Even if it's not a part of your 2019 resolutions, it's always a good time to whip your credit back into shape.
Your credit score is important for your next big purchase, whether it's a new car or a new home. It may also come to the rescue when you need to apply for a new line of credit for an unexpected purchase. A good credit score gives you the flexibility to maximize your purchasing power, secure lower rates and plan for your future.
With that in mind, here are five ways you can boost your score in 2019.
View Your Credit Score
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the reason why consumers have access to free credit reports every 12 months from each of the national reporting agencies. Use them – check them often and track your score.
For those who really want to stay on top of their scores, many credit companies and banks offer weekly or monthly updates via websites and apps. Simply log in and look for your credit score status. Going directly to the credit bureaus will likely result in a more accurate report, however.
Making this a habit will set you up for success.
Look for Errors
Once you get your report, it's important to check for errors. Try to make this an annual activity.
Checking the accuracy of your credit score helps ensure your report reflects your true credit worthiness, which is essential to your financial future.
Thankfully, the Fair Credit Reporting Act puts the onus on reporting agencies and creditors to get the information right. They can be held liable for not correcting a record with faulty information, or not making necessary changes within 30 days of your dispute request.
You can file a challenge by creating an account online with one of the credit bureaus, calling the agencies or sending a letter to formally submit a request for an error to be fixed.
Fix Late Payments
The closest thing to a credit mulligan is not to file for bankruptcy, but rather, make up for past misdeeds.
Making good on your promises a little late will help you get back on track. You can do so by calling your credit card issuer to plan payments. If you're extremely late and your creditor has escalated the process to a collection agency, you can negotiate to pay a lump sum at a lower rate.
Remember, late payments can stay on your report for up to seven years. Be proactive by setting up multiple reminders for due dates, or reaching out to your credit company and requesting to adjust your due dates so they better align to your schedule and budget.
Typically, the sweet spot for your credit balance should be around 30 percent. This means you can maintain a steady footing on your credit by having at least 70 percent of it available at all times.
Paying down debt is a good way to boost your score. When you begin to pay more toward your accounts, focus on credit cards that are higher percentage-wise of the credit limit to maximize the impact of your debt reduction.
Many credit companies embed credit score widgets online that you can use to follow your debt. Along with the scores, you can review balances and ratios that detail your credit worthiness.
Limit Credit Applications
Sometimes, a credit inquiry can be a good thing for your credit report, but it is best done in moderation.
Limit the number of inquiries you make, especially if you have been experiencing a lot of rejections recently. Also, beware of the promotion at your favorite store that's issued when you apply for a credit card.
Being judicious with your credit inquiries plays a role in your credit ranking because no matter if you are approved, a hard inquiry can have a lasting impact on your score for an entire year.
Don't worry about soft inquiries, the kind that