(This is a guest article by Bailey Harris*)
Paying your bills on time is the best way to obtain and maintain a high credit score. However, there are a few other things that you can do to boost your credit score before applying for loans and other types of credit. Here are 10 quick fixes to try today:
1. Correct Major Errors
Some errors, such as incorrect address information or name misspellings, have very little (if any) effect on your credit score. However, there are some errors--negative items that aren't yours, paid accounts listed as unpaid, etc.--that can drag your score down considerably. One of the very first things you should do is check your credit report for errors, and if necessary, make an effort to correct bad information with all three credit bureaus.
2. Pay Down Credit Card Debt
Paying down revolving accounts is easily the quickest way to boost your credit score. If you can manage to pay down or pay off credit cards over a two month period, you will see substantial results. You should start with cards that are closest to their limits versus cards with the highest interest rates. If possible, get balances down to 30 percent or less of each card's limit.
3. Transfer Credit Card Balances
If paying down debt is not an option, try transferring the credit card balance from a card that is nearly maxed out to one or more cards that have few or no charges on them. Spreading out your debt in this way is the second best way to fix credit fast. If possible, get the balance on every card down to 30 percent or less.
4. Update Your Credit Limit Information
Your credit score may not be accurate if there are problems with the credit limits being reported by the companies who issued your credit cards. Credit card limits often change--maybe you requested more credit or maybe your limit was extended by your creditor. Whatever the case may be, make sure the credit card limits being displayed on your credit report are correct. If they are not, ask the company who issued the credit card in question to update the three bureaus with your most recent credit limit information. Most companies will update this information upon request.
5. Change Your Payment Dates
Every credit card company reports information to credit bureaus on different days. These days rarely line up with your billing cycle. So, if you make charges and pay your credit card off every month, the credit bureaus may still think you have a balance on your card--even when you don't. You can remedy this problem by checking your credit report to see which day of the month your creditors send updates on payments to the credit bureaus and then making your payments several days before this reporting date. You could also request that the company give you a new due date. These strategies will have a minimal effect on your credit score, but they are worth trying if you want to massage the system in every way possible.
6. Piggyback on Someone Else's Good Credit
If you have a spouse, parent, or another close friend or relative with good credit, you may want to consider having your name added to one of their credit cards. This method of piggybacking can have a positive impact on your score because it allows you to get credit for every charge they make and pay off by the due date.
7. Dispute Old Negatives
If you have an old negative on your account that has been sent to a collection agency, such as an unpaid cable bill, you could dispute the account with all three credit bureaus. You should mark the account as "not mine" versus "unjust" to increase your chances of winning the dispute. If the amount is small, the collection agency may not even take the time to bother with it when the credit bureaus investigate the situation.
8. Ask for a Goodwill Adjustment
A goodwill adjustment occurs when a creditor or lender agrees to erase a late payment from your credit history. You will have to request this adjustment personally--either in writing or over the phone. If you have a long-standing or positive history with a creditor, you have a better chance of getting this adjustment, but it never hurts to ask in any case.
9. Get a Rapid Rescore
Rapid rescoring services can help you quickly and efficiently correct errors or pay down balances. With the help of a service, you could see a higher score in as little as 72 hours. The cost for rapid rescoring varies depending on the service you hire, but typically runs somewhere around $50 per account.
10. Simulate Various Scenarios
If you want to see what impact these strategies (and others) may have on your credit score, you could try punching your information into a credit score simulator. Most simulators will show you how paying off balances, making a late payment, or removing negative information from your credit report will affect your credit score. The official FICO site offers a great simulator to people who have purchased a copy of their credit score. There are also a number of free simulators that can be found online.
*About the author: This guest post was contributed by Bailey Harris, who writes for CreditScore.net.
*Image Credit: Photograph by meddygarnet [via Flickr Creative Commons]
(This is a guest article by Bailey Harris*)