Confession 1: I am extremely obsessive. I am manic about everything, especially my goals. Having an 800+ credit score was a personal goal of mine. If you want the best interest rates when you’re ready to make a big purchase, such as a house or a car, most lenders only require that you have a score of 760.
Confession 2: I’ve never had “bad” credit. Your journey will be different from mine, especially if you’re starting with a score that differs from the score that I started with. But stick around, you may still learn a thing or two 🙂
Credit reporting begins when you open your first borrowing account with a lender. For me, it happened when I opened my first credit card at 18. I managed to avoid much of the excessive spending that many young people in their teens and early twenties fall victim to, but I definitely made stupid mistakes, like not paying off my full balance each month which caused me to have to pay more money and interest. Sometimes I even forgot to make partial payments at all.
I’ve wasted a lot of money in interest payments. Over the last few years, I’ve learned so much about credit repair and increasing my credit score. In May 2018, my score was 724. In July 2019, my score reached 801. My score has since climbed to 810. Here are my top tips on how you can join the 800 Club too.
1. Do NOT Cosign for Other People
Ladies, ladies, ladies… A common mistake that young women make is opening accounts for other people. Do not cosign for anyone or allow anyone to open an account in your name. Stop cosigning on cars for your friends, stop getting leases in your name only for an apartment that you share with your boyfriend. If your friend stops paying her car note, if your man leaves you and doesn’t pay his share of the rent, you’re on the hook for everything. ALL. BY. YOURSELF.
It is rare that you should ever cosign for someone, but I can name 6 women who I know personally that have spent years trying to repair their credit after making silly mistakes. One person I know has an eviction on her credit report for an apartment that she got for her and her boyfriend. She couldn’t keep up with rent payments after he dumped her, so she lost her apartment. The eviction didn’t impact his credit history at all, but her name was the only name on the lease.
Another woman I know, cosigned on a $40,000 car for her boyfriend of only 8 months. When his ass got arrested, she was stuck with the car payments. I wish this was made up.
Only open accounts for yourself. You don’t want to be on the hook for someone else’s mess!
I’ve had a few family members ask me to cosign on cars for them and my answer is always the same…Hell NO!
2. Apply for Credit Cards
Applying for more credit cards might sound counterintuitive if you’re trying to increase your credit score. Many people don’t want to open more credit card accounts because they may be tempted to spend more money. If this sounds like you, do not apply for new credit cards. I repeat, do not apply for more credit cards if you are going to be tempted to overspend. You don’t want to go broke while trying to improve your credit.
Getting more credit cards, or opening any new line of credit can improve your credit score because it will decrease your total credit utilization and increase the number of total open accounts. Having multiple credit accounts that are paid on time, shows lenders that you are capable of juggling many accounts at once and staying current on them.
In recent years, I’ve been aggressively applying for credit cards. I travel hack and my primary goal when applying for new credit cards is to take advantage of sign-up bonuses in order to travel for free (y’all know I’m cheap). But that’s another story. Now, when you apply for credit cards, your score does decrease, but only by one or two points. Your account will recover pretty quickly as long as you follow tip #3.
3. Pay Off Your Balance
You guys already know this one, but I was a dumbass 18 year-old who didn’t get the memo. Paying off your credit balance completely every month, will decrease your overall outstanding balance on your credit report which causes your credit utilization to decrease. Paying interest is stupid and I don’t do it anymore because I don’t carry a balance on my credit cards. Ultimately, paying your balance in full each month will cause your credit score to increase.
4. Student Loan Payments
Student loan balances and payments are reported to all three credit bureaus. I know some of you guys are waiting for the Democrats to take over again in 2020, but I didn’t have time for all that. I want to be debt free ASAP. The instance that caused me to see the largest increase in my credit score with paying my grad school student loan off in two lump sums. When I made the first lump sum payment, my score increased by 20 points. The second time, my score increased by 13 points.
5. Check Your Credit Report… Often
Each year, you are granted a comprehensive credit report at annualcreditreport.com for free.
But you can also like Credit Karma and Experian Boost as often as you’d like to stay up-to-date on your credit score and reporting history. I also check my FICO score frequently by via my bank’s mobile app.
When reviewing my account and Credit Karma one day, I noticed that my student loan balance was listed at a higher amount than what it actually was. I submitted a dispute to have the amount corrected. After my dispute was resolved, my credit score increased again because my outstanding balance went down even more.
By checking your credit often, you can make sure that your information and balances are always reported properly.
6. Be Patient
Don’t beat yourself up if it seems like your score is barely decreasing. Your credit score won’t magically increase overnight. It takes time. It took me nearly 10 months to increase my score by 29 points. I was so close to 800 for quite awhile before I finally got there. Manage your finances properly and be patient. You’ll get there soon.
Your Finance Fairy Godmother
P.S. Your financial well-being is about much more than just your credit score. Are you ready to get on the path to building wealth for you and your family?
If so, grab a FREE copy of the Wealth Building Checklist here!
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