The following tips are provided by Western Union‘s Steve Kramer. Steve has more than 20 years of payment experience, is currently the Vice President of Electronic Payment at Western Union, and offers results-focused, actionable tips that enable consumers to improve their credit scores and get their financial lives back on track.
Here’s what you can do to increase your credit score over the next 12 months, according to Steve Kramer:
1. Think before you buy: If an item is on sale but takes two years with interest to pay it off, it is a ‘deal’ worth passing on.
2. Do not max out credit cards: Credit scores take into account just how much credit you have available, so it’s important not to max out your credit card balances; make an effort to keep balances low.
3. Pay bills on time: This is crucial to maintaining good credit for the long-term. Take advantage of a same-day payment option to ensure just-in-time payments to billers and creditors.
4. Do not apply for new credit cards: It’s tempting to open up a new credit card while out shopping but avoid it. New open credit may decrease your credit score. Also, every credit inquiry from a finance company decreases your score by points.
5. Thaw your frozen cards every spring: Many people put their credit cards in the freezer to keep from using them all the time. Don’t forget about those old credit cards. When you stop using a card, issuers may stop updating the account with credit bureaus, or worse, close down the account altogether. It’s good to use those accounts, at least occasionally, for a small necessary purchase – then they go back in the freezer for another year.
6. Check your credit report: Check your report regularly and take steps, immediately, to dispute discrepancies. Make corrections a top priority. Consumers are entitled to one free report a year, under federal law, at AnnualCreditReport.com. Don’t sign up for a credit monitoring service.
7. Stay knowledgeable: knowledge is your credit power. Stay informed about the interest rates on your cards and remember the key components you control that influence your credit score, including – number of open credit accounts, balances on those accounts, timely payment record, how many cards are ‘maxed out’, whether you rent or own your home, how long you have been using credit.