What can I do to improve my credit score?
Credit scoring models are complex and can be difficult to understand. If one factor changes, your score may change — but improvement generally depends on how that factor relates to other factors considered by the model. Only the creditor can explain what might improve your score under the particular model used to evaluate your credit application.
Nevertheless, credit scoring models generally evaluate the following types of information in your credit report:
Pay your bills on time?
Your payment history is a significant factor. Your score will be affected negatively if you have paid bills late, had an account referred to collections, or declared bankruptcy, if that history is reflected on your credit report.
What is your outstanding debt?
Many scoring models evaluate the amount you currently have outstanding. If the amount you owe is close to your credit limit, that is likely to have a negative effect on your score.
How long is your credit history?
Generally, models consider the length of your credit track record. A very short credit history may have an effect on your score, but that can be offset by other factors, such as timely payments and low balances.
Have you applied for new credit recently?
Many scoring models consider whether you have applied for credit recently by looking at “inquiries” on your credit report when you apply for credit. If you have applied for too many new accounts recently, that may negatively affect your score. However, not all inquiries are counted. Inquiries by creditors who are monitoring your account or looking at credit reports to make “prescreened” credit offers are not counted.
How many and what types of credit accounts do you have?
Although it is generally good to have established credit accounts, too many credit card accounts may have a negative effect on your score. In addition, many models consider the type of credit accounts you have. For example, under some scoring models, loans from finance companies may negatively affect your credit rating.
Scoring models may be based on more than just information in your credit report. For example, the model may consider information from your credit application as well: your job or occupation, length of employment, or whether you own a home.
How reliable is the credit scoring system?
Credit scoring systems give creditors the means to evaluate millions of applicants consistently and impartially on many different characteristics. But to be statistically valid, credit scoring systems must be based on a big enough sample. Remember that these systems generally vary from creditor to creditor. Although you may think such a system is arbitrary, it can help make decisions faster, more accurately, and more impartially than individuals when it is properly designed. And many creditors design their systems so that in marginal cases, applicants whose scores are not high enough to pass easily or are low enough to fail absolutely are referred to a credit manager who decides whether the company or lender will extend credit. This may allow for discussion and negotiation between the credit manager and the consumer.