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One of the things that grind my gears is that a lot of these credit websites provide a plethora of information on improving your credit score, but doesn’t account for reality. Generally, most people who have poor credit scores often don’t have the extra money lying around to improve it or have made one too many mistakes. So, I’ve come up with 3 hacks to improve your credit score quickly.
Note: These hacks WILL work. But if you do have poor credit, it’s much better to understand WHY you do. This will go along way in improving your credit score and making you financially free.
So, if you have little cash or just need to quickly improve your score, this article is for you.
Some of the reasons why you would consider improving your credit score generally involve making a major financial decision. These decisions will affect your bottom line for years.
- Buying a used car? With good credit you can have 5% interest, average credit can have 12% interest, and terrible credit could be 20%+ interest. That’s thousands of dollars extra you would be paying in interest if you have bad credit.
- Renting out an apartment? Your credit score may determine the deposit amount or even your monthly rent. When you don’t have many options for getting money, this is a big deal.
- Plan on getting insurance? A lower credit score can swell up the cost of any type of insurance. So it is a good idea to raise your credit score before you make these decisions.
The reason why I want to focus on these ‘hacks’ is that time is usually the key factor when it comes to these decisions. If you can improve your score by 5,10, or even 25+ points in a matter of 5-20 days with these hacks, you will save hundreds of dollars with only a few hours of your time.
Pre-Step: Track Your Credit Score
I recommend that you download CreditKarma as it’s a free tool to check your credit scores. When you sign up via the website or app, you will need to answer a few questions to verify that you are who you say you are.
Credit Karma allows you to view your credit score (updates once every 7 days). This is a great way to monitor your score week by week.
They pull data from two bureaus (Transunion and Equifax). They will also provide you with a thorough credit report for those bureaus.
Alternatively, depending on the credit card you have, you might have access to your FICO score. FICO is often used for credit checks on a majority of businesses. Discover allows for free FICO access.
So be sure to double check. For Discover, they update once a month.
Now that you have visibility on your credit reports, it’s time to start using these hacks to improve your credit scores.
Credit Hack #1: Raise Your Credit Limits
30% of your credit score is determined by the amount of credit card debt you have. More specifically, they call this “credit card utilization”.
- Credit Bureaus look at how much money you have in total credit on all personal credit cards and compare that to how much you have spent on your credit cards.
- Example: You have 3 credit cards with max limits $1000/$500/$2500 ($4,000 total). But you spend about $3,000 on credit cards. Your utilization will be 75%.
- The goal is to have credit card utilization of 20% or less.
This means that if you always tend to max out your credit cards (regardless if you pay them in full or not each month), your credit score will suffer.
Here is what you need to do:
- Look at all of the credit cards that you have.
- Log onto each credit card website.
- Look for the “settings” or “manage” folder. Not all credit card sites will have the ability to request an increase online. So you may need to Google, “[credit card] credit limit increase”. Discover has the ability to increase your limit online
In some cases, you’ll need to talk about how much your household makes, assets, etc. Be reasonable with what you put in. You shouldn’t lie, but if do lie, don’t put some absurd amount of income because you’ll have to verify it if it’s too high.
If your credit card doesn’t have an online limit increase option, call the number on the back of your card and request an increase.
Do this for all of your credit cards! You might be surprised at how much your limits will increase.
- Old Limit: $4,000 total ($3K spend = 75% Utilization)
- New Limit: $10,000 total ($3K spend = 30% Utilization)
NOTE: In my experience, Barclays does do a credit check when you request an increase. So you might be dinged 1-2 points but the tradeoff is worth it.
Estimated Time: 30-60 minutes
Credit Hack #2: Dispute! Dispute! Dispute!
35% of your credit score is determined based on your payment history. Missed a student loan payment? Or happened to be late on a few credit card payments by accident (shoutout to auto vs manual CC payments article)?
Major payment issues, like charge-offs, collections, bankruptcy, repossession, tax liens or a foreclosure can demolish your credit score.
But there is one thing you can do: Dispute, everything. For Credit Karma, look at “payment history” and “derogatory marks”
Take This Example
- For example, let’s suppose there was an open collection on your credit report for $450, but you paid it off a few years ago. If you dispute this item with the credit bureaus as inaccurate, you are exercising your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to get this item taken off.
- Your creditor is required by law to verify items and report back to the credit bureau within 30 days. If they find the item is old or inaccurate, they will tell the credit bureau and your item will be deleted.
- For any error on your credit report or late payment you have, you can reach out to the creditor and ask them to remove a late payment or a derogatory mark that you have.
- Each mark could mean a 25-50 point increase!
I really don’t want to dive more into this as I am a big fan of the book “Credit Secret” that walks you through a super thorough process of getting results.
The book is lengthy, but for the sake of this article. Asking your creditor to remove a mark or dispute does work in some cases. I recommend for more recent marks you reach out. For older marks on your credit, check out the book.
Estimated Time: 1-2 hours.
Credit Hack #3: Shift Your Debt To A Business Card
First of all, I’m all about thinking outside the box. But there are some business credit cards that don’t affect your credit score. Doctor of Credit does a great job listing all of the business cards that don’t affect your personal credit score. If you have some of these popular business cards, keep a close eye.
- Chase Business Ink (or all Chase business cards)
- All American Express Business Cards
- All Citi Business Cards
NOTE: I would label this hack as “Bastard Finance” as having good financial planning, budgeting, and a strong understanding of money ARE REQUIRED to not get burned. This hack should be a net-positive gain based on your life’s goals. Don’t try to move debt around unless you know what you are doing.
Do the Following:
Assuming you have a business card with a credit limit, do the following:
- Request a limit increase (preferably over the phone, a rep will tell you how much you can request a max amount before they will do a hard pull).
- Upon approval (this can be $1K-8K more), set up a balance transfer.
- Fill out the balance transfer information, you will be able to pay off all personal cards of different issuers (Example: If you have chase, you can move all credit cards from other banks except for chase).
- Bonus: Some credit cards have balance transfer offers that have 0% APR (with a small fee).
As you see, if I were to use Chase Business Ink, I have an offer for 0% APR for nearly a year with a 4% fee. Remember when I talked about tradeoffs? This is one. Ask yourself the following.
- How far behind am I with my credit cards?
- What is my current APR? Am I still on a 0% intro period with my personal cards?
- How much is my credit limit currently? What is my credit utilization at?
- Is transferring $X worth the 4% fee and the potential credit score boost? (Note: if your utilization is 50% or more, moving it down to 0% for a couple hundred dollars might be worth the boost in your score)
- What is my plan to pay this?
Related: My Top Value Balance Transfer Cards.
Estimated Time: 1 Hour.
Do What You Are Comfortable With
All of these steps will work in improving your credit score reasonably fast. You can probably see an increase in a week or faster.
I’m a dirty basement kid at heart, so some of my articles aren’t going to be as vanilla compared to other blogs. As a matter of fact, it’s likely that ‘experts’ will damnify me but at the end of the day I want you to get results. So I’m okay with that. My goal is to inform and bring you realistic expectations.
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