The number one, single most effective way to getting a better credit score is to pay your bills on time. Followed closely by not missing any payments. But if you’re following the first rule, you shouldn’t have any problems with the second rule, and you should be on your way to improving your credit score.
To begin with, you should know what range your credit score resides. Lenders decide what rate you will get by your score. Ever heard the term “A+ Paper”? It’s not just a school essay grade. Lenders use the term to indicate a loan that was lent to someone with a credit score in the highest rank range. Typically, this is about a 730 or higher.
Before you go into despair, that is very attainable. And it could save you hundreds if not thousands on your next loan. But you’ve got to get there first. So, go get your credit score. Visit the annualcreditreport.com site and get your credit report from one bureau. I say only one, because it works out fairly conveniently to get one from each of the three at about one per quarter. Then you’ve got a running tally and they usually are pretty close.
In each case, you’ll probably have to pay a little extra to find out the actual credit score. Be careful of the “trial offers” that are meant to trap you into a monthly fee. If you have to sign up for one, make sure you remind yourself as often as possible that it needs to be cancelled before the monthly fee kicks in.
Now that you have your credit report and credit score, we can keep an eye on it to see how the changes you make will improve it.
Start paying everything early. That means that if the bill is due on the 15th, you send it so that it’s there no later than the 12th. In no way do we want the USPS to screw this up for us. There can be forgotten holidays, weather delays, and even union strike delays, so we want to make sure that we can have a 2-3 day delay and still make it on time. It’s the on time that is important.
So, why paying on time? It accounts for nearly 40% of your credit score. If you’ve been paying bills late, changing to paying them on time could increase your credit score by as much as 20%. It’ll take a few months up to a few years to really kick in, but you should see a few points increase within a month or two. And you can probably expect double digit increases if you’ve been regularly late. It’ll just take some time for the on time payments to override the late ones.