1. Get a credit card if you donâ€™t have one: Donâ€™t fall for the myth that you have to carry a balance to have good scores. You donâ€™t, and you shouldnâ€™t. But having and using a credit card or two can really build your scores.
2. Add an installment loan to the mix: Youâ€™ll get the fastest improvement in your scores if you show youâ€™re responsible with both major kinds of credit: revolving and installment.
3. Pay down your credit cards: Paying off your installment loans can help your scores but typically not as dramatically as paying down — or paying off — revolving accounts such as credit cards.
4. Use your cards lightly: Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. Whatâ€™s typically reported to the credit bureaus, and thus calculated into your scores, are the balances reported on your last statements.
5. Check your limits: Your scores might be artificially depressed if your lender is showing a lower limit than you actually have. Most credit card issuers will quickly update this information if you ask.
6. Dust off an old card: The older your credit history, the better. But if you stop using your oldest cards, the issuers may decide to close the accounts or stop updating them to the credit bureaus. The accounts may still appear, but they wonâ€™t be given as much weight in the credit-scoring formula as your active accounts, said Craig Watts, an executive at Fair Isaac, the company that created the FICO score.
7. Get some goodwill: If youâ€™ve been a good customer, a lender might agree to simply erase that one late payment from your credit history. You usually have to make the request in writing, and your chances for a â€œgoodwill adjustmentâ€ improve the better your record with the company (and the better your credit in general). But it canâ€™t hurt to ask.
8. Dispute old negatives: Say that fight with your phone company over an unfair bill a few years ago resulted in a collections account. You can continue protesting that the charge was unjust, or you can try disputing the account with the credit bureaus as â€œnot mine.â€ The older and smaller a collection account, the more likely the collection agency wonâ€™t bother to verify it when the credit bureau investigates your dispute.
9. Blitz significant errors: Your credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit reports, so certain errors there can really cost you. But not everything thatâ€™s reported in your files matters to your scores.