How to Improve a Credit Score or FICO

Paying bills on time is vital to having a good credit score.
i Jeffrey Coolidge/Photodisc/Getty Images

You know that your credit report, along with your mysteriously-calculated FICO score, are instrumental to getting a home mortgage or financing a car. Your credit report can also impact whether you will qualify for the apartment of your dreams and can even hinder you from landing a great job. Developing responsible financial habits now will help you achieve your dreams later. If you have had some credit problems in the past, take steps today to begin rebuilding your credit for future success.

Step 1

Order a copy of your credit report. If you have been denied credit within the past two months, you can contact the credit reporting agency that the creditor used for a free copy of your credit report. If not, you are entitled to a free copy from each of the three major agencies annually. You can order your free reports from

Step 2

Study your credit report carefully for errors and outdated information. If you find any errors, you must let the credit reporting agency know in writing that you have a dispute, and they must remove erroneous information promptly.

Step 3

Pay your bills on time. It sounds elementary, but paying everything from the electric bill to your credit card payments on or before the day they're due will keep your credit score high. If you've had problems in the past, paying on time from now on shows creditors that you are willing and able to keep up with your current obligations.

Step 4

Pay down your credit cards and keep the balances low. Having several maxed-out credit cards will lower your FICO score and shows creditors that you may have overextended yourself. Once you have low balances on your cards, keep them that way.

Step 5

Continue using your current cards, and open up new accounts several months before applying for a loan. If you suddenly stop using your cards once they are paid off, your score will go down, explains myFICO. Use them judiciously, paying off your balances every month or two.

Step 6

Seek credit counseling if you are having trouble keeping up with your credit card payments. A credit counselor may be able to help you negotiate lower payments or can work with you to create an effective budget that you can live with, allowing your credit score to rise once you begin making on-time payments.

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