For most Americans, credit is a thorn in our side, but it affects every aspect of our lives. Good credit can save us thousands across the lifetime of a loan, while poor credit can cost us an order of magnitude more than what we’d otherwise pay. Poor credit can also hurt us in other ways too.
If you’re looking for an apartment, or a job (especially in the financial field), poor credit might tarnish your chances. Even if the rest of your credentials are in order.
Improving your credit is simple, but takes a long time if you’re starting from the bottom. If you stay disciplined, you’ll see real benefits the whole way back up to the top.
Keep Balances Low
One of the most obvious ways poor credit hurts us is the accumulation of debt. When you have more than a few thousand in debt, you’re struggling to pay off interest in addition to what you already owe.
Balance transfer cards can be useful when you’re dealing with high-interest cards. Services like CreditSoup offer lists of various credit cards, including the probability you have of getting one based on your credit score.
This way, you consolidate your debt onto a card that carries a lower interest rate and combines your monthly payments into one. Also, with a higher line of credit, your credit improves that much more.
Pay on Time
One of the simplest ways to ensure continued improvement of your credit is to pay bills on time. If you can get yourself into a habit of paying every bill as it arrives, you will find better success improving your credit. This is especially true for any loans or existing credit card bills you may have.
Paying on time can be automated through either your bank or the institution you’re paying, at least most of the time. For the few times where those automatic options are not available, you should set reminders yourself. Phone assistants, like Siri and Google, can integrate easily with your calendar. Simply speak out loud, and you’re done.
Another way to make sure there’s always cash for bills is to maintain an account separate from your savings or daily usage account, that is specifically for paying off bills. Bonus points if this account earns interest.
One of the challenges to paying off bills is that it’s not always easy to see who you owe money to. If you missed a payment at some point, you may have accounts in collections that are hurting your credit without your knowledge.
Begin by obtaining a free credit report and reviewing your delinquent accounts. Make note of any potential disputes, which usually take the form of accounts assigned to people with a similar name or credit history. These mistakes can hurt you too.
Once you have a list of people you owe money to, try and pay off the full balance. You can negotiate for a lower rate to pay off the debt, but that lower rate will be noted on your credit report.
Maintain Good Credit
Good credit is very important, especially as you try and buy a home or start a family. Good credit means a lower interest car loan or a shot at a business loan to launch your career. It’s easy to underestimate its importance growing up, but very difficult to set right what has been broken over time.
If you practice these tips, you’ll maintain good credit and have access to the best benefits for loans and new credit cards.