FICO 101: How to Improve Your FICO Score (Credit Score)

FICO 101:  How to Improve Your FICO Score (Credit Score)

improve-your-fico-scoreAlmost every working American has a FICO score. Anyone with a Social Security number, a job, and any kind of debt is likely to have a record with one or all of the three major credit reporting agencies. This credit report history results in an algorithmic score that rates each individual’s creditworthiness. A higher FICO score means that a person is responsible in acquiring and paying debt, while a low score tells potential creditors that a person is a higher risk.

How is a FICO Score Determined?

Your FICO score is an algorithmic mathematical weighted formula. Your credit history shows how many creditors you have, what your credit limit is for each creditor, how much of your limit you have used, and also whether you pay on time and as agreed or have made late payments in the past.

Serious credit issues, such as repossession, foreclosure, and collections, will also show on your credit report, as well as financial judgments from a court of law. All these critical aspects are scored by their importance to provide a single number of your creditworthiness.

What Affects My FICO Score And How Can I Protect It?

Your FICO score must be treated with care, much like a pet. It needs constant nurturing, maintenance, and sometimes, it must be treated by a professional and bandaged for repair. A credit history can be damaged by anyone who reports your credit activity to the reporting agency without your consent. Subsequently, it is paramount to treat your creditors with respect and pay them as agreed.

Your credit report and FICO score can be damaged by the report of any of the following:

• Late Payments – If you miss a scheduled payment on a credit card, auto, or home mortgage payment, it will show on your report. Late payments are noted as simply late, and in increments of 30, 60, and 90+ late. The more days late your payment is, the lower your credit score. In fact, your credit score can drop almost overnight.

CREDIT TIP: Even if you cannot pay your creditors, you should make arrangements right away when you experience financial difficulty. Try to work with your creditors regarding a payment plan, which may prevent them from reporting a late payment on your credit score.

• Over Limit – Your credit card companies will report your maximum credit limit. If you charge more than that limit, your report will reflect it.

CREDIT TIP: Always stay well below your credit limit. Conventional wisdom says to keep your charged credit at 2/3 or below your limit for each creditor.

• Collection – If you fail to make payments for a period of time on a credit card or other debt, your account will close and be sent to a collection agency. Your credit report will show both the account closure and the new reporting by the collection agency, adding even more damage to your credit.

CREDIT TIP: Avoid collections by working with creditors directly. If you do end up in a collection account, pay it in full as soon as possible. The worst thing you could do is avoid the creditors and collection agencies.

How Can I Improve My FICO Score?

If you have had past credit issues that affect your FICO score, there are strategies you can implement to start improving your score today.

• Payoff All Problem Credit – If your FICO score is affected by negatively closed or collection accounts, immediately pay them in full as soon as possible.

• Get A Secured Credit Card – If you’re unable to get an unsecured credit card, obtain a secured card with a deposit amount. Start making charges and paying your balance in full each month. This will help build your history of reliable monthly payments.

• Get A Personal Loan – Many banks and credit unions will allow you to obtain a personal loan with a savings or CD deposit as security. Obtain a small personal loan, such as $1000, and keep the money in the bank – don’t spend it! Immediately make the first payment and continue making regular payments each month thereafter. Your bank will report your good payment status, and your FICO score can start improving.

Credit is one of the most important personal issues for every consumer. Your credit report and score can determine whether you can get a home loan, a new credit card, and even affect whether you get a job. Treat it with care and you will succeed in keeping your FICO score in a positive range.

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