Of course, credit scoring models are complicated (all that algorithm and the like). But, when you go straight for it, the secret sauce to building good credit is actually pretty straightforward: take a whole bunch of loan payments on time, keep a pinch of debt, add new accounts, and let the thing cook. . Seriously, building and rebuilding credit takes some time.
Still, there are some very easy ways to hack your credit. And although they do not replace the good old traditional recipe, these maneuvers could give a quick boost to an average credit score. (Not sure you need it? You can see where you are by looking two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
Here are some ways to hack your credit score.
1. Pay off large credit card balances
Because if you have them, there’s a good chance they’ll disrupt your credit utilization rate. It is the amount of your debt compared to your total credit. It is recommended that you keep this ratio below at least 30%, and ideally 10%, of your limits. So reimbursing purchases that make you exceed that threshold – in total and on individual cards – can help.
2. Request a credit limit increase
If you cannot settle these balances immediately or if your credit limit is very low, you can ask your issuer to increase your limit. A few notes before you do this: they will likely pull your credit down to see if you can handle the increase. If your credit is bad, you could be faced with a resounding “no”. Whether approved or denied, this credit application will leave an investigation difficult, costing your score a few points. This ding is worth it if you get what you ask for, but less if you don’t. You can find out more about request a higher credit limit here.
3. Become an authorized user
Think of it like a credit card with training wheels. Authorized users, who are added to an existing credit cardholder’s account, get credit for using that card, even though they are not responsible for payments. In other words: you can capitalize on the good credit of a loved one, and if things go wrong, you can request to be removed from the account and have it wiped from your credit report.
4. Check for errors
The hack here, unfortunately, is that you might get an error reducing your score unnecessarily. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people do. If you are one of them, be sure to dispute the misinformation with the credit bureau in question. Your credit score will likely thank you for it. (FYI: You can do a full credit check by pulling your free annual credit report from each of the major consumer credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com.)
5. Open a new account
OK, indulge us for a second, because we’re not suggesting you take financing you can’t afford. It is a terrible idea. We are trying to draw attention to a very important nuance of credit scores: they reward you for handling the different types of credit responsibly. So if all you have is a student loan, getting a credit card could ultimately improve your score. And if all you have is a credit card, taking out an installment loan, like a car loan or mortgage, could do the same – although in this scenario you would definitely increase your debt, so it’s best to only add this funding when you really need it (and can afford it).
6. Consolidate your credit requests
Most credit scoring models combine credit applications for similar funding into a single result so that you can compare prices. (This is technically called deduplication.) So if it’s time to add a mortgage or car loan, be sure to keep all applications within 30-45 days. Credit cards are a different story – each can usually be held against you, although VantageScore aggregates all inquiries made into a 14-day window.
7. Keep old credit cards open
It can be tempting to officially shut down those old credit cards that got you in trouble in the first place. But don’t make that call so quickly. Closing a credit card can hurt your credit utilization rate and, you guessed it, your credit score. On the other hand, leaving that card open could help you score, especially if you have sworn to use its limit. There may be times when closing a credit card is, in fact, the right decision, but think carefully about your options (can you just put it on ice?) Before officially breaking the bank.
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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.
Jeanine Skowronski is the editor-in-chief of Credit.com. His work has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, American Banker, TheStreet, Newsweek, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Fox Business, Forbes, CNBC and various other online publications. Follow her on @JeanineSkoMore from Jeanine Skowronski