Boosting Your Credit Score in 5 Easy Steps

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Even though mortgage rates have risen recently, they remain historically very low. A 30-year fixed rate mortgage in 1981 came with an interest rate of nearly 20%, more than four times today’s rates of around 4%. While today’s rates are about half a point higher than recent lows, they are still a very good deal, and potential home buyers are expected to start shopping pretty hard next year.

To get the lowest possible rate you need to be among the most qualified borrowers. To be counted among that group means that you meet several requirements that we spelled out in an earlier story focused on how your credit score helps determine the interest rate you will be offered on a mortgage loan.

If your credit score doesn’t top 740, you’ll want to do some things to push it up, according to Angela Colley at Realtor.com. That level divides the best qualified lenders from the rest of the pack, and nearly half of prospective home buyers wait for their credit scores to improve before even applying for a mortgage.

What you want to do, however, is wait the least amount of time possible. To that end, here are five tips for boosting your credit score quickly and legally.

  1. Pay down debt balances. This should be obvious. The less debt you have, the better risk you are to a lender, and the more unused credit you have the better. This should take you about a month, according to Colley.
  2. Stay current on monthly bills. Late payments send a seriously negative message to lenders. If you’re already late, pay as soon as you can. Note that most creditors don’t report late payments until the payment is more than 30 days past due, so you do have a little breathing room. Fixing a late payment can improve your credit score in a month or two, once everything is current.
  3. Open a new credit account. This may seem counterintuitive, but if you can open a new account and do not use it, that increases your total credit line and lowers your credit utilization rate. It can take up to six weeks for this to show up in your credit score.
  4. Piggyback on someone else’s account. If your parents or your partner already have good credit, ask if you can become an authorized user on their account. This will have an immediate positive effect on your credit score, provided the good account doesn’t suddenly go bad for some reason.
  5. Forget adding payment histories. Don’t waste your time trying to get the utility company or a wireless provider to report your history of on-time payments to a credit agency. The fact is that these only show up when they are delinquent, and who needs that.

For more information see the story at Realtor.com.

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