10 Credit Hacks to Improve Your FICO Score
Most of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I prescribe a very detailed and specific method for improving your credit score quickly.
It basically boils down to removing negative items from your credit report and rebuilding your credit with a secured credit card.
That said, there are other less-known methods for improving your credit score and these techniques work even for people with good credit scores. Keep reading because I’m going to give away all my secrets.
10 Credit Hacks to Raise Your Credit Score
Here are my top 10 credit hacks to help you improve your FICO score. Just to be clear, I’ve used most of these methods myself and it’s resulted in my nearly perfect 836 credit score.
1. Keep 3 Major Credit Cards
I’ve been experimenting for several years on how many credit cards to keep in order to maximize my credit score. To be completely honest, it’s somewhat subjective because the credit score algorithm takes so many variables into account.
That said, I’ve personally found that keeping at least 3 major credit cards open will yield the best results.
I should also note that you don’t have to regularly use all three credit cards. Use at least one of these major credit cards regularly and don’t keep a very big balance (more on this later).
2. Pay Down Your Installment Loans
Another thing I’ve experimented with is how installment loan balances affect my credit score. By installment loans, I mean loans such as student loans, auto loans, etc.
Interestingly, I’ve found that paying down loans as quickly as possible will result in a credit score increase.
Paying off debt can be a challenge, but if you’re in a position to do it, I recommend this as a way to optimize your credit score.
3. Optimize Your Credit Utilization
As a general rule, I recommend keeping your credit card balances under 25% of your available credit limit.
In other words, if you have 3 credit cards each with credit limits of $1,000 each, keep your balances under $250 on each credit card. Optimizing your credit utilization will have a big impact on your credit score.
Credit card balances are usually reported to the credit bureau every month, which is great because you have the opportunity each month to get your balances right.
4. Increase Your Credit Limits
This hack sort of plays off the last one. If you are unable to pay down your credit card balances so the utilization is under 25%, another option you have to increase your credit card limits.
By increasing the limit on a credit card, you will automatically improve your credit utilization. For example, if you have a credit card with a limit of $500 and your balance is $250, your credit utilization is 50%.
However, if you increase the limit to $1000, the credit utilization goes down to 25%.
One thing to keep in mind when requesting a credit limit increase is that it will result in a hard inquiry on your credit report, which might result in a small ding on your credit score. It’s generally not a big deal.
5. Use the Advanced Dispute Method to Remove Negative Items
One technique for removing negative items from your credit report is to use an advanced method for disputing inaccuracies on your credit report.
I’ve used this method several times to remove negative entries from my credit report back when I had bad credit. Get a copy of your credit report and find the entry you want to remove. Meticulously look over the entry and find anything that might be inaccurate.
Once you find something that’s not accurate, you can dispute it with the credit bureaus. When you write the dispute letter, be sure to specifically outline what is inaccurate.
6. Use a Professional to Remove Negative Items From Your Credit Report
There are basically two ways to remove negative entries on your credit report. The first way is to use various methods to get the entries removed yourself (the do-it-yourself way).
Your other option is to have a credit repair company attempt to remove the negative entries. They will obviously charge a fee, but they are generally faster when it comes to removing negatives.
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7. See How a Mortgage Loan Affects Your Credit Score
It’s very unlikely that you’ll approach a perfect credit score unless you have a mortgage loan on your credit report. Having a mortgage loan shows that your creditworthiness is good enough for a lender loan you a large sum of money.
It looks great on your credit report and will positively affect your credit score. I don’t recommend getting a mortgage loan unless you can afford it, but if you’re in the position, it’d definitely a good way to increase your score.
8. Close Secured Credit Cards When You No Longer Need Them
Secured credit cards are a tool for improving bad credit. Secured credit cards should be used when you are unable to get a major credit card due to poor credit.
However, once you’ve had the secured credit card for a couple of years and built up some positive credit history using it, I recommend closing the account.
I normally don’t recommend closing credit card accounts, but secured credit cards you’ve had awhile are an exception.
Again, you should be using secured credit cards as a stepping stone for eventually being in a position to get approved for a major credit card such as American Express or Discover.
9. Use a Debt Validation Letter to Remove Old Debts
When your contacted by a debt collector about an old debt, I recommend replying with a debt validation letter. Check out my full article on this subject for specific instructions.
A debt validation letter in many cases can result in getting old debt collections removed from your credit report.
10. Don’t Apply For New Credit for a Full Year
Lastly, having zero hard inquiries on your credit report with maximizing your credit score. When you don’t have any hard inquiries on your credit report it means you currently aren’t looking to obtain new credit and it will positively affect your credit score.
The difference between having zero hard inquiries and having one isn’t much, but personal experience has shown me that having zero is better than having one or more.
Hard inquiries usually fall off your credit report after one year, so I recommend ceasing to apply for credit for one full year in order to see this hack take effect.