Make 2020 the year to raise your FICO score. Even 20 points can make a difference in what you pay for many kinds of financing. And raising your credit score 100 points could save you as much as you’d earn with a second job. Find out here how to quickly achieve a 100 point increase in your credit score.
If your credit score is lower than you’d like, the cause is usually one of these four:
- Credit report errors / identity theft
- Bad repayment history
- Using too much credit
- Insufficient credit history (thin file)
Your plan of action depends on the reasons your credit score is low. Look at the reason codes on your credit report. They’ll tell you what problems to attack first.
The benefits of adding 100 points to your credit score
Let’s look at the difference between having a 640 FICO score and a 740 FICO score. Can you get a mortgage with a 640 credit score? Of course. Can you get a personal loan with a 640 credit score? Absolutely. But you will have many more options and pay much, much less with a 740 FICO.
- For a $300,000 30-year fixed mortgage, as of this writing, you’d pay 4.38% with a 640 FICO score
- You’d pay just 3.56% with a 740 FICO. Saving $51,002
- For a $20,000 5-year auto loan, you’d pay 10.97% interest
- You’d pay just 4.59% with a 740 FICO. Saving $3,634
- You’d pay 26% interest for a $10,000 credit card with a 640 FICO score
- That drops to just 13% with a 740 credit score. If you pay off your balance over five years, you’d save $4,312
Over five years, by raising your credit score by 100 points, you could save
- $12,098 on the mortgage
- $3,634 on the auto loan
- $4,312 on the credit card
Total: $20,044 over five years. That’s $344 a month. Almost like having a part time job. Only the savings is tax-free. And you don’t have to work for it.
How to raise your credit score
Now that you see the benefits of fair credit, let’s make it happen:
- Pull your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. The law entitles you to a free report from each of the three biggest CRAs every year
- Look for inaccurate credit history or balances, and the “reason codes” showing why your score is less-than-perfect
- Dispute incorrect information. About one-fifth of credit reports contain errors serious enough to get the consumer denied credit or cause him or her to pay more for borrowing
- Address the reasons for your fair score –most common include bad credit history, high credit usage, or insufficient credit use or history.
Now it’s time to address these issues.
How to dispute incorrect information on your credit report
Items like these can harm your score.
- Balance reported is higher than actual balance
- Accounts discharged in bankruptcy are still showing as delinquent
- On-time payments are reported as late
- Account was wrongly sent to collection
- Account brought current still showing as delinquent
- Derogatory item reported belongs to another consumer
- Derogatory history is result of identity theft
First, contact the creditors that reported your account incorrectly. This may be all you have to do. Once they resolve the error, they should report correctly to the credit bureaus in the next cycle and you’ll see the results in a few days or weeks.
Alternatively, you can dispute an incorrect entry in writing with the credit bureau(s) reporting it. Send a letter or report the error online on the TransUnion, Experian or Equifax web site. Supply anything that proves your case, like an automated bill payment on your bank statement. And keep copies of any letters or documents sent.
Fixing errors can raise your credit score in a few weeks. The credit bureau has 30 days after receiving your dispute to investigate and verify information with the creditor. It must also report the results back to you within five days of completing its investigation.
Fixing bad credit history
As long as you’re behind on your payments, you’ll never improve your FICO score. It’s time to stop the bleeding.
Contact your creditor and explain that you can make your monthly payments but just can’t catch up the past-due amounts. If you send in a payment or have a non-profit credit counselor contact the creditor for you, it may agree to re-age your account for you.
That means you don’t have to catch up. The creditor adds your past-due amount to your balance, and as long as you pay on-time in the future, you won’t get any more late payments on your credit report. Re-aging can raise your credit score very quickly.
What about missed payments in the past? Again, if you throw yourself on the mercy of your creditors, you may get relief. This is more likely if your history with them has generally been good. Write them a goodwill letter explaining the circumstances that caused you to pay late. Apologize and ask them to please remove the late payment from your credit history. You have a better chance of success if you are current, have a long-standing relationship and a good reason for being late.
Sometimes, the only cure for bad credit is time. Every month that passes makes a late payment less important because the greatest weight is given to the most recent entries. Keep making your payments on time for six months to a year and you’ll see a difference. Don’t increase your credit balances. Just devote yourself to paying on time and owing less. Monitor your credit and watch your score climb.
What about collections?
Paying off a collection does not increase your credit score unless you do it the right way. Doing it the wrong way could actually harm yourFICO score. Yo successfully raise your FICO score by deleting a collection, do the following:
- Check the age of your collection before you contact anyone
- Make sure that you actually owe the money
- If it’s really old, you may want to just let it die
- Send the collection agency a pay for delete letter
- Pay the collection if you choose to
- Contact credit bureaus to delete old or inaccurate collections
- Check your credit to make sure the entry has been deleted
For a step-by-step guide, see this short video.
Decrease credit use
If you carry balances on credit cards, and those balances increase over time, you’ve created an unsustainable spending pattern. Eventually, you won’t be able to afford your bills. That’s why credit scoring models pay close attention to the amount of available credit you actually use. The relationship between the amount of credit you have and the amount you use is called utilization.
If you have $10,000 in available credit and use $6,000, that’s a 60% credit utilization ratio. Most consumers with good credit scores have utilization of 30% or less. You can decrease utilization by:
- Paying down balances
- Increasing credit limits (by applying for more cards or by asking your existing creditors to extend more credit)
- Replacing credit card balances with a personal loan (personal loans are installment loans, so paying off your credit cards drops your utilization ratio to zero, even though you still owe the same amount)
Don’t consolidate your debt with a personal loan unless you are confident that you won’t run your credit card balances back up.
Build or rebuild a credit history
You can bulk up a “thin file” by opening a few accounts, charging small amounts and paying off the balances each month. But it can be hard to get credit if you haven’t had credit. There are a few tools to help:
- Phone a friend — get a co-signer
- Tailgate — with an authorized user account
- Borrow from yourself — with a secured credit card
Borrowing with a co-signer may allow you to get a better interest rate. Don’t borrow more than you can comfortably repay. Try a small personal loan, and pay on-time every month. Remember that late payments on your part can harm your co-signer’s credit report — and your friendship.
Authorized user accounts are safer. Your friend or family member who has good credit can share it by making you an authorized user on one or more credit cards. You don’t actually use the card. But when the account-holder pays the monthly bill, that good history shows up on your credit report and helps improve your score.
Secured credit cards are not really credit. That’s because you deposit money to cover your limit with the card issuer, and it can keep that deposit if you don’t pay your balance. But you do get a card, and your credit limit may increase over time. You may eventually even get your deposit back if you manage the account responsibly. Look for a card with low fees, and make sure the issuer reports to all three major credit bureaus.
Once you have taken care of the most serious reason codes on your credit report, continue making your payments on time and reducing your balances. You’ll continue to raise your credit score — until you get to the fair range and continue into good.