Home > Credit Score > Want to Improve Your Credit? Here’s Where to Start

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People looking to improve their credit often receive varying advice on how to do so. If you’ve got giant credit card balances, for instance, you’ll probably want to pay them down. If you’ve applied for a lot of store credit cards recently, it may be a good idea to avoid adding even more cards — and inquiries — to your name.

But there’s one constant rule of thumb that can help all people when it comes to improving their creditworthiness (primarily because it helps you learn what problems may be holding you back): You should check your credit regularly. 

As you may recall, there are lots of credit scores in use in the credit marketplace and it can be virtually impossible to know which one a specific lender is going to use when you fill out their loan application. But all scores are derived from the information that’s on your credit report, so you’ll want to check yours frequently to make sure everything is accurate and to identify particular line items (like a loan in default or a nearly maxed out credit card) that can be costing you points across the board.

How to Keep an Eye on Your Credit

Fortunately, it’s easy to get a hold of your credit reports. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles all consumers to a free one from each credit bureau every 12 months. You can obtain these free annual credit reports by visiting the government-mandated website AnnualCreditReport.com. Remember, you’re entitled to a free credit report from each bureau (not simply a free one each year) so you may want to space out your requests with the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to keep an eye on your credit all year round.

You can also get a good idea if any new items are affecting your ability to secure financing checking your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

Not Just for Credit-Builders

Whenever or wherever you are checking, if you notice something amiss, it’s in your best interest to dispute the error with the credit bureau in question and to pull your other reports to see if similar inaccuracies exist. Unfamiliar information, like a mysterious address or a loan you never applied for, may be signs your identity has been stolen. If you believe your identity has been compromised, you should also notify the local authorities, file a compliant with the Federal Trade Commission and consider freezing your credit so no new loans can be taken out in your name.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

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  • Dennis Elliott

    This is why I like to use Credit.Com for keeping track of my credit “Worthiness” monthly.And I really need to start getting my annuals from the three major credit bureaus starting this January! I have a young credit history since I had never had to apply for much of any type of loans throughout my life. I’ve been divorced for a very long time, now, and decided it was time to start getting a credit history built up? I started at my bank with a personal loan for $1000. I paid it off using auto pay so I would never miss a payment. Then, being curious, I approached them for a small auto loan. I was pretty surprised when they said I could get an auto loan up to $5000.? I went down to the car dealership, made my best deal for almost $4000. Soon after, however, I needed to re-fi that loan due to needing new ball joints, they were more than happy to, since I was making my payments on time.

    Not long thereafter, I opened a revolving account at J.C. Penny’s. Bought some clothes, used the credit card, and paid it off right then and there. I do that periodically to keep it up. At that time, I also opened a revolving account at Walmart. Now this card is more important to me because I had to buy a new t.v. since the one I had quit working. I thought to myself, “if I am buying a t.v., and going in to debt for it, I might as well get one I can enjoy for years to come,” and got a 60 inch plasma t.v. since I watch more movies than anything else on it? This card hurts me in some ways, but in the long run, it will benefit me more.

    Finally, ( I bet all are happy?) I am in the market for a small home, or mobile home. I already got my loan approved, just like it said on one of Credit.Com’s blogs. Now, all I have to do is find one in my budget range. I have been reading, and re reading the mortgage blogs, and anything pertaining to buying a home on credit? You can never be too smart in the home buying/obtaining a mortgage process, and I am so glad to have found this site!!! It even contains blogs on screening your realtor. Every aspect of home buying is right here on Credit.Com’s website!

    I can’t be happier finding, and using a site like this? It has copious amounts of knowledge on all things credit, and the best thing is; it is all free to us members! You even get to keep tabs on your credit, monthly, by using their credit analysis charts. You can even see how you stack up to others, like your peers, or even your state? Credit.Com has been a boon to me, it can be one for everyone, also!!!

    Thanks to all of the staff here!!!

    Dennis

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      We’re so glad to hear success stories. Thanks for sharing!

  • cheryl

    i paid off my [redacted] in may of 2015. i checked the other day and found that my credit had been lowered from 500.00 to 200.00. i contacted [redacted] and asked them why was my limit was lowered? i was told that because i had not used my card, they lowered my limit. i explained to them that i didn’t want to mess up my credit … i was told by [redacted] my debt to limit ratio was a bit high and this is causing a dip in my score. if i use my [redacted] card, how much will it take away from my score? if i don’t use it, i guess they will close the account. i have other credit cards that i haven’t used over a year, and those companies have not lowered my limit or closed the account. i don’t want to lose my [redacted] account, so what should i do?

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      Hi, Cheryl,

      I would look at the balances you are carrying on other cards – are they approaching the limit? Paying those balances down may be a better way to improve your debt-to-credit ratio than worrying about the limit on the card that was lowered.

      Generally, in regards to precluding an issuer closing or lowering your credit, you can try running a small recurring charge – like a subscription or gym membership – on it. Just make sure to pay the bill in full.

      Thank you,

      Jeanine

      • cheryl

        thanks jeanine, i’ll do that.

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