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7 Ways to Maintain a Good Credit Score
Don't Lose the Good Credit Score You've Worked For

By LaToya Irby, About.com Guide

There are many benefits of having a good credit score, like enjoying a lower interest rate on your credit cards and loans. A good credit score also allows you to save money on insurance and security deposits on new utilities and cell phone service. It's all about how you use credit that lets you to keep a good score.

1. Know what goes into a good credit score.
The more you know about what goes into your credit score, the easier it will be to maintain a good one. Five key pieces of information are used to calculate your credit score – your payment history, level of debt, credit age, mix of credit, and recent credit. But, not everything financial affects your credit score. For example, checking account overdrafts and utility payments won’t automatically help (or hurt) your credit score.

2. Pay your bills on time.
That goes for all your bills, not just your credit cards and loans. While certain bills don’t get reported to the credit bureaus when you pay on time, they could end up on your credit report if you fall behind. Even a small library fine could wind up on your credit report. Continue to pay all your bills on time to maintain a good credit score.

7 Reasons to Pay on Time
3. Keep your credit card balances low.
The higher your credit card balance is, the worse your credit score will be. Your credit card balance should be within 30% of your credit limit to maintain a good credit score. That’s $300 on a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit. Charging more than 30% of your credit limit is risky even if you plan to pay off the balance when your billing statement comes. Card issuers typically report the balance when your statement closes and if that's a high balance, your credit score will be affected.

How Credit Card Balances Influence Your Credit Score
4. Manage your debt.
Credit card balances aren’t the only accounts that influence your credit score. Loan balances and lines of credit also impact your level of debt (30% of your credit score). Having too much debt can cost credit score points and make it difficult to afford your monthly payments. The lower your debt, the easier it will be to maintain a good credit score.

Go on a debt diet.
5. Don't close old credit cards.
When you close a credit card, your credit card issuer no longer sends updates to the credit bureaus and the credit scoring formula places less weight on inactive accounts. After 10 years or so, the credit bureau will remove that closed account's history from your credit report. If the account was an old one (which it would be after 10+ years), losing that credit history will shorten your average credit age and cause your credit score to drop.

Five Credit Cards You Shouldn't Close
6. Limit your applications for new credit.
Each time you apply for credit – whether a credit card or loan – your credit score takes a small hit. Credit inquiries are only 10% of your credit score, but if you have a high credit score (say 800), you stand to lose a lot of points (10% of 800 is 80). Opening a new credit account also lowers your average credit age (15% of your credit score). To maintain a good credit score, you should open new credit sparingly.

Will a New Credit Card Application Hurt My Credit Score?
7. Watch your credit report.
Just because you do everything right with your credit doesn’t mean everyone else will. Errors could end up on your credit report leading to a drop in your credit score. Identity theft and credit card fraud can also lead to inaccurate information on your credit report. Checking your credit report throughout the year lets you detect these mistakes sooner so you can correct them and maintain a good credit score.

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-how to Maintain a Good Credit Score
by ab
It’s always a delight to get the keys to a new car. For most, the only challenge is paying for the car. Unless you have cash in hand, you’ll need some type of auto loan. Follow these six keys to a great auto loan and you can ride around knowing you got the best deal.
Key to a Great Auto Loan #1: Manage Your Credit
One of the first things you should do before applying for an auto loan is review your credit. All US consumers are entitled to a free credit report, so use this resource. Find out if there’s anything you need to fix. Any errors or bad habits could affect your auto loan rate.
•What is Credit?
•How Credit Scores Work
Key to a Great Auto Loan #2: Know How Much You Can Spend
Diligent budgeters already know this, but I don’t run into very many diligent budgeters. Track your budget any way you like (Microsoft Money is a good tool or build your own system), and then find out how much your payments might be with the car payment calculator.
Key to a Great Auto Loan #3: Look at the Big Picture
The terms of your auto loan will determine how much you pay now and how much the auto loan costs overall. Remember that a low cost now may not mean low total costs for you in the big picture.
For example, most borrowers choose a low down payment because it’s easy to manage today. However, that choice increases the total cost of your auto loan and usually leaves you ‘upside-down’ (meaning you owe more on the vehicle than it’s worth) for years to come.

Figure out exactly what your loan will look like -- month by month -- by running your loan details through a loan amortization calculator. You'll learn how much you're spending on interest and how much you'll still owe on any given date in the future.

