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Improve Your Credit Score and Creditworthiness

Written by Equifax Experts on December 5, 2011 in Credit  |   38 comments

Bad credit can happen to good people; don’t despair if it has happened to you. There are ways you can get your creditworthiness in shape over time and improve your credit score. But you have get started today—and keep working hard to show potential lenders…

Improve credit scoreBad credit can happen to good people; don’t despair if it has happened to you. There are ways you can get your creditworthiness in shape over time and improve your credit score. But you have get started today—and keep working hard to show potential lenders you’re serious about getting your ability to take on credit in order.
As you work toward your goal, your creditworthiness should improve, resulting in better credit offers being sent your way that can help you save money.

Because accurate and timely credit information generally cannot be removed from your credit report, there are no quick fixes to improve your creditworthiness. However, by improving your creditworthy behavior going forward and over time, you may be able reestablish your creditworthiness and your credit capacity.

Get started on increasing your creditworthiness

Open new accounts and pay them off. Being able to repay a variety of new accounts is a key step in rebuilding your creditworthiness. This means that devising a strategy to open and pay off as many different kinds of accounts as you can is better than adding more debt to an existing credit card.

Start small. Reestablishing your creditworthiness can be similar to starting over from scratch. Starting small, with credit cards from department stores or your local credit union, can be useful in this case.

Consider asking for help. If you can’t qualify for credit on your own, ask a friend or family member to cosign for a small loan or credit card. If you can stay current on a major credit card account or small auto loan, it will speed up the process of reestablishing good credit and improving your credit score on your own.

Consider a secured credit card. Secured cards are guaranteed by a deposit you make with the credit grantor and offer the purchasing power of a major credit card. Just make sure the grantor reports payment histories to the three major credit-reporting companies so that by using your card, you are building a positive payment history.

Use your new accounts in moderation. In addition, make payments that are more than the minimum. You can keep a small balance on your new accounts so that your positive payment history will continue to show up on your credit report.

Keep your balances low. Avoid carrying a balance of more than 30 percent of your credit limit. Lenders may view this as excessive debt with which you may not be able to stay current.

Reduce your household spending. Review your household expenses and determine which ones you could do without. Consider creating a budget to track exactly where your money goes each month.

Call lenders if you can’t pay some of your debts. Explain your situation. Some lenders will be willing to work out a plan for you to pay back what you owe.

Contact a reputable credit counseling agency to make a plan for paying off your credit bills. Beware of agencies that offer “quick fix” ways to get out of debt. Talk to counselors at a consumer credit counseling agency.

Check your progress

By reading this article, you have taken the first step toward reestablishing your credit. Now it’s time to take the next steps. Do you know exactly where your credit payment history stands? Find out by purchasing your Equifax Credit Report™ so you can monitor your credit file.

It takes some time for your new creditworthiness to gain momentum. You are demonstrating that you are not depending on certain credit cards and loans for your financial survival. That’s why opening and paying down accounts may make it a little easier to get more credit.

With patience and timely repayments, you’ll likely be able to reestablish your creditworthiness so that lenders will look on you favorably when making decisions about your ability to handle even more credit.

READ MORE:
Credit Card Shopping Rises for the Holidays
6 Ways To Prevent Identity Theft
Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft: How It Happens
Credit Trends: Mortgages and New Credit Cards
Money Management Tips: Choosing the Right Savings Account
Money Management Tips: Set Your Savings Priorities

38 comments

  1. Gladys Ruiz says:

    How does a deed in Lieu of forclosure affect credit?

  2. KC Hall says:

    Two questions: 1) Does someone checking my credit score (auto dealer, phone company) actually lower my credit score and if so is it significant enough to worry about?

    2) does starting off with a credit card that offers an annual fee but no interest for the first nine months hurt me if I drop the card after using it and leaving it in “good standing” when they introduce the 22% interest after the nine months?

    • ron says:

      closing an account will remove that amount of available credit from your file and will in effect lower your score because of the debt to available credit ratio. higher ratio means lower score.

  3. Equifax Finance Blog Editor says:

    @KC Hall — Thanks for the questions.

    1) Inquiries can affect your credit score, but the impact depends on whether it is a hard or soft inquiry. There’s more information about the different kinds of credit report inquiries here: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/interest-rate-shopping-and-its-effect-on-your-credit-score/

    If you’re shopping around for a mortgage or auto loan, you have 30 days to check out different interest rates. The inquiries within 30 days will count as ONE inquiry on your credit report.

