My credit was HORRIBLE about 2 years ago! But last week, I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card strictly for the bonus points you receive when you get it. I’m becoming a better travel hacker (more on this topic in later posts), so I took the first step in doing so. When I was instantly approved I was excited. Then I looked at the approval limit and became ecstatic! Approved for $21,000! Ok, I know this isn’t a big deal for some of you. But for a young, black man who grew up in a single-parent household where credit ratings were the least of our concerns. This is an achievement. I remember a few short years ago I bought my first car and was hit with a 19% interest rate! Yeah, it was that bad! But I stayed disciplined and stayed determined to improve my score. Here’s what I did and 5 ways to improve your credit score.
5 Easy Ways To Improve Your Credit Score
1. Get a secured credit card and pay it off IN FULL every month.
This is the first thing I did. I walked into Capital One Bank roughly 5 years ago and all they gave me was a secured credit card with a $300 limit. A secured credit card requires you to make a deposit as collateral for the amount the bank approves you for. For example, I had to have $300 in my bank account in order for them to approve the $300 limit. So if I did not pay the credit card bill, they’d just take the $300 out of my account. Unsecured credit cards aren’t like this. They don’t require collateral. If you don’t pay it back, it just goes on your credit report and into collections.
I only paid for gas with this card for a year straight. Everyone needs gas so focus on using the card for something you already need and paying it off in full each month. I’d fill up twice, maybe three times per month and pay the $100 bill every month to get my balance back to $0. This is important. Don’t ever carry a balance on any credit card! This helps keep your credit utilization rates low. Therefore, helping improve your credit score.
I saw improvements and eventually it improved enough to be able to purchase my first car with no one else on the loan.
2. Get someone you know with decent credit to add you as an authorized user on their credit card.
I didn’t actually do this one. Mainly because I didn’t really know anyone with good credit. The girl I was dating, which is now my wife had good credit but we were only dating. And in the very early stages. I couldn’t be like “hey, let’s go catch a movie tonight…and add me as an authorized user on your credit card maybe?” Not cool. Plus, I was embarrassed that my credit was so bad I wouldn’t have ever mentioned it to her.
Nonetheless, this is a VERY easy way to help improve your credit score. Ask a parent, a spouse, or anyone else close enough to you that you feel comfortable asking. The great part about it is that you don’t even need to have access to the card. Meaning, you don’t even have to use it! As long as they’re responsible with their credit and you’re listed as an authorized user, it’ll help your score. So make sure it’s someone you trust.
So if you know someone, ask them. And ride that wave until the wheels fall off! Or at least until your credit improves.
3. Pay bills on time.
This may not be easy for some but it should be. Especially now with the ability to set everything to auto-pay. So set it and forget it. Literally. I really have no clue when some bills are due but they’re set to autopay. So I know they’ll be paid on time. On my banks’ website, it gives me the option to set up auto-pay. I manually go in and link my bill accounts to my bank account and it pays automatically.
Things like your car note hold a lot of weight when it comes to your credit score. So if you can’t set up all of your bills for auto-pay, make sure you set that one. On time payments for a car note for 4, 5, or 6 years is a true indicator that you’re responsible with payments.
If you let a payment go for longer than 30 days without paying it goes on your report for good as a missed payment. Too many of these will begin to take it’s toll on your score. So pay on time!
4. Dispute and pay off any old accounts that you can.
Go through your credit report and dispute any old accounts that you may have. The age of them may be old enough to give you a way out. I disputed any and everything on my credit report. Some were taken off and some weren’t. So try your luck and see which can be removed. Sites like Credit Karma allow you to dispute accounts directly from the site. I’ve used it faithfully.
Also, if you have any collections and you want to settle with the agency and pay them, then go ahead. Most of the time they’re willing to allow you to pay half of the original amount of the collection account if you talk to them. It’s some discrepancies as to whether this actually helps your credit or not but I can only speak for myself. I settled with two agencies for amounts less than what I originally owed and this drastically helped my score.
My report now shows “0 derogatory marks” even though I had things in collections in the past.
5. Wait 7 years for negative marks to fall off your credit.
Ok, I said this was 5 EASY ways to improve your credit score. This has to be the easiest one. It requires you to do absolutely nothing! Ok, I know most people can’t wait 7 years for their credit to improve. But if you don’t plan on buying a new home, refinancing your current home, or buying a new car for example, then what’s the rush?
Some things were on my credit that I just refused to pay for one reason or the other. So I stuck it out and got by knowing that if I waited a few more years, the sun would shine down on me and my credit! And man did it shine! Birds chirped, and the heavens opened up and I floated on up into credit score excellency.
If you have time and patience then just wait. Negative accounts will fall off of your report within 7-10 years. Just be sure that you’re doing all or some of the previous things I mentioned while waiting. 🙂
Back to this shiny, new credit card with the $21,000 limit. I don’t ever plan on using it to the point where it’ll hurt my credit. I’ve proven for the past 8-9 years that I’m pretty responsible when it comes to finances and I don’t plan on changing that. Plus, like I said in the beginning. I only applied for the card to get the 50,000 points they give me to put towards travel. I promise I’ll speak more on that in a later post.
For the longest, I was deathly afraid of credit cards and would do anything in my power to avoid anything involving credit. But I’ve grown out of that fear and have proven myself capable of handling credit very well.
So much so, that I now have about 6 different credit cards. All with $0 balances. Why, you ask? Because The more credit you have available, the better your score will be. So we can call that tip #6! It’s an extra one because I love y’all. I don’t need 6 credit cards but they’re good to have. It adds to the total amount of accounts you have in good-standing and that helps your score too! Dammit that’s tip #7! I have to stop typing before we end up at 10!
Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips and what you have done or will do to improve your credit score!
Until next time.
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