There are a variety of reasons why you’d want to improve your credit score. You could be getting ready to make a big purchase such as buying a house, or you may want to make sure your options are open in the case of an financial emergency. In fact, in today’s world, your credit score is a key element to financial freedom. In addition to higher interest rates, low credit scores can affect your life in many other areas as well. Companies run credit checks before employment, and low credit scores can affect your auto insurance rates. All of these are great motivators for making improvements, but there isn’t always a great amount of information on exactly how to improve your score.
Fortunately, if you want to learn how to build credit fast, we have a few tricks.
Check Your Credit Report Limits
Credit card companies often omit or inaccurately report credit card limits, and this causes your score to drop. About half of all consumers are missing at least one credit limit on their credit reports. And in other instances, credit card companies intentionally report a lower limit than you have.
Why does this hurt your credit score?
The credit-scoring formula places a lot of weight on something called a utilization rate. The utilization rate represents your credit card balance as a percentage of your limit. If your limit is $1000 and your balance is $300, you have a 30 percent utilization rate. If your balance increases to $500, your utilization rate would increase to 50 percent. In other words, you would be utilizing 50 percent of your available limit.
The credit-scoring formula responds more favorably to people who have a utilization rate that is no higher than 30 percent. Now let’s imagine that you have a $300 balance on a credit card with a limit of $1000. Your utilization rate is 30 percent. Good news for your credit score, right?
Not so fast. If the credit card company is only reporting a $500 limit, you will appear to be carrying a 60 percent utilization rate. And this hurts your credit score. So if you want to raise your credit score fast …
1. Check your credit report and make sure that your limits are being properly reported.
2. If they are not, call your credit card companies immediately and tell them that misreporting limits is against the law. Correcting the error should cause your score to jump quickly.
Become an Authorized User
One of the first pieces of advice I give to people who have suffered severe financial crises is to become authorized users on credit cards. Authorized users are allowed to use credit cards but have no contractual obligation to pay the bills. For this reason, a person does not need to have a high credit score to qualify for authorized user status on a credit card. However, the credit card’s history will often be reported on the authorized user’s credit report, so long as the authorized user is related to the account holder.
Becoming an authorized user on a family member’s credit card will quickly raise your credit score (even after a bankruptcy or other financial disaster) by allowing you to “borrow” the account holder’s clean credit history. However, the account holder—fearful that you will rack up huge charges you cannot or will not repay—might be reluctant to add your name to his or her account. Let the account holder know that she or he can be protected.
- First, the account holder should shred the credit card that arrives for you.
- Second, the account holder should never give you the account number, credit card expiration date, or card security code.
In this way, your credit score will increase while still protecting the account holder from any irresponsible behavior on your part. Authorized users usually see a quick jump in their score. After twelve or eighteen months, you might be able to remove yourself from the account and qualify for loans on your own.
A Tip for Married People
To build your credit fast, transfer as much of your credit card debt into your spouse’s name. To do this, simply have your spouse “buy” your debt by paying your balance(s) with his or her credit card(s). Assuming you both have individual credit cards, this will cause your score to jump quickly.
You see, the credit-scoring bureaus place a lot of weight on something called a utilization rate. Each of your credit cards has a utilization rate, which is a number that describe how much of your limit you are utilizing. For instance, if a credit card has a $1000 limit and you have a $100 balance, you are utilizing 10 percent of your limit. Your utilization rate, therefore, is 10 percent.
Credit-scoring bureaus respond best if your utilization rate is below 30 percent, so you should always lower your utilization rate.
Start by transferring balances to your spouse’s credit cards. Of course, this might lower your spouse’s credit score, but you will buy the debt back (thereby increasing your spouse’s score) once you have qualified for the loan.
In short, you will have better loan terms, and your spouse’s score will be lowered only temporarily.
A Tip for Single People
If you are single and also want to know the fastest way to build credit, you can modify this tip and use the same strategy with a family member or a loved one. However, be sure to put some structures in place so that your family member/loved one is protected. You might also give your family member/loved one collateral. Is your car paid off? Do you have an expensive piece of jewelry? One way or another, be sure that you never jeopardize family relationships just to raise your credit score!
By P. Tirone