•Beware Upside Down Loans
Key to a Great Auto Loan #4: Consider Insurance
When you ask various lenders what they’ll offer you, you may find that you need insurance to get the best auto loans. I’m referring to disability insurance and life insurance at this point. The lender is concerned that something could happen to you and you wouldn’t be able to pay them back.
Having insurance might not be a requirement, however you should know all the details if you already are insured.

Key to a Great Auto Loan #5: Shop Around
This is simple but it is often overlooked. The most important point here is that you don’t have to get your auto loan from the dealership. Check with a credit union, bank, online lender, or P2P lending source. In most cases your car dealer won’t have the best auto loan. By consulting with an alternate lender before stepping onto the lot, you’ll be armed with knowledge of what’s fair -- and you may have some bargaining power.
•Peer to Peer Lending Overview
Key to a Great Auto Loan #6: Avoid Prepayment Penalties
Things change in life and flexibility is important. Your auto loan should also be flexible. Find a lender that will allow you to make extra payments or pay off the loan entirely without any penalties. It’s important to read the fine print – some penalties aren’t called “penalties”.
-Online loan, online loans vendor, for car loans, auto loans
about.com
While there are lots of things you can do to get a better credit score, there are no quick or easy ways to take your score from poor to excellent. You’ll need to do several things to improve your credit score and the specific steps you take depend on what’s hurting your score right now.

Figure Out What’s Hurting Your Score

To improve your credit score, you need to understand what’s making your credit score bad. Before you do anything else, order a copy of your credit report and credit score. You can order all three credit bureaus’ credit report and score, or you can start with just one. If you’re looking for a way to reduce the cost (credit reports and scores can be $20 and up), there are few ways to get free credit reportsand credit scores.
Look at your credit score. It’s a three-digit number between 300 and 850 if you ordered a FICO or other generic score or between 550 and 990 if you ordered the Vantage Score. In both cases, you should have an explanation of why your credit score is low. For example, high credit utilization, too few accounts, or recent delinquencies might be affecting your credit score.
Next, review your credit report for the specific accounts with high utilization or delinquencies. If the negative items are incorrect, get them removed by disputing with the credit bureau or the information furnisher.

Overcome Your Negative Payment History

If your credit report contains several delinquencies, you’ll need to pay the past due balances and start adding positive payments to your credit report. Open new accounts to start building a positive payment history if all your other accounts are closed. Because of your low score, you might have trouble getting approved for a traditional credit card. Fortunately, there are other options for getting a credit card with bad credit like a secured credit card, retail store card, or a credit builder loan.
Once you get a new account, make all your monthly payments on time, even if it means setting up an automatic payment. The key is to overshadow your negative payment history with positive payments.

Lower High Credit Utilization

A high credit utilization means the balances on your credit cards and loans are high relative to the credit limit or original loan amount. The fix for a high credit utilization is fairly simple – pay down those balances. Of course, this may take a lot of time if you don’t have enough money to bring your credit card balances within 10-30% of the credit limit.
You might be able to shuffle your balances around in a way that smooths out utilization. For example, if one credit card is at 50% utilization and the other has a $0 balance, you could transfer part of the balance to even out your utilization. To pull this off, you need to make sure the new credit card balance is below 30% of the limit. Don't forget to factor the cost of the balance transfer in your decision. It may be cheaper to leave your balance where it is and just pay it off more aggressively.
Speaking of credit utilization, if you’re starting over with new credit card accounts, make sure to keep these balances within 10 to 30% of the credit limit. That’s the best level for building a good credit score. Anything above could hurt your credit score.

Get a Mix of Credit

Having a mix of credit accounts is important because it shows lenders that you have experience with different types of accounts. Credit cards are different from installment loans and if you can handle both of them well, you’re a better credit risk than borrowers who’ve never had one or the other.
If you need an installment loan on your credit report, look to a local credit union. Some credit unions offer credit builder loans to help boost a bad credit score. Once you’re approved for the loan, the principle from the loan is deposited into an interest-bearing savings account. You make regular, monthly payments on the loan, not from the money in the savings account, but from your own funds. Your positive payments are reported to the credit bureaus each month. Once the loan is repaid, the savings and the interest are yours. The credit builder loan is also an option to add accounts to a thin credit profile that has a few or no accounts.

Make Sure You’re Using Old Accounts

The age of your credit history is 15% of your credit history. The easiest way to improve your credit score in this area is to let your credit accounts get older. Make sure you use your oldest credit account periodically to keep it active. If you let the account go dormant, it won’t be given as much weight in your credit history. (Some card issuers even cancel dormant accounts.)
The amount of time since you first established a credit history is just one part of how credit scoring calculations look at your credit age. The average age of all your accounts is another factor. Opening a lot of new accounts can lower your average credit age, so don’t open them unnecessarily. But definitely open accounts as you need to help your credit score in other areas.

