Although raising your credit score 40 points may seem like climbing a mountain, in the big scheme of things, it’s really closer to a scaling a medium-sized hill. Sure, you’re going to have to create a strategy and follow it, but because the range of credit scores is large — between 300 on the low end and 850 as the highest possible score — a 40-point change can happen in a short time with a little perseverance. Soon you’ll have a higher credit score and access to lower interest credit opportunities.
Pay on Time
The largest contributor to your credit score, at 35 percent, is your history of payments. If you clean up your payment history by paying bills in a timely manner, you’ll see your credit score rise. If lenders zing you for being a day or two late, call and ask if they’ll change the report to an on-time payment. If you aren’t a frequent offender, they may change the payment status and waive your late charge as well.
Clean Your Credit Report
Request your credit report and clean up mistakes. You could raise your credit score quickly if you find a mistake on your report. The government endorses AnnualCreditReport.com as a free option, but it doesn’t include your actual credit score. If you wish to have your FICO score, you’ll need to pay a nominal fee at myFICO or one of the three credit bureau websites.
Reduce Your Debt
Pay extra on your debt. At 30 percent of your FICO credit score, the amount of debt you carry is a large factor in the computation. Pay down cards that are close to the credit limit first for best results with your credit score. Although some debt experts would have you pay down the highest interest rate faster, having more loans with open credit will speed your path to a credit score that’s 40 points higher.
Don't Cancel Accounts
Maintain your current debt profile. One mistake debt-cleaners make is to cancel open lines of credit. Although this may be financially healthy over time, your FICO score counts the amount of credit you have open against the total amount of debt you possess. If you cancel cards, you’ll sink your score. In addition, applying often for new credit makes you look desperate. FICO treats any requests within 45 days as a single inquiry, so find credit you like in a hurry and stick with it.
Monitor Your Credit
Sign up for credit monitoring. Although you’ll pay a fee for the service, if you’re serious about staying on top of your credit, a monitoring service can help you watch your score improve. An added benefit of credit monitoring is that you’ll see requests for credit and may be able to catch identity thieves before they have time to trash your credit.
As a former financial advisor to companies and individuals for 16 years, Joe Andrews knows financial planning and marketing from start-ups to personal budgets. He also writes on motor racing, board games and travel. Andrews received his B.A. from Michigan State University in English. He is currently working on a young adult novel.