by: Expert Panel®Forbes Councils Member featuring JC Abusaid, CEO/President
From credit card balances to payment history to recent inquiries, there are many factors that go into determining someone’s credit score. While maintaining a high credit score can provide you with easier access to low-interest loans and higher credit card limits, having a low credit score can stand in the way of pursuing financial goals and achieving the lifestyle you’ve dreamed of.
Thankfully, a low credit score can be remedied with a little bit of time, discipline and the right strategies. To help, below 14 members of Forbes Finance Council share some actionable tips for an individual who wants to improve their credit score.
A high-limit secured credit card can skyrocket a low credit score. This is true because revolving accounts such as credit cards add more points to a credit profile than an installment account, such as a vehicle loan. Just remember to keep the utilization of the credit card under 10%. – Antoine Sallis, Pacc 10 Enterprise
Assuming you pay off your credit cards every month, you should avoid crossing the month’s end with a balance that’s close to your credit limit. Credit bureaus will get a report from your credit card, and you will get “dinged” for a high credit limit—even if you pay off the entire balance in the week of the month’s end. So, if you need to, send a partial payment prior to the month’s end. – John Abusaid, Halbert Hargrove
When it comes to credit cards, always pay your bills on time, and always pay more than the minimum. Paying down the cards that have the least available credit is also advisable. You want to ensure, as much as possible, that your credit card balance is not near the limit. Lastly, don’t necessarily get rid of cards that you have had for a long time, as they help your score if you are in good standing. – Sheryl J. Moore, Wink, Inc.
My No. 1 tip for student loan borrowers, specifically, is to set up automated payments, even for the minimum amount, to ensure due dates are never missed. Most billing platforms have this feature. Payment history is 35% of your credit score, and it makes up the largest factor in the FICO and VantageScore systems. Late payments can drop a credit score by as much as 100 points and remain on credit reports for up to 7.5 years. – Tony Aguilar, Chipper
Use one credit card exclusively. Charging a small amount to each card doesn’t bode well for your credit score. Instead, use one go-to card for all purchases, and pay off smaller balances on your other cards. Having one larger balance (of less than 10% of that card’s credit limit) and several “zero” cards is a better move to boost your credit score than having multiple, smaller balances. – Luz Urrutia, Accion Opportunity Fund
Roughly 65% of your credit score is based on timely payments and the balance of your credit card debt. Make sure all your payments are updated to address your current balance, and try to get your credit card debt balances below 20% of your limit. A quick way to get your usage to this level is to ask for a credit line increase. That said, make sure you are disciplined enough not to continue to use the credit card. – Will Tullos, Reliant Mortgage LLC
One strategy is to start paying down credit card debt. Even if you can’t pay it down in one lump sum, spread it out. Attack the lowest-balance credit card debt you have and get it cleared in the next few months. Then go after the second-smallest credit card debt you have, and so on. In less than a year, your credit score may be dramatically improved using this method. – Shashank Shekhar, InstaMortgage
One actionable step toward improving a low credit score is to always be mindful of your credit utilization percentage. Monitor your credit utilization to ensure that your credit is in good standing. Don’t overuse or max out a credit card, for instance. Instead, consider using different credit cards rather than maxing out a single card. That will help keep your credit utilization percentage in line. – Mara Garcia, Phonexa Holdings, LLC
Americans shoulder more financial decisions than ever, and without financial education, many find it difficult to make smart financial decisions. Paying down debt and avoiding missed payments is key to a healthy credit score, but with better financial education, consumers are empowered to manage their personal finances in a way that puts them closer to their unique financial goals. – Kathleen Craig, Plinqit
A low credit score can be caused by one of two things: late payments and/or high credit card debt. If you have recent late payments, get current and then call the creditor to see if they will be willing to forgive any recent late payments. If you have high debt, set a specific target date of when you will pay the debt off. Create a budget and another source of income to ensure you stay on track. – Jose Rodriguez, Got Credit?
The best way to improve a low score is to file disputes with all three credit agencies for any items that are not accurate. Be relentless. Pay off any unpaid items. And pay your credit card via automated payment, always paying your balance down to zero every month. File more disputes afterward. Credit agencies are typically not inclined to help, and they often make errors. Aggressively engaging them can change the game. – Amariah Olson, Yield Crowd
Pull your credit report so you can see what actions will most improve your credit score. Your payment history, amounts owed and new credit—it’s all laid out in your credit report. Even better, you might also identify an error. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 34% of Americans have an error in their credit report. Fixing an error can quickly and dramatically improve your score. – Evan Siegel, eGain
In my professional experience, many retirees run into these challenges due to their desire to not utilize credit and predominantly pay cash. Many retirees decide to close older credit cards due to lack of use. However, one good way to retain strong credit is to keep your oldest credit cards with the largest available credit limits open. Use them, and pay them off frequently. – Trevor Wilde, Wilde Wealth Management Group
For a quick, impactful score change, take out an installment loan and put those funds toward your credit card debt. You will reduce your outstanding debt on the cards (ideally lower your utilization per card below 30%), and your score will improve. – Cynthia Hemingway, Fourlane, Inc.