Believe me when I say that I know the pain of trying to improve your credit score when you’re currently lingering in the red. Perhaps you have damaged your score as a result of overspending, poor financial decisions in your early twenties or just through lack of personal finance education.
Today I am going to share with you eleven tips that will help you to rebuild your credit score more quickly, and how you can maintain a good score going forward once you have corrected your past mistakes.
11 Simple Ways To Improve Your Credit Score
PAY BILLS ON TIME
Paying your bills on time is non-negotiable if you are looking to rebuild your score. Every time you miss a payment or make a late payment, this is logged on your file for future lenders to see.
Imagine if a friend asked you to borrow £20: if you could look at their file and see that last time they asked a friend to borrow money, they didn’t pay it back on time, or at all, you’re not likely to lend them the money they asked for as you’re not confident that you will get it back.
This is exactly how your credit file is used, and if lenders can see that you have a history of not paying money back when you say you will, then they aren’t likely to lend to you.
REDUCE HOW MUCH AVAILABLE CREDIT YOU ARE USING
Every person has a credit limit. This is the total amount of money that a person is eligible to borrow, based on their credit score and affordability across all credit cards, loans and mortgages at any one time.
So if your credit limit is £10,000, and you have three active credit cards with limits of £2000, £3000 and £5000, but you’re not using the £5000 card at all, then close it.
Having that account open and the credit available to you looks bad on your credit file. You have maxed out all your available credit, but you aren’t using it, therefore it isn’t serving you in any way and to a lender, it makes you look unpredictable and like you might be tempted to spend all that available credit irresponsibly.
CANCEL UNUSED CREDIT AND STORE CARDS
Retail stores can be very sneaky when it comes to roping us in to applying for store credit cards. They will often tease us with discounts such as 20% off your next purchase if we apply for a store card, but what they don’t mention as we are filling out the application is the extortionately high-interest rates if you don’t pay off the card in full every month.
So try to avoid applying for such cards and if you already have a number under your belt, then make an effort to pay these off in full as soon as possible and then close the account for good. Not only is having these cards contributing to your use of your available credit, but the hefty monthly interest payments will make it much more difficult for you to ever manage to pay them off in full.
AVOID APPLYING FOR NEW ACCOUNTS
Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, don’t apply for any new credit accounts when you are trying to rebuild your score. Applying for more credit when you are already in debt, makes it look to lenders as though you have poor money management skills and you are desperate to access more money, which is never a good look.
So until you have rebuilt your score, stick to focusing on budgeting effectively and paying off your existing debt before you even think about applying for more credit. The likelihood is that you will be rejected anyway which is just going to damage your score even further.
REGISTER TO VOTE
Registering your name and address on the electoral roll will make a big difference to your overall credit score. This only applies to my UK readers, however, registering on the electoral roll demonstrates stability, and that you can stick an address for an extended period of time.
A lengthy address history makes you look irresponsible and begs the question to lenders if the reason you have moved so much is that landlords have evicted you from their property due to paying your rent late or not at all.
So register your address on the electoral roll and if you are a renter, then try to avoid changing address unless completely necessary.
USE CREDIT AND PAY OFF EVERY MONTH
Using credit is not a bad thing. The only way to improve and build a credit history is to show lenders that you are capable of borrowing money and paying it back on time. So don’t avoid taking out loans of credit cards with the fear that you will damage your borrowing choices because this is a false belief.
Borrow money responsibly and only spend on your credit card what you can afford to pay back in full every month. If you are currently in debt, then make sure you pay down your debt as quickly as possible and once you have paid everything off, continue to spend on your credit card and pay it off in full each month.
This proves to lenders that you are capable of spending within your means and can be trusted to pay back what you borrow.
BE CAREFUL WHO YOU SHARE A SCORE WITH
Making any kind of financial commitment with somebody else is not a decision to be taken lightly. Whether it’s a friend, sibling, or your significant other, if you have any kind of financial product in a shared name, then you become financially linked to that person. If they have a poor credit score, then that is automatically going to impact your score too.
So before you take out a joint bank account, credit card or mortgage application, find out if the person you are applying with has an unhealthy credit history and are they going to negatively impact your score because of this? If they do have a poor score, then try to put off applying for the product you have in mind until they have rebuilt their score.
SOFT CHECK BEFORE APPLICATIONS
Before you apply for any new financial product, carry out a soft check before making a formal application to understand how likely you are to be approved. Even if you have the highest credit score available, you may still be declined for certain products based on your age, affordability, how many other applications you have made recently or even the area where you live.
If you are rejected for any application, this leaves a mark on your file and will damage your score, so carry out a soft check before making any credit applications.
NEVER TAKE OUT CASH WITH A CREDIT CARD
Possibly the biggest financial no-no when it comes to protecting your credit score is taking out cash from an ATM using a credit card. Not only will this cost you a fortune in interest and probably come with an additional fee from your provider, but it also makes you look desperate for cash and as though you are not capable of managing your finances.
So unless you are in absolutely dire circumstances, make sure to avoid using your credit card at the cashpoint at any cost.
AVOID PAYDAY LOANS OR CASH ADVANCES
Similar to my last point, payday loans and cash advances from your credit card provider make it appear to lenders that you aren’t able to manage your money responsibly.
If you find yourself with a broken-down car or busted boiler, then you are better to dip into savings, or put the payment on your credit card than to take out a payday loan or request a cash advance.
CHECK YOUR FILE REGULARLY AND HAVE ANY ERRORS REMOVED
Check your credit file regularly to make sure that everything is up to date and that there are no errors on your file. It’s more common than most of us think to have inaccurate information on our credit report. If you miss a payment by accident, then pay it within a few days, then sometimes this can be removed from your credit file and shouldn’t affect your score.
However, unless we check, these corrections can be missed and unless you are checking your report regularly, it can then be difficult to go back through your history and have these mistakes amended.
So download a credit score tool to your phone and make sure to check your account at least once a month when you are in the process of rebuilding your score. I love Experian and use the app every single month to check my score.
They offer a free credit score feature which tells you basic information about your score and credit limit utilization. For £14.99 a month you get access to your complete credit file which shows you a detailed report of your financial behaviour for the last six years, including missed payments, defaults, CCJs and how much money you owe.
Experian offers a 30 day free trial of the full CreditExpert feature, which gives you access to your complete report for the trial period, so you can understand what factors are affecting your score and identify ways to improve quickly. Just remember to cancel before the trial ends if you don’t want to pay the £14.99 a month to continue to use the service.
What I love about Experian is that they also use your credit score and file to look for credit cards, loans and mortgages that you are likely to be approved for, before you apply.
This give you access to the services that you need with the confidence that you can apply without damaging your current credit score any more than you might have already.
The best solution when trying to rebuild your credit score it not to apply for credit at all, however, I understand that everybody’s situation is different and sometimes you can’t avoid the requirement to need to access credit. This is where Experian can help you find the services that will best fit your needs and won’t affect your borrowing choices any further in future.
To Finish Off…
I hope that you found this post useful and you will be able to take this information on board to rebuild your credit score over the next few months.
If you have any more tips for paying off debt or rebuilding your credit score then I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments below.