    2) How you use your credit cards will definitely affect your credit score. It’s not the interest rate, but your available balance, and your payment history that will affect your credit score. However, opening and closing cards frequently can also affect your credit score. Find more information about credit cards here: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/credit-score-changes-how-does-closing-an-account-affect-my-credit-score/

    Thanks for reading.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If an item gets paid off– a bad debt and shows paid does that raise score a little bit?

    • Equifax Finance Blog Editor says:

      Paying off debt is usually a positive activity on your credit report. Every situation is different, but you can find more information about debt and your credit report here: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/good-debt-vs-bad-debt-evaluating-your-debt-ratio/

    • Josh says:

      Once your debt gets charged of or goes into collections it is bad debt. If you pay it your score will go down even further. That is why a lot of people don’t pay and our country went into recession! Because of how the fico score works! No one wanted there score to go lower so they didn’t pay and the banks went bankrupted! You can blame that on these 3 credit burros. Transition, Equafax and experian.

  5. Brigitte says:

    If I have a note on my credit report, beside my car loan, saying that my car loan is a “garantied loan”, is that a bad note to have? Does it affect negatively my credit score?

  6. MadMama says:

    I have found predatory lenders are also big customers of Equifax and other bureaus. Regardless of the FCRA; no one will listen to a borrower when an item is in dispute. Predatory lenders are using the CRA’s to harass consumers via credit reports.

    They dont have to provide any data supporting their claims to the consumer nor the bureaus. They simply have to say “its true they owe us money!” and the info keeps riding. I have had these lenders destroy my report then they are the only ones to step up and offer credit at exhorbitant rates. All of the bureaus actually have links on their sites; handing over fraud victims for even more abuse!

    The fraud is not from identity theft but predatory lenders offering 200-300 credit limits with the promise of rebuilding credit. Then your score is lowered for having a low limit account. No matter how well you pay it will not help your score. You will not be offered any higher limits and no one will want to touch you when orchard bank, capital one, providian, hsbc or any other such lender is on your credit report. They will not reward you for making timely payments.

    I have actually had one of those accounts and paying it ahead and trying to establish a good history only got me a lowered limit. That way, it appears I had charged the account to the limit. My score was dropped, I could go no where else. Their excuse: “You’ve had derogatory credit elsewhere therefore we had to lower your limit.” The truth is….they were aware of the derogatory credit when they offered the card. If you really try to get out of the trap they do what ever they can and pass you around to other predators while Equifax looks the other way.

    The bureaus are like killer robots destroying the consumer at the whim of predatory lenders who are actually bigger customers than any of us could ever afford.

    I have two entries from a credit account that was made with automatic payments and extra payments on the balance every month. They ran the account back up with late fees triggered by the extra payments!

    Now it is listed as two seperate entries and disputes have been completely ignored. When I call the creditors they have no idea what Im talking about but Equifax will not budge. The creditor has no record but none of the bureaus are listening. They wont upset a high paying business customer. The business customer can afford the higher fees since they can take 2000.00 for a 200.00 loan.

    I sure would like that rate of return, where do I sign up?

  7. John says:

    Question for the Editor:

    Can the margin borrowing power of a brokerage account be used as ‘available credit’ in a consumers credit file?

    Net worth is not considered in calculating credit scores, but can the amount available by borrowing on margin be included in a credit file (ultimately credit score) ?

  8. Richard says:

    I am trying to get a house, and I need my Equifax score to go up only four points I have tried everything the lender has told me and my score just keeps floating going up a little, down a little… back and forth, I do not know what to do??

  9. John says:

    The query on including margin borrowing power as a line of credit appears to have the Editor stumped (?)

    When one has margin has ‘margin buying power,’ one can receive a check from their brokerage acct. Such ‘borrowing power’ is not limited to purchase of negotiable registered securities.

  10. Rhonda says:

    If I have old debt, that was reported in 2009 & 2010, and hasn’t been reported since. If I pay it off, will it become new debt and lower my score or will it raise my score?

