Paying off your debt is quite an accomplishment. However, eliminating the debt is only half the equation, as you're now faced with the task of raising your credit score. Improving your credit scores can take time; you must show the credit companies that you're able to control your debt on an ongoing basis. This requires maintaining some debt and paying it off on time, in order to show that you are indeed a reliable consumer of credit.
Maintain your credit cards if you still have them. The fear of incurring more debt may lead you to close your accounts after you have paid them off. However, according to FICO, an organization that calculates credit scores, having long-term accounts can work in your benefit. Closing your credit cards will limit your credit history, whereas continuing to use the cards extends your credit history. Use your credit cards; however, be sure to only make purchases that you can afford.
Apply for a secured credit card if you no longer have your unsecured cards. A secured credit card is often used to rebuild credit. You deposit a certain amount of money into an account, such as $500. A financial institution then issues you a Visa or MasterCard; your credit limit is the same as the amount of money that you deposited. Those funds will be used to pay the balance should you default on the card. A review of your account is usually done in 12 months and once the financial institution is satisfied with your financial behavior, the deposited funds are returned to you, and the card turns into an unsecured credit card.
Pay all of your bills on time. Along with your credit cards, make sure that your utility bills, car payments and mortgage or rent, or any bill that is in your name, is kept up to date. Defaulting on your electric bill, for example, can negatively affect your credit score. Paying everything on time helps to show that you are financially responsible.
Review your credit reports at least once a year, if not more. Mistakes are often made on credit reports that can have a negative effect on your score; FICO, for example, calculates your credit score based on the information in your credit report. By law you are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three main credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Your free report is only available at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.