lender must respond within a specific amount of time and if they don’t, the item gets removed from your report. Many times, if the reason is sufficient, the lender will just remove it. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to try!"

    melissadrago

    You can pull your credit reports from the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) or they're also available online through sites like annualcreditreport.com. Your credit scores get calculated based on the information that's on your reports, so if you're able to get a late payment off your report, that could bump up your scores.

    7. Consider opening a secured credit card to help rebuild your score.

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    "If your credit’s too low to get a traditional credit card, a friend of mine went the route of opening a secured credit card. You use them just like a regular credit card, but you have to make a deposit to open one. An added bonus is you can’t get yourself in trouble racking up debt because you can’t charge more than you’ve put into it (say you open with $200, then $200 is the max you can charge to it). If you schedule a recurring bill on it each month, like Hulu or Prime, it can really boost your credit."

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    But just like a regular credit card, you should try to pay off your balance on a secured credit card every month!

    8. Figure out if any career-related benefits can be used to help pay down student loan debt.

    Person pulling money out of a wallet
    Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

    "I joined Teach For America and used my AmeriCorps grant to pay off my student debt. It shot up my score like crazy. Not that everyone should join and be a teacher, but it was certainly a nice incentive for getting a job that I absolutely love."

    njt36

    FYI, under the CARES Act, your employer can help you pay off up to $5,250 in federal or private student loan debt (which would land your employer a tax incentive). This program was originally slated to expire in December 2020, but it has been extended through December 31, 2025.

    9. See if there's a way to increase your income. Sometimes, having limited means forces you to make not-so-healthy financial decisions.

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    "I'll be real: I got a job that paid well. My entire adult life, I thought I was irresponsible and bad with money, but it turns out I was just poor! You can take steps to improve your credit score, but you have to understand that improving your credit score is a separate financial priority that cannot always be achieved because you are forced to make impossible decisions. Do not let your credit score be another number that determines your self-esteem!"

    janedope13

    "I got a better-paying job. Quite frankly, when I was poor, it was difficult to maintain anything beyond a 'fair' credit score. But once I got a job that paid double my previous one and got a stable income and housing, guess what? It shot up!"

    sorakaiririku

    Side gigs can also help you increase your income, aka they can give you extra money to throw at your debt or extra cash to boost your savings! So we rounded up some lucrative side hustles that people said actually made them a lot of money. Additionally, another way to increase your income is to ask for a raise when appropriate.

    10. Lastly, try a self-lending service wherein you basically make payments to your future self.

    Hand holding money
    Seksan Mongkhonkhamsao / Getty Images

    "The easiest way was using Self [formerly Self Lender]. Basically, you take out a loan but don't receive it until you pay it off. They have several amounts with different monthly payments. This shows that you can make consistent payments, which will steadily build your credit score. I paid about $80 a month for a year and my score went up by 30 points alone. Since 2018, I've gone from a 499 to a 670."

    elliegardiner23

    Credit builder loans like the ones Self offers are available even if you don't have good credit (and they're most beneficial if you don't already have an installment loan in your credit mix). You can also apply for one at a local community bank or credit union. Once approved, you make payments each month to an account until you pay the amount of the loan (then you gain access to that money). Your payments get reported to a credit bureau, which tracks your good money management habits on your credit report.

    If you liked this post and want more tips and ideas, check out more of our personal finance posts.

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