  11. David says:

    My daughter, age 26, has no debt, a new career job in a technical field and almost $20,000 in savings. However, only recently did she obtain her first credit card, and the credit union sponsoring it gave her a $300 limit. She is aware she should use it in a limited way and pay it off each month. Potential lenders are holding her lack of a prior credit history against her, even though her finances are more solid than most. Any suggestions on how to address this with lenders? How long will it take to establish a decent credit score (over 620) in this situation?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      David, thanks for asking. I am really glad to hear that your daughter is working towards establishing good credit. You both have already noticed that a well-paying job, although beneficial, does not have an impact on a person’s credit score. A credit score is a way for lenders to know how likely a consumer is to pay a debt. People of any income level can be really great at paying debts or they can have a negative payment history. Your daughter hasn’t had any debt so lenders aren’t sure how risky of a borrower she is so she’s considered a higher risk. We have a blog about how to build a strong credit report from the beginning, and I think it would be really helpful for both of you to review: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/building-a-strong-credit-report-from-the-beginning/

  12. Lonie says:

    Why can you get credit reports free (annually) but cannot get credit scores without paying something out of pocket? I really want to see my 3 scores but, never have and been working hard on getting credit to awesome!(so to speak)Someone clue me in!! Thanks

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Lonie, great question, thank you for asking. Each credit reporting agency evaluates your credit report differently so the scores they have are considered proprietary. It is important to monitor both your credit report and credit score so you know how lenders view you as a borrower. Click here for more information on how your credit score is calculated. Thanks for posting.

  13. Ed says:

    I was injured on the job and was on Worker’s Comp for a few months. My salary was greatly affected and I got behind on bill payments. Now, I’m back on the job and salary is back to normal. Is there any way to report this to Equifax so it doesn’t look like I just did not want to make payments?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Ed, I’m sorry to hear you were injured. Medical setbacks can have a big impact on our incomes and hurt our ability to pay debts on time. It sounds like your health has recovered though, and now it’s time to repair any damage on your credit report. You are able to add a Consumer Statement on your credit report. It’s an opportunity to explain any negative marks on your credit report. Review this FAQ on making a Consumer Statement on your credit report. Thank you so much for posting.

  14. Mike says:

    I have been working on my improving my credit score for the past five years and have finally joined the 760+ club! While reviewing my score details on Equifax.com, apparently the “types” of credit I have are negatively impacting my score. I have several credit cars (revolving), a student loan (installment), and a mortgage. I do not have anything in the “other” bracket. Could you provide an example of what is considered to be “other”? Also, is there a certain mix of credit types I should be striving for? If so, what would that be?

    Thanks for your time,

  15. Anonymous says:

    you can always sign up for the free trial and just cancel before the expired date is. Thats what I do.

  16. Paul says:

    Can’t people see what is going on here.. this is yet another way of getting money out of you and me, a total rip off to make millions, this is how it is:- you apply for credit, get turned down and directed to a credit agency who charge you to look at your own personal information (easy money).
    To top this off, if you ask for help you are directed around the houses, they tell you to get in touch with the company who put the information on your file (who puts this information on your file?)do they know your situation? do they care?
    take my advice, don’t get caught out by signing up to credit agencies, you can take control yourself!

  17. Mike Jaskwhich says:

    February 18, 2013
    I enjoyed reading all the comments. Unfortunately, they create a dismal picture of how the credit industry works and how they are in cahoots with the lenders to insure that the lenders can charge us all higher interest rates. The irony is that while the whole financial industry collapsed over the past few years for making bad loans, we the borrowers who have assets and who have maintained good credit sometimes for over 40 years find ourselves getting screwed because some small vender says we did not pay a bill. You can own a $200,000 house without any debt and have paid all your bills for 10 years and if you close out a credit card and challenge a cell phone bill, you will find that you can’t even refinance your house or buy a new car without paying an exorbitant interest penalty. Who gains here? The lenders and the credit agencies.
    The suggestion that you can dispute bogus charges is false. A dispute is always resolved in favor of the credit holder. Saying you do not owe the bill falls on deaf ears. It’s a waste of time to even deal with the credit agencies, they simply want to charge you for getting information about yourself and wave a red flag saying be careful and watch out…which means buy our products.

    It’s time to get congress to step in.

  18. Tiffany says:

    I am sending two children to college and both are applying for student loans and are required to have co-signers (me) as a single parent to sign but have been turned down by banks due to my credit points (currently at 678) I dont know what points they are looking at, I have paid my bills on time for the past 2 years, have credit cards, my home was on short sale I suppose that was the reason for bad credit. I am trying to increase the points in order to be able to get both children to get student loans. Any ideas??

    • nonegiven says:

      Don’t cosign your kid’s student loans. Read consumerist.com on never cosigning loan, especially a student loan.

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Tiffany, it’s great to hear that both of your children are headed off to college! What an exciting time for all of you. You might want to look at your credit report yourself and see what the lenders are seeing. It’ll give you a better idea of how you can improve. Click here for more information about checking your credit report. I hope this helps.

