You probably know by now that your credit score has far-reaching effects on both your financial goals and your life goals.
Looking to switch jobs? Some employers will check your credit history. So if you want a better job, you might need better credit first.
Making a major purchase or hoping to refinance your student loans? You’ll need good credit to qualify for an affordable loan.
Trying to be happier and minimize your stress? Learning more about money management can help you get your finances under control and reduce your money-related anxiety.
By focusing on cleaning up your credit and increasing your credit score, you’ll clear obstacles that could keep you from reaching other important achievements too. Here’s why 2019 is the year to figure out how to improve your credit score — along with a few suggestions to get you started.
Borrowing will be more expensive this year
Loan and credit interest rates are rising, and they’re expected to continue inching upward in 2019.
The Federal Reserve sets target rates that are tied directly to the interest many consumers pay on auto loans, credit cards, and more. The Fed’s benchmark rate target rose four times in 2018, for an increase of a full percentage point, and it’s expected to climb further, albeit at a slower pace than during the previous year.
These rising rates mean borrowing money will probably become more expensive in 2019. In the face of higher interest, knowing how to improve your credit score is more important than ever. A high credit score can help you get lower interest rates and control your costs, no matter where market rates land.
How to improve your credit score in 2019
Whether you have no credit, bad credit, or decent credit that could be better, here are some ways you can give your credit score a boost in 2019 and beyond.
1. Get a secured credit card
If you’re starting from square one, it can be tricky to find credit options that are accessible and affordable. With little to no credit history, you’ll have a hard time getting new loans or lines of credit. In other words, you need credit to build credit.
That’s where a secured credit card comes into play. When you open a secured card, you put up a cash deposit as collateral. Usually, this deposit will be equal to your credit limit.
It’s easier to qualify for a secured credit card, especially if you keep your balance low and make payments on time. When you use credit responsibly, it’ll be only a matter of time before you see your credit score rise.
2. Become an authorized user
Another way to qualify for credit in your name is to get a shared account. The easiest way to do that is to get added as an authorized credit card user on someone else’s account.
Ask someone you trust to add you to their credit card account, and it will be included on your credit reports. As long as the account is in good standing, it should reflect well on your creditworthiness and help increase your score.
Make sure the original cardholder is responsible with their debts. Any overborrowing or missed payments will hurt both your credit scores.
3. Review your credit reports
Credit reporting errors are more common than you might think. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 74% of credit reporting complaints relate to incorrect information on credit reports.
It’s worthwhile to get copies of your annual credit reports and review the information on them to catch and dispute credit report errors. Plus, your credit reports often will include insights into factors that affect your credit.
4. Monitor your credit with free tools
Your free credit reports are helpful, but they don’t include your actual credit score.
Luckily, there are several free credit monitoring tools to help you track your credit score from month to month. Your bank or credit union might offer free credit scores as a benefit of your credit card or bank account.
Or you can use a service such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to check up on your score, track your progress, and receive strategies on how to build credit.
5. Pay down debt balances
Paying your debt ahead of schedule is another borrowing behavior that can positively affect your credit score.
Paying down credit card balances, in particular, can help you lower your credit utilization ratio — a key factor in how credit bureaus calculate your score. Working to prepay loans or other forms of debt also can help when you’re learning how to improve your credit score.
6. Request a credit limit increase
On top of paying down credit card balances, you can ask your credit card issuer to raise your credit limit.
Your credit limit is the total amount you can borrow through the card. The higher it is, the lower any balance you carry will be in comparison.
That makes it easier to keep your credit utilization ratio low. And maintaining a low credit utilization (around 20% or less) will keep your credit score trending upward.
7. Always pay bills on time
You can have decent credit without doing everything right all the time. But it’s nearly impossible to maintain good credit with derogatory marks on your credit report from late payments or delinquent accounts.
That’s why it’s important to pay your bills on time each month. Setting up automatic payments can help you stay on top of all your accounts and due dates.
Good credit is like an insurance policy
Your first financial line of defense against emergencies should be an emergency fund. Having cash on hand to cover urgent expenses can help you avoid debt.
But a good credit score also can act as a lifeline in a time of hardship or financial crisis. If you’ve exhausted your cash and need emergency loans to stay afloat, a positive credit history will grant you access to credit at reasonable interest rates when you need it most.
Avoiding and limiting debt is important, especially in times of financial distress. But knowing you have a good credit score can be an extra layer of financial security. That’s why you should always be mindful of your credit score and be working to improve it.
At the end of the day, find a system that works for you and use it to build good credit. It takes time to learn how to improve your credit, but by the end of 2019, you’ll be amazed by how far you’ve come.
Interested in a personal loan?
Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2019!
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.