6 ways to improve your credit score
If you want a car, a house or credit cards, your credit score is important as it will determine whether you will get the approval you need for an auto loan or a mortgage.
These days, many employers check your credit score, so it can also be a factor in whether or not you get a job. In many cases, you may be harming your credit without even knowing you have done so, but there are steps you can take to improve your credit score.
Until recently, people had to pay to see their credit score. Now, more than 50 million Americans are able to access their score for free through their credit card company with a simple phone call.
"A good credit score is very important as you apply for credit. Saving 2 to 3 percent on interest payments over time can save you thousands, if not, tens of thousands of dollars," said John Bucsek, managing partner at Metlife Solution Group.
Bucsek offers the following tips for those who are looking to improve their credit score:
- Pay your bills on time;
- If you have a credit problem, do not negotiate a settlement;
- Do not max out your available line of credit;
- Do not apply for too many credit cards;
- Be careful when co-signing; and
- Keep tabs on medical bills.
"The more credit cards you have, the lower your credit score. Don't max out your available credit. If you have, make every effort possible to bring those balances down. Being too close to your available limit will impact your score even if you make payments on time every month," Bucsek said. "If you apply for a card in a store in order to receive a discount on a specific item, pay off the account and close the line of credit. Otherwise, having too many credit cards can impact your score. Also, keep in mind, if you have a credit problem, negotiating a settlement can actually hurt your credit score because it stays with your for seven years."
In many cases, parents co-sign for their children, which Bucsek does not recommend.
"If your children aren't making their payments or if they are paying late, that is going to appear on your credit score," he said.
Nearly 43 million Americans have past due medical bills which usually happen as a result of insurance companies not paying the debt in a timely manner. Credit card reporting firms now have to wait 180 days before adding medical debt to a credit report. In addition, they must remove the medical debt from the report once it has been paid by an insurance company. "It is important to check your credit report to make sure that any medical debts are taken off when those bills are paid," Bucsek said.
According to Bucsek, 65 percent of Americans have super prime, or prime credit scores, while 35 percent have much lower credit ratings. Many of those with a lower rating are between 20 and 30 years old.