Now that you're building a life with someone else, your credit score is increasingly important. As you make decisions about where you're going to live, the cars you're going to drive, whether you're going to get an addition or your home or redo the kitchen, credit plays a role. Start investigating your finances early to determine whether you need to work as a couple to make your credit scores higher. If your scores are low, don't worry; there are several ways to increase them if you're willing to create and stick to a plan.
Check out your credit scores. Before you figure out how to make your credit score higher, you guys need to take a close look at your current credit standings. The Federal Trade Commission reports that consumers can access their credit reports for free from all three consumer reporting companies annually by visiting the Annual Credit Report website (see Resources).
Review your credit reports to ensure that each account listed belongs to you and you aren't the victim of identity theft. Make sure each of your accounts appears and that the balance due on each is correct.
Pay off any small delinquent accounts such as library bills that have gone to collections or old medical bills. By paying these off, you can begin to make your credit score higher.
Stop making late payments or skipping payments, whether it's for your cable bill or car note. High credit scores are partially a result of paying bills on time. Ensure that bills are paid on time by setting up automatic payments that can get deducted straight from your joint account.
Apply for credit only when necessary. Opening or attempting to open a bunch of credit lines can negatively impact your credit score, since companies investigate the number of inquiries on your credit before they come up with a score.
Use your credit cards wisely and pay the full balance due each month to keep your credit score high. This will also prevent you from spending what you can't afford to immediately pay off. In order to gain credit, you must use your credit, but as MSN Money Central notes, it's best to only use 10 to 30 percent of your card limits.
Mix things up when it comes to your credit. Credit cards contribute to revolving credit, while car notes or personal loans contribute to installment loans. Having both in your credit history, with accounts that are in good standing, can increase your credit score.
Get a co-signer such as a parent or other close relative. Whether you're getting a car or applying for an apartment lease, a cosigner can "lend" you his good credit and help improve yours. Remember that you have to be diligent about paying your bills on time because not only will it affect your credit, you can harm your co-signer's credit as well.
- The Washington Post: Fast Ways to Improve Your Credit Score; Kimberly Lankford; July 2010
- Boston: Maintaining Your Credit Score Becomes Even More Important; Andrew Chan; April 2009
- MSN Money Central: 9 Ways to Build Credit From Scratch; Liz Pulliam Weston; May 2008
- Federal Trade Commission: Your Access to Free Credit Report
Miranda Brookins is a marketing professional who has over seven years of experience in copywriting, direct-response and Web marketing, publications management and business communications. She has a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Towson University and is working on a master's degree in publications design at University of Baltimore.