Understanding Your Credit Score
If you’re trying to perfect your credit score, it’s important to first understand what makes up your credit report and credit score. Your credit score is determined by an advanced algorithm which was developed by FICO and pulls the data from your credit report to determine your score. When calculating your credit score, the following information is going to affect your credit score in the corresponding percentages:
- 35 percent: History of on-time or late payments of credit.
- 30 percent: Available credit on your open credit cards
- 15 percent: The age of your lines of credit (old = good)
- 10 percent: How often you apply for new credit.
- 10 percent: Variable factors, such as the types of open credit lines you have
Many of this may be common sense or information that you’ve already learned over time, resulting in a good credit score but possibly not a perfect score. If you have a bad credit score, it could take a lot of time and work to perfect your score and you may first want to consider repairing your credit. If your credit score is already above 700 but you’re trying to shoot for that perfect score of 850 to ensure the best deals and interest rates, here are 5 ways to perfect your credit score:
1. Maintaining Debt-To-Limit Ratio
To perfect your credit score, it’s recommended that you keep your debt-to-credit ratio below 30% and, if possible, as low as 10%. The debt-to-limit ratio is the difference between how much you owe on a credit card versus how much your credit limit is. For example, if one of your credit cards has a credit limit of $5,000, then you should always keep the balance below $1,500 but preferably around $500. As you can see above, 30% of your credit score is determined by the available credit on your open credit cards, so keeping the debt-to-limit ratio will increase your available credit and also show that you’re responsible with your credit.
2. Keep Your Credit Cards Active
Make sure that you use your cards at least once a year to keep them shown as “active” credit and make sure that you never cancel your credit cards. 15% of your credit score is determined by the age of your lines of credit, so you should always keep your credit cards active to lengthen the age of your line of credit. Many people tend to cancel cards that they no longer use – many times because the rates aren’t very good or because they have another card with better benefits – but even if you don’t use the cards very often (just once a year is fine), you should keep them active. Typically, someone with a credit score over 800 has credit lines with at least 10 years of positive activity.
3. Always Pay Bills On Time
Probably the most well-known factor of a credit score and the factor that has the biggest impact on your credit score (35% of your score) is your history of paying your credit payments on-time. If you have a history of always making your credit card, mortgage, and car payments on time, you will greatly improve your credit score. This can also have an adverse effect as well, should you ever make a late payment. Unfortunately, it only takes one late payment to severely reduce your credit score so it’s crucial that you make sure to always make credit payments on time.
4. Dispute Errors On Your Credit Report
If you don’t already, make sure that you request a copy of your credit report once every year and review it for errors. It is actually quite common for credit reports to contain errors which can be disputed and potentially allow you to have negative items removed from your credit report. If, for instance, your credit report shows a late payment on a credit card but contained errors in the record, you can dispute the negative item and request to have it removed from your report. Having a negative item, like a late payment, removed from your report can improve your credit score significantly. While disputing errors on your credit report can be tedious and take a lot of time, it is usually worth it. Another option would be to contact a credit repair agency to help you dispute any negative items on your credit report.
5. Reduce The Number of Credit Inquiries
While this may only affect 10% of your credit score, keeping the number of credit inquiries down can still help to build that perfect credit score but is often ignored. You should never have more than one credit inquiry per year but many people do not realize how often this is done and often times have their credit checked more than once per year. If you’re applying for a car loan, checking your credit score online, or applying for a new credit card, these type of actions will almost always result in a credit inquiry and should be avoided if you’ve already had a credit inquiry earlier in the year. Make sure you do your research on what will result in a credit inquiry so that you don’t accidentally have more than one a year without realizing it.