The fastest way to increase your credit score

by Tom Tousignant

in Blog, Wealth Building

As credit cards balances get close to their maximum limits, your score will start to drop. In fact, a single credit card at its maximum limit can lower someone’s credit score by 75-100 points.  This drop in a score can be the difference between a mortgage loan approval or denial, or add 2% to the interest rate on a car loan.

Reducing the amount owed on a credit card is the fastest way to increase your score.  Even using 20% of the limit of a card ($2,000 with a limit of $10,000) can start to have an impact on your credit score.

Consolidating credit card balances onto one low interest rate card can save you money on credit card interest. However, if this also maxes out the limit on the low interest rate card, you will lower your credit score.  Save the money on the credit card interest only if you are not going to be using your credit score to qualify for something more important. That is, don’t try to save $50 on credit card interest and increase your mortgage payment by $300 due to a lower credit score.

How can you lower your balances and credit utilization ratios?

  1. Don’t spend too much – imagine how things would look if Congress and the White House had to have the money to spend it?  You and I should know that, so we also need to live that way.  Credit cards are ok to use to get frequent flier miles, but if they are never not paid in full at the end of the cycle – they are a problem, not a solution. Quit spending more than you can pay each month!
  2. Pay off your credit cards every time you get paid.  If you get paid bi-weekly, pay your credit cards online the day you get paid.  This way your balance is always low and manageable, and you never get tempted to carry over the balance from one month to the next.  The best savings accounts today yield only 0.25% to 1.5%, so don’t risk paying interest on credit cards in the hope that you will earn an extra $0.99 on your savings account while waiting to pay off your credit cards.
  3. Call your established credit card accounts and ask them to increase your credit limits.  This won’t pay down the balance but it will reduce the amount owed ratio and help your score.  Many banks won’t do this anymore, but if you don’t ask, the answer is definitely ‘No’.  Ask.
  4. Don’t do the balance transfers. Most people don’t read the fine print on the transfer and credit card lenders will stick you with a 3% balance transfer fee.  On a home loan, no one would pay 3 points to get a lower rate, but people do this routinely on credit card balance transfers. Balance transfers will usually leave you with a maxed out credit card and still cost you money.
  5. Steamroll your credit cards.  Pick the card that is closest to its limit, and apply all extra cash to paying off that card.  When it gets to zero, take that cash and steamroll onto the next card.  Usually we use this strategy to get out of debt, but if the goal is to increase the credit score, rank order your cards in terms of how close you are to the limit rather than the actual interest rates. As each card is paid off, you will have more and more cash available to apply to the next account.  Pay off cards prior to other loans as loan accounts won’t impact your credit score as much as credit cards.

Keep Credit Card balances low.  Reducing what you owe on credit cards can increase your score by up to 80 points in as little as 30 days.

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