Let the Recent Inquiries Age

Inquiries are noted on your credit report each time you apply for credit. Unlike other negative information, inquiries only stay on your credit report for two years, but they only affect your credit score for 12 months.
Inquiries are only 10% of your credit score, but theoretically they have the potential to drop you from a 600 to a 540. After you open a couple of new accounts to rebuild your credit score, let these inquiries age before you think about getting any new accounts.

Give It Some Time

You may already be doing all the right things – you’ve opened some new accounts, you’re caught up on delinquencies, you’ve paid down your balances, and you’re paying your bills on time – and still haven’t seen an improvement in your credit score. The best thing to do is wait. It takes time for your credit score to recover from seriously negative information, for inquiries to fall off your credit report, and for positive payment history to outweigh the negative past. Be patient and check your credit score in a few months to see which risk factors are still affecting your score.
-how to fix my credit


How to Improve Your Credit Score

By , About.com Guide



While there are lots of things you can do to get a better credit score, there are no quick or easy ways to take your score from poor to excellent. You’ll need to do several things to improve your credit score and the specific steps you take depend on what’s hurting your score right now.

Figure Out What’s Hurting Your Score

To improve your credit score, you need to understand what’s making your credit score bad. Before you do anything else, order a copy of your credit report and credit score. You can order all three credit bureaus’ credit report and score, or you can start with just one. If you’re looking for a way to reduce the cost (credit reports and scores can be $20 and up), there are few ways to get free credit reports and credit scores.

Look at your credit score. It’s a three-digit number between 300 and 850 if you ordered a FICO or other generic score or between 550 and 990 if you ordered the Vantage Score. In both cases, you should have an explanation of why your credit score is low. For example, high credit utilization, too few accounts, or recent delinquencies might be affecting your credit score.

Next, review your credit report for the specific accounts with high utilization or delinquencies. If the negative items are incorrect, get them removed by disputing with the credit bureau or the information furnisher.

Overcome Your Negative Payment History

If your credit report contains several delinquencies, you’ll need to pay the past due balances and start adding positive payments to your credit report. Open new accounts to start building a positive payment history if all your other accounts are closed. Because of your low score, you might have trouble getting approved for a traditional credit card. Fortunately, there are other options for getting a credit card with bad credit like a secured credit card, retail store card, or a credit builder loan.

Once you get a new account, make all your monthly payments on time, even if it means setting up an automatic payment. The key is to overshadow your negative payment history with positive payments.

Lower High Credit Utilization

A high credit utilization means the balances on your credit cards and loans are high relative to the credit limit or original loan amount. The fix for a high credit utilization is fairly simple – pay down those balances. Of course, this may take a lot of time if you don’t have enough money to bring your credit card balances within 10-30% of the credit limit.

You might be able to shuffle your balances around in a way that smooths out utilization. For example, if one credit card is at 50% utilization and the other has a $0 balance, you could transfer part of the balance to even out your utilization. To pull this off, you need to make sure the new credit card balance is below 30% of the limit. Don't forget to factor the cost of the balance transfer in your decision. It may be cheaper to leave your balance where it is and just pay it off more aggressively.

Speaking of credit utilization, if you’re starting over with new credit card accounts, make sure to keep these balances within 10 to 30% of the credit limit. That’s the best level for building a good credit score. Anything above could hurt your credit score.

Get a Mix of Credit

Having a mix of credit accounts is important because it shows lenders that you have experience with different types of accounts. Credit cards are different from installment loans and if you can handle both of them well, you’re a better credit risk than borrowers who’ve never had one or the other.

If you need an installment loan on your credit report, look to a local credit union. Some credit unions offer credit builder loans to help boost a bad credit score. Once you’re approved for the loan, the principle from the loan is deposited into an interest-bearing savings account. You make regular, monthly payments on the loan, not from the money in the savings account, but from your own funds. Your positive payments are reported to the credit bureaus each month. Once the loan is repaid, the savings and the interest are yours. The credit builder loan is also an option to add accounts to a thin credit profile that has a few or no accounts.

Make Sure You’re Using Old Accounts

The age of your credit history is 15% of your credit history. The easiest way to improve your credit score in this area is to let your credit accounts get older. Make sure you use your oldest credit account periodically to keep it active. If you let the account go dormant, it won’t be given as much weight in your credit history. (Some card issuers even cancel dormant accounts.)

