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    10 Practical Tips For Anyone Who Wants To Increase Their Credit Score

    Up there in the sky β€” it's your credit score!

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    Whether you're saving up to buy a house someday or just want to pay less interest on your credit card, improving your credit score is key to getting better interest rates and lower fees.

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    The bad news is, building credit from scratch or rehabbing a low score takes time. But fear not! There are actually some simple things you can do right now that will give you a head start on your goals.

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    Some of these ideas might bump up your score today, while others could take a little longer to show results β€” but they're all practical things you can actually do in a few minutes.

    And if you have questions about what a credit score even is, we've got answers in this guide to understanding credit.

    1. Look for fraudulent info on your credit report.

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    Have you really looked at your credit report lately? If the answer is no, accounts that aren't even yours could be dragging your credit score down. Use a service like Experian to check your credit report now and flag any bogus accounts online β€” no phone calls required.

    2. If you have a federal student loan, check in on it today.

    student on college campus wearing a mask
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    Ten thousand years ago in March 2020, the CARES Act paused federal student loan payments due to COVID-19. But as of this writing, federal student loans will be due again after Jan. 31. While it's possible that the student loan pause could be extended, it's a good idea to get ahead of it now. Log back into your loan account today and see when your next payment is due.

    Stressed about making a payment? Give your loan servicer a call to ask about your options. They might be able to change your due date or switch up your payment plan so you can keep your loan current and your credit score healthy.

    3. See if your credit card provider will raise your limit.

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    You might have a great track record of paying your credit card bill on time, but your credit score will still suffer if you've used too much of your available credit. For a healthy credit score, the pros recommend using 30% or less of your available credit. To get an exceptional score, your aim should be about 10% (i.e. only charging $100 if your credit limit is $1,000).

    Raising your credit limit is a sneaky way to pump up your score by making your existing debt a smaller percentage of your available credit. You might see a small, temporary dip in your score as your creditor will likely make a hard inquiry and pull your credit report before approving a higher limit. But over time, having a higher credit limit will make it easier to get your credit use into the 10% sweet spot.

    But keep in mind that this little trick only works if you don't use your newly available credit. If you're struggling to reign in your spending or are in danger of maxing out your card, raising your credit limit might do you more harm than good.

    On the other hand, if you feel like you're on top of your budget and your credit, use the instant gratification of a limit bump as motivation to keep going!

    4. Pump up your payment history by adding your regular monthly bills to your credit report.

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    Speaking of instant gratification, Experian has a tool called Boost that could help you literally boost your score. It works by adding your regular bills like internet, electricity, your phone, and even your Netflix subscription to your Experian credit report. Once you're set up, making timely payments on these bills can beef up your payment history for a stronger score β€” like feeding some of Popeye's spinach to your credit.

    It's 100% free and takes just a couple minutes. When I did it, my score jumped up about 10 points in the blink of an eye. You might see more or less improvement depending on your unique situation. But according to Experian, 88% of folks with scores of 579 or lower saw their credit scores improve by an average of 22 points when they used it. Your results may vary, but it's worth a try!

    5. Set bill reminders so you never forget a deadline again.

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    When you're living through a major historical event every few weeks or so, it's easy to let some things slip your mind. But even in the most unprecedented times, late and missing payments will still ding your credit score. Even worse, you could also get hit with nasty late fees. No thanks!

    Consistently paying your bills on time is the best way to raise your credit score and keep it strong β€” so pop into your favorite calendar app and set up reminders for yourself so you never forget when a bill is due again, no matter what's going on.

    Or, if you think a few push notifications aren't going to cut it, try automating your payments. For maximum peace of mind, make a note of all of your due dates and budget accordingly so you know you'll have enough money in the bank to cover them.

    6. If you have "bad" credit or no credit at all, a secured credit card is a good way to build up your score.

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    If you've never taken out a loan or used credit, you might not have a credit score yet. Without a credit score, it can be really difficult β€” or even impossible β€” to get a loan, rent an apartment, or open a credit account. So if you need credit to get credit, how do you get around this weird catch-22?

    Secured credit cards are a reliable way to start building up your credit, and they can also be helpful for strengthening low scores. Unlike other cards, you'll pay a refundable deposit up front to open up a secured card. If you use your new credit responsibly, you'll eventually get this money back.

    As a rule of thumb, try not to charge more than 30% of your credit limit on this new card and always pay off your balance in full.

    7. Got a shady collections notice? Send a debt validation letter.

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    If you just got a new collection notice that doesn't seem quite right, try sending a debt validation letter. Basically, what this does is ask the collections agency for proof from the original creditor that the debt actually belongs to you.

    Sending a debt validation letter pauses the collection process until they can send proof that you really owe. And if they can't prove that the debt is yours, then the collection will disappear from your credit report for good.

    A friend of mine got great results from just a couple minutes of effort by using this sample debt validation letter template from The Balance. Easy-peasy!

    8. Ask someone with good credit to make you an authorized user on their account. It's like a piggyback ride, but with credit.

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    If your credit history is thin, becoming an authorized user on a trusted relative, guardian, or partner's account can give you a head start at building your credit. As an authorized user, you essentially get added to their account as a secondary user β€” and you get to reap the score-boosting benefits of their spotless payment history, excellent credit utilization, and mature account age.

    Keep in mind that this kind of arrangement requires a lot of trust on both sides, and the account holder might want to set up some ground rules before making you an authorized user.

    9. If you have a credit card balance and a little spare cash, make an extra payment right now.

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    If you're only making minimum payments on your credit card, it's going to be harder to make a dent in your balance. To really start slaying your debt, make extra payments throughout the month, starting right now. Even if you only feel comfortable paying an extra $5 or $10, it will add up over time.

    10. Make a plan to tackle your debts.

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    If credit card debt is a major pain in your wallet, get serious about taking it on today. From the tried and true snowball method to literally freezing your credit card, check out some tips for taking your credit card balance down to zero.

    Cutting down credit card debt doesn't just free up money in your monthly budget β€” it also helps your credit score by bringing your credit utilization down. So it's worth taking time to come up with a strategy to send your debt packing.

    But loan debt is a whole different beast. Paying off some loans early might come with prepayment penalties (it makes no sense but it's true). Plus, when these loans close, your credit score could actually suffer because ending the loan changes your credit mix. It's definitely worth having a chat with your loan servicer and reading the fine print before trying to pay off loans early.

    With that said, you don't have to worry about prepayment fees on student loans. Federal student loans don't have 'em and the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 blocked private loans from tacking them on. Generally it's best to prioritize any debt with high interest, such as credit card debt and personal loans, but if you're looking to prepay your student loan, it can still be a good idea to chat with your lender to make sure your extra payments get applied toward the current month rather than getting rolled into the next month.

    Hungry for more? Check out more personal finance posts that will make your bank account very happy.

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