Seven steps to improve your credit score
August 31, 2009 | Alliant Credit Union
In today's credit crunch economy, it's more important than ever to maintain a high credit score. The good news: your score is recalculated monthly and here are steps you can take to maintain a high score and even improve it.
1. Check your credit score for free on Alliant's Online Banking at www.alliantcreditunion.org. We'll update your credit score at the start of each quarter, with a number reported by Experian, one of the nation's largest credit rating bureaus. (See the enclosed insert for more details on this service). Note: not all members will have a credit score available on Alliant Online Banking. Please refer to the FAQs on the credit score page on Alliant Online Banking for information.
2. Order your credit report for free from annualcreditreport.com, the only web site authorized by the U.S. government to provide free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). These reports provide a detailed history of your credit transactions and payments, but do not include your credit score number. Scrutinize the reports for mistakes, such as accounts that
aren't yours, debts you paid off shown as outstanding and late payments actually paid on time. Notify the credit bureau if you find a mistake - it must verify the information is accurate within 30 days or else remove it.
3. Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments erode your score and the longer you pay your bills promptly, the better your score. Example: if your score is 707, you could raise your score as much as 20 points by paying your bills on time for a month. Even if the debt you owe is small, it's vital to make payments on time, at least the minimum payment required. Trouble remembering due dates? Rely on Bill Pay, a feature of Alliant's Online Banking, to set up automatic payments from your Alliant checking account.
4. Keep your credit card balances low. Keep balances at 50% or less than your available limit. And, avoid maxing out your card - that could lower your score by as much as 70 points.
5. Don't open a slew of credit cards you don't need, such as store cards that offer a percent off with your first purchase. New accounts can actually lower your score up to 10 points each.
6. Don't close old paid-off accounts. Closing these cards shortens your credit history (one of the factors in your score) and makes you appear less creditworthy, even if your account is unused or inactive.
7. Move fast when shopping for a loan. In the market for a mortgage or car loan? Do your comparison shopping within 30 days of your desired purchase date. That way your inquiries won't lower your score.
Sources: TheWashington Post, TheWall Street Journal, The Federal Reserve Board, Fair Isaac Corporation, Experian, creditreport.com, nmainstreet.com and cnnmoney.com
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