The amount of time since you first established a credit history is just one part of how credit scoring calculations look at your credit age. The average age of all your accounts is another factor. Opening a lot of new accounts can lower your average credit age, so don’t open them unnecessarily. But definitely open accounts as you need to help your credit score in other areas.

Let the Recent Inquiries Age

Inquiries are noted on your credit report each time you apply for credit. Unlike other negative information, inquiries only stay on your credit report for two years, but they only affect your credit score for 12 months.

Inquiries are only 10% of your credit score, but theoretically they have the potential to drop you from a 600 to a 540. After you open a couple of new accounts to rebuild your credit score, let these inquiries age before you think about getting any new accounts.

Give It Some Time

You may already be doing all the right things – you’ve opened some new accounts, you’re caught up on delinquencies, you’ve paid down your balances, and you’re paying your bills on time – and still haven’t seen an improvement in your credit score. The best thing to do is wait. It takes time for your credit score to recover from seriously negative information, for inquiries to fall off your credit report, and for positive payment history to outweigh the negative past. Be patient and check your credit score in a few months to see which risk factors are still affecting your score.
-How to Improve Your Credit Score
10 Things You Can Do Today To Improve Your Credit Score
Steps to Improve Your Credit Score You Can Do Anyday
Blemished credit is both stressful and costly, but it's not the end. As hopeless as the situation might seem, bad credit won't last forever. There are things you can do right now to begin improve your credit score.
1. Get a copy of your credit reports.
You can't start to your credit score your credit until you know exactly what you need to work on. Your credit report includes a list of the accounts that are hurting your credit score. Get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus to find out which accounts need work and which are just fine. You can get a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.
How to Order Your Credit Report
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2. Dispute a credit report error.
If your credit report contains errors, you have the right to have them removed by writing to the credit bureau or the creditor who listed the account on your credit report. Errors can hurt your credit score more than you think. For example, an inaccurately reported late payment could bring your credit score down 60 to 110 points depending on the other information in your credit report.
How to Dispute Credit Report Entries
3. Avoid new credit card purchases.
New credit card purchases will raise your credit utilization - the ratio between your credit card balances and your credit limit. The higher your balances are, the more your credit score is affected. So, pay cash for purchases instead of putting them on your credit card. Even better, if you can avoid the purchase completely, you can use that money to reduce your credit card balance. Lowering your balances helps improve your credit score.
7 Tips For Breaking the Credit Card Habit
4. Pay off a past due balance.
Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. The further behind you are on your payments, the more it hurts your credit score. If you have the money, get caught up on your credit card payments before they are charged-off or sent to a collection agency. Talk to your credit card issuer about your missed payments. They may be willing to re-age your account so your credit report shows your account has always been paid on time.
5 Ways to Deal With Past Due Accounts
5. Avoid a new credit card application.
As long as you're in credit repair mode, you should avoid making any new applications for credit since credit inquiries can hurt your credit score. Opening a new credit account also lowers your average credit age, another action that hurts your credit score.
How Inquiries Affects Your Credit
6. Leave accounts open, especially those with balances.
You might be tempted to close credit card accounts that have become delinquent, but wait. Before you close any account make sure it won't negatively affect your credit. For example, closing a credit card with a balance can hurt your credit score if the lender also stops reporting your credit limit. It's very rare that closing a credit card will improve your credit score.
Five Credit Cards You Should Never Close
7. Make contact with your creditors.
Right now they're certainly the last people you want to talk to, but you'd be surprised at the help you might receive if you call your credit card issuer. If you're having trouble, talk to your creditors about your situation. Many of them have temporary hardship programs that will reduce your monthly payments until you can get back on your feet.
8. Pay off a debt.
The amount of debt you're carrying is 30% of your credit score. You'll have to start paying off your debts to improve your credit situation. If you don't have the money on hand, sell some of your belongings to speed up the process. It will be a sacrifice, but the financial freedom you gain - and the credit score points you gain - will be worth it.
Making a Get-Out-Of-Debt Plan
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9. Get professional help.
Resources, like consumer credit counseling, are available to assist you. If you are overwhelmed by your credit situation, seek professional assistance. You can locate a credit counseling agency through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Your credit card billing statements now include the number to credit counseling agencies that can help you.
Credit Counseling Basics
10. Be patient and persistent.
Patience isn't a factor that's used to calcalate your credit score, but it's something you need to have while you're repairing your credit. Your credit wasn't damaged overnight, so don't expect it to improve in that amount of time. Continue paying your debts on time each month and over time you will see your credit score improve. Want to showcase your product to our audience? Then check our advertising options
-10 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score