Credit scores. You either love them, or you hate them! A little 3-digit number can be the difference between living in that dream apartment or only getting accepted to a low-light basement suite rental. Everyone begins from scratch, so if you have a low or non-existent credit score, don’t worry. Today, I’m sharing with you how to increase your credit score with your credit cards!
Many who struggle with low credit scores struggle with overspending. But when you know how to live within your means and responsibly use a credit card, it’s not difficult at all to increase your credit score.
To increase it, you must first understand what exactly a credit score is, how it’s calculated, and how to follow the credit score guidebook.
Let’s dive in!
What Is A Credit Score?
The world puts a lot of emphasis on credit scores. But what makes the number so important? Credit scores and reports summarize all of your credit information into one easy-to-read number. In just three digits, the number can tell a financial institution how responsible you are with your money.
While there is a lot behind the number and you as a financial being, it’s a quick and efficient way for lenders to see how likely you are to pay back a loan or other credit obligation.
If you don’t have enough credit info (little to no credit history), you won’t have a score available yet. You can also have different credit scores depending on where you look.
Credit scores are very important once you reach adulthood. A good credit score will allow you to be approved for renting apartments, getting good car insurance, securing a mortgage, better reward credit cards, and better rates anytime you need to borrow money.
What Is Considered A Good Credit Score?
There are so many different systems and scales, so it’s difficult to put down an exact number as an ideal credit score. It will vary depending on the model and the credit bureau used to get the credit score.
Most credit scores fall between 300 to 850. 300 is the absolute worst, and 850 is the absolute best a credit score can be.
For example, FICO is one of the most popular credit scores out there. Their scale looks like this:
- Very poor: 300 to 579
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Good: 670 to 739
- Very Good: 740 to 799
- Excellent: 800 to 850
It’s nearly impossible to be perfect at 850, but the excellent range is very much possible. Those in the fair to the very poor range are less likely to be approved for credit cards and loans, get less desirable terms for the loans and have fewer options for credit cards and loans.
How Is Credit Score Calculated?
They don’t just pull that 3-digit number out of thin air! To determine a credit card score, credit bureaus are looking at a few things:
Account information like credit cards, mortgages, rents, auto loans, etc., tells the company the mixture and types of loans you already have. It also will let them know the amount of time you’ve had the credit and your payment history. AKA, do you pay on time?
Another thing they want to look at is how much credit you have versus how much you use, known as utilization rate. (More on that below!). Credit bureaus may also look at your inquiries which are any requests made by lenders to view your credit. This also includes how often you apply for new credit.
Demographics such as age, gender, race, etc., are not used to calculate credit scores.
Another common myth is that checking to see what your credit score is will affect your credit. This is false. In fact, you should check it often and regularly if you’re trying to increase a credit score or want to secure a major loan soon. Most credit card issuers will provide direct access to a credit score search.
How To Increase Credit Score From Scratch
The best way to increase and get good credit is from credit cards. But a lot of the time, you need a credit score to get a credit card in the first place. So how on earth do you go about starting to build credit?
There are a couple of ways to start if you’re brand new to credit:
- Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card – This is fairly low risk as you’re piggybacking on someone else’s credit. In this case, only do this with someone who has good or excellent credit. As an authorized user, you can only make charges and aren’t liable for any payments.
- Open a college or student card – This is one of the best ways to start building credit, as you can qualify with no credit history at all. Typically, the credit limit is relatively small, like $1,000. To qualify, you must be a minimum of 18 years old and have a source of steady income.
How To Increase Credit Score Quickly With Secured Credit Cards
Secured credit cards are almost the exact same as unsecured (the ‘typical’ credit card). With secured cards, you still have a credit limit, can accrue interest charges, and even can get rewards in some cases.
The biggest difference is that you need to make a deposit before you can secure your line of credit. Typically, the amount you deposit is your credit limit. To get a higher credit limit, you can deposit more money. This deposit acts as collateral in the event that you can’t pay off your balance. But if you do pay off your balance in full, decide to close the account, or upgrade to a secured card, the deposit gets refunded.
If you have no credit or poor credit, there are other credit card options designed for those in the lower credit range. Oftentimes, paying on time and in full consecutively entitles you to get a higher credit.
How To Increase Credit Score With Your Current Credit Cards
If you have a credit card, here are some of the main ways you can make sure you either maintain your good credit score or improve it overall.
The best way to increase your credit score is by watching your payments. Make sure you always pay your credit card on, or better yet, before the due date. Late payments can stay on your credit report for seven years, so you want to avoid ever having one listed. This can imply that you may not pay your debt in the future.
At the very least, turn on automatic minimum payments, so you never accidentally miss a payment. This also ensures you avoid late charges.
When it comes to using a credit card responsibly, only live within your means and spend money you already have. Pay your balance in full (not just the minimum payment) to avoid interest fees. This is how you avoid debt and use a credit card the right way!
Every time you inquire about getting a new credit card, this inquiry does impact your credit score. However, it is quite small. Inquiries will lower scores by about five points and will bounce back after a few months.
Usually, inquiries aren’t the reason for a low credit score. In the overall arc of things, inquiries are low determining factors for a bad credit score. The only time it may have a large impact is if you’re applying for multiple cards in a short period of time.
Does A Credit Card Increase Affect Credit Score?
Yes! One large thing credit bureaus look at when determining your score is your utilization rate. This is the total amount of credit you’re actually using. Besides your payment history, it’s the second biggest factor behind determining your credit score.
For example, let’s pretend you have one credit card with a credit limit of $1,000 and another with $3,000. On both credit cards, you’ve spent a combined total of $2,000. This means your utilization rate is 50%.
Ideally, you want to keep the percentage below 30%. But for those who really want that excellent score, it should be less than 10%.
Now, if you increase your credit limit but end up spending the same amount, you can boost your credit score since you’ll lower your utilization rate. But if you increase your credit limit and increase your spending, you might hurt your credit score as you increase your utilization rate.
It is best to wait until you have good credit to ask for a credit limit increase. Plus, many credit card holders are offered an automatic increase from the bank or credit card company.
And that’s a wrap on how to increase your credit score with credit cards! If you’re also trying to pay off debt alongside upping your credit score, check out my completely FREE resources to guide you through your debt-free journey. This comes from someone who did it themselves!