Achieving a high credit score doesn’t guarantee eligibility for loans or low interest rates. You must maintain it and, to do so, know how credit scores are calculated. We’ve talked a lot about credit scores, credit reports, and how to increase your score. Here, our experts weigh in on the challenges of keeping your credit strong. If you have a high credit score, these 10 tips will help ensure it stays there:
1. Keep Paying Your Bills on Time
Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO® credit score. Whether you’ve paid your bills on time in the past shows lenders you’re likely to meet your debt obligations. Your score will drop quickly if you start missing payments, no matter how good your track record is. This goes for your rent and utilities as well; defaulting here can get reported to the credit bureaus and weaken your credit score.
2. Watch Your Credit Utilization
Your credit utilization ratio is also a major factor in your credit score. It shows how much revolving credit you’re using compared to your credit card limits. Many experts suggest using no more than 30% of your total credit limit. Paying off your balances every month can keep your credit strong too.
3. Apply for Credit Only If You Need It
Applying for credit has less of an impact than payment history or utilization. But hard inquiries can hit your credit score hard, especially if you submit multiple credit applications in a short time. If you want new credit, look for pre-approval options. You can see whether you’re eligible for a credit card with no negative effect on your credit score.
4. Keep Credit Cards Open, Even If You Don’t Use Them
The length of your credit history is factored into your credit score. While you might not use an old card, or paid one off, don’t close the account. This can shorten your credit history (and increase your credit utilization ratio), forcing a negative impact on your credit score. The older the card, the more impact closing it can have.
5. Consolidate Balances
Having a lot of small balances can hurt, or at least be inconvenient. Leveraging balance transfer cards can help. It lets you consolidate your monthly payments into one card, making it easier to pay down your debt.
6. Reduce Your Debt Gradually
It can pay off in the long run to keep chipping away at your overall debt. Start with a budget and stop using your cards, or use them as little as possible. If necessary, pay down high-interest cards and be sure to maintain minimum payments on others.
7. Treat All Your Debts Equally
Diversifying your credit helps your credit score. But don’t prioritize one card or loan over another. Even if you have a revolving debt with a lower interest rate, you shouldn’t neglect it to meet other debt obligations. All your credit cards and trade line/installment debts, like mortgages, should be treated equally.
8. Live Within Your Credit Means
The ideal situation is to pay off your balances every month. But if you have revolving debt, it shouldn’t exceed 20% of your annual income. Your monthly payments should never exceed 10% of your monthly take-home pay.
9. Contact Your Creditors If You Have Financial Troubles
Call your creditors if you’re facing a financial crisis that will impact your ability to pay bills. There are ways they can help. It may be possible to negotiate a lower interest rate or arrange for an alternative payment solution.
10. Monitor Your Credit Score/Credit Report
You can check credit scores for free with credit card issuers, credit bureaus, personal finance websites, or your bank. They’re calculated using information in your credit report, which you can access from Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax as well as AnnualCreditReport.com. Monitoring your credit report lets you spot negative information, suspicious activity, or fraud so you can contest it.
Schedule a Credit Repair Consultation
Negative information on your credit report can hinder efforts to keep your credit strong. At American Credit, we provide credit repair services that employ a pre-litigation process to achieve successful results. Call 855-982-2750 to set up your free credit repair consultation.