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When I traded in my car in November of 2012 my credit score was around 620-630. I was stuck with a crappy interest rate of over 9%, and a car payment that devoured every one of my paychecks.
Any college student knows that when you're working on getting your degree, your income is pretty much non-existent. I had a part-time job and a brand new baby, so needless to say I was desperate for some financial relief. Everyone suggested that I "just refinance" my auto loan, but when I filled out applications all I got back was this:
Womp womp...it was due to my credit score, and after numerous rejections, I made the decision that I was going to do whatever it took to increase my score fast.
In October of 2013, I refinanced my auto loan with my local credit union at 2.19%. My credit score? Oh, just a shiny 750. I was able to raise my credit score 100 points in just one year!
To date, my credit score is an 800+and steadily increasing.
Here's how to increase your credit score fast!
1. Track your credit score
First thing's first, you've got to know where you currently stand and how your financial decisions affect your score. Watching my score rise with each update gave me the motivation I needed to continue on my journey, but be careful not to become overly obsessed.
When you're too attached to your score and you have a bad month, losing a few points will be like a dagger to the heart. Trust me, I know.
I highly recommend using Credit Karma to track your score free. Not only do you get access to your credit score, but also credit monitoring, insights, and helpful recommendations!
What I love the most is that Credit Karma educates you about the different components of your score, which is especially useful for those who are just starting out. Sign up for free here!
If an app is not your thing, there are other ways you can snag your score for free. Many credit card companies now offer a credit score tracker that appears on your monthly statement or you can request a free copy of your report from AnnualCreditReport.com.
2. Use credit cards responsibly
Having a credit card is not always a bad thing. In fact, they are extremely useful when trying to strengthen your credit if you are willing to use them correctly.
Without my credit cards I know I would not have increased my credit score as quickly as I did.
Ok, so how did they work so well for you?
My first credit card came from Capital One. It was not because I particularly liked Capital One at the time, but because everyone else had declined me. I started off with a small credit line of $300 and began using it strictly for gas.
Starting off slow was beneficial for me because I wasn’t sure I fully understood how to use it. To test the waters, I'd use my card to fill up my tank and pay back what I had borrowed every payday.
This was great and all, but I needed to increase my credit score ASAP so I began researching ways to help build my credit faster. After numerous Google searches, I came to the conclusion that the more accounts I had in good standing the better. After reading through a few reviews I decided to go with the Discover It card. To my surprise, I was instantly approved for a $1000 credit line and I was thrilled!
Discover It has no annual fee and a 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers. You can earn 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories, and 1% cashback on all other purchases. When you use my link you also get a $50 cashback bonus when you make your first purchase within three months!
Once I got my second credit card things really began to take off. I continued to use Capital One for my gas and decided to use the Discover card strictly for food. Still, I repaid what I had borrowed with every paycheck.
Posts to check out next!
- How I Went from $100 to $1300 in Spendable Income – Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck!
- Can Multiple Bank Accounts Help You Stay on Budget? Here’s How I Use Them
- How the Cash Envelope System Keeps You From Bulldozing Your Budget!
- The Debt Snowball vs Avalanche. Which is Right for You?
- The “Broke” Girl’s Guide to Saving Money
- How I Saved $3,000 for Maternity Leave on One Low Income
- How to Pay off Thousands in Debt as a Single Mom. Yes, Even on a Low Income!
- Great, You’ve Got a Job You Hate and Can’t Quit. Here’s What to Do.
3. Pay off credit card balances before the closing date
Not only is a $0 balance good for your overall financial health, but it's also extremely important for strengthening your credit score. During that year, I made sure all balances reflected $0 before the end of the billing cycle.
A good tip is to look at your statements to find the billing period. All statements should reflect a specific day of each month which will mark when your balance is actually sent out to the credit bureaus. You want to make sure that your account has no balance on that specific date.
If possible, try not to use the card for a few days as payments don't always post immediately.
4. Make on-time payments
Good payment history is a major factor in determining your credit score. It shows lenders that you're reliable and more likely to repay what you have borrowed. No one wants to do business with a risky borrower so the lower your score is the higher your chances are of being denied or given a high-interest rate.
In addition to a drastic drop in your score, late payments can result in fees and can stay on your credit report for as long as 7 years!
If you're like me and can barely remember your own birthday, try setting up alerts on your phone or signing up for bill-pay. With bill-pay, your monthly payments are automatically taken out of the account of your choice for you.
5. Make extra payments
This may not be for everyone, especially if you are on a tight budget, and that is okay.
Making extra payments is a great way to squeeze out some extra points. Whenever I got a tax refund or a refund from school, I would drop at least $1500 on one of my balances and put the rest back in my savings for a rainy day. Trust me when I say there were many, MANY, rainy days in college.
Now the trick to this is to not make a large payment and then forget about your debt until the next payment is due. I made this mistake once with my auto loan, and I was in for a huge surprise. Although I was paid up for months, I had accumulated over $1000 in interest! Needless to say, don't be me ????
Extra payments or a large payment obviously decreases the amount of your total debt balance, thus helping to increase your credit score. If you drop a large amount of cash, continue to make little payments each month to avoid an interest scare.
6. Request a credit line increase
I discovered this tip later on in the game, but it's incredibly useful if your credit card usage is above the desirable 30%.
When times were beginning to get a little rough, my credit card utilization began to rise and my score was slowly dropping. Luckily, I found that requesting a credit line increase was a good way to knock the utilization back down.
Now, the trick to this is not to see this as extra cash to splurge on, but as a way to show lenders that you are responsible. Although you have available funds, you should only be using a small percentage.
Requesting a credit line increase is fairly simple. Under your card services select 'Request a Credit Line Increase'. From there you will be asked a few simple questions such as your annual income.
Most decisions are made immediately, so if you are approved your credit line will be raised instantaneously. Establishing a good relationship with your credit card company and making on-time payments both help to increase your chances of being approved.
7. Pay down debt
The amount of debt that you carry makes up 30% of your credit score. Carrying large amounts of debt, especially with high-interest rates, not only have a negative effect on your score but can also lower your chances of lender approval.
Although on-time payments hold more weight when it comes to your credit score, you should see a gradual increase as you continue to pay down your debt.
Related reading: Pay a Credit Card with a Credit Card? – Here’s How to Do It!
If you're starting out with no credit, consider using a credit card (responsibly) to help strengthen your score. If your credit is fairly low, review your finances to identify which areas need the most improvement.
Being able to increase your credit score quickly is definitely not going to happen overnight, but if you are willing to put in the work you will see your numbers flourish.