  19. elc says:

    Why do mortgage companies get a different score than you do when you check your own credit scores?

  20. EFX Moderator, EM says:

    Great question, elc. There are different credit score models available to lenders. Some use industry-weighted scores, and others use blended scores from all three CRAs. The lender determines which score model it prefers. If your Equifax Credit Score differs greatly from the score your lender has calculated, you might want to bring a recent copy of your Equifax Credit Score to the lender. You can then compare the differences and figure out which information is missing or inaccurate. Read more about it here: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/why-is-the-credit-score-my-lender-calculated-different-from-my-equifax-score/

    Thanks for posting.

  21. Uncleelmo says:

    I’d like to know why medical bills are only reported to credit agencies when they become delinquint, In the past I’ve either paid off medical bills immediately or used their repayment plans. and paid them off on, or ahead of schedule. This should demonstrate fiscal responsibility. I don’t currently have any revolving credit, mortgages, car loans. I prefer to save for those things that I can’t buy outright. I measure desire for something against the cost, this prevents foolish purchases.
    Is there any way I can have these accounts displayed onj my credit record

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Great question. It’s up to lenders to report information to credit reporting agencies. It sounds like your medical bills aren’t being reported by the medical office. When they are past due and sent to a collections agency, however, it sounds like the collections agency is reporting the delinquent payments. You could always see if there’s a medical practice that will report your on-time payments to a credit reporting agency. Regardless, you fiscal responsibility shows with the positive information on your credit report. Even if your medical bills aren’t reporting, it sounds like you are being financially responsible. Have you checked your credit report lately to see what is being reported? Here are tips on how to view your credit report. I hope this helps.

  22. SpringLilly says:

    It’s interesting to me which questions that the moderators answer, and the ones they do not. I’ll admit that MadMama was on a bit of a rant, however, she also asked several questions that weren’t answered. Rhonda, Richard and Mike also had very good questions that weren’t answered-and frankly, I would have liked to know what causes the fluctuations in the scores. My husband and I have gotten to the point that we no longer use credit cards at all simply because of all the games that the credit card companies and the CRAs. I am also amazed that you can go from having a 7,500 credit line to having a 600 credit line simply because you haven’t ever maxed the card out, EVEN if you use it about every month and pay it off. My personal opinion is that the credit card companies don’t like you paying off your accounts-whether it’s paying monthly, or making monthly payments on your balance. Seems to me like you just can’t win.

  23. ForeverSarai says:

    My husbands credit report consists of mainly past due/collections medical bills. Just wanted to know if we pay these off will it raise his score? I keep seeing that sometimes paying off certain debts can lower your score, just wanted to make sure.

  24. bkohlh says:

    My credit score seems lower than it should be. Only 6% of available credit is being used. My car loan sits at 53%. I have no negative reports. There are plenty of suggestions to rebuild credit, but few to improve what should already be a great score. I have had it up to 801 and now it is below 700 and little to no difference in my outstanding balances. It makes no sense.

  25. Johnny says:

    my credit score dropped 70 points after i paid off my collection debt and pay off half one of my credit card what is going on? need some help.

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Johnny, great question, but it’s difficult to say how certain actions impact your credit score because each person’s credit history is different. However, you can always start to boost your score by positively affecting it.

      Because collections can have a considerable negative impact on your credit score, make sure you pay your bills on time. If you have missed payments, work on paying off your debt and keeping your credit card balances low.

      Here is more information to help boost your credit score: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/boost-your-credit-score-to-become-a-better-borrower/

  26. ML says:

    I recently made a payment on my Emblem card, getting my balance down to $30. (The card has a limit of $150. I got the card to help me establish good credit.) The day I got the balance down, aiming at 30% utilization across the board, my score dropped from 669 to 668?! WTF! Why did it go down?

    • EFX Moderator_KB says:

      ML, great question. Credit scores are calculated using the information from your credit report. Although your credit report contains information from the companies that have granted you credit in the past and those with whom you have open accounts, not all creditors report to all three credit reporting agencies. While the majority do report to all three, some creditors report to only one of the three agencies, while others may not report to any at all. This can result in different information appearing on credit reports from each of the three credit-reporting agencies and when that information is used to calculate a score, the score will likely vary by credit-reporting agency. For more information, click here: Credit report update: how is information updated on my credit report? I hope this helps and thanks for posting.


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