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credit_score_improve(TNS)—A great credit score is the key to getting the financing you need. Whether it’s a car loan or a mortgage — the higher your score, the more likely it is that you will qualify for favorable terms on your next loan.

But not everyone has a high credit score. If your credit score is considered “average” or “poor” — anything lower than 650 — you’ll want to take immediate steps to make it “good” or “excellent,” which is typically considered a score of 700 or above. Here are some ways you can improve your credit score today.

Keep Credit Balances Low
FICO scores, the most popular credit scoring method used by lenders, weigh 30 percent of your credit score on existing amounts owed on credit accounts. A 10 percent credit utilization is ideal when improving your credit score. To find your credit utilization ratio, add up what you owe and divide it by your total available credit.

“Financial companies love profitable customers who run up their credit card balances, right? One might think,” says Randy Padawer, who has consulted with Lexington Law regarding consumer behavior and credit reporting. “But interestingly, that same industry penalizes consumer credit scores as a direct result. To ensure a good credit score, never max out your credit cards. For an even better score, keep balances as low as possible.”

Avoid Impulse Spending
Impulsiveness has its place in areas outside credit repair. When targeting a good credit score, however, making hasty decisions often ends in credit complications down the line.

Padawer warned shoppers of retail credit card solicitations at the checkout counter that promise a discount on purchases.

“Big box stores might offer small price reductions with credit approvals, but resist the fool’s bargain,” Padawer says. “Too many cards may paint you as someone who depends upon borrowed money just to get by, and that’s why credit scores almost always suffer in turn.”

Look for Report Errors
With prospective landlords, employers, lenders and other creditors scrutinizing your credit, it’s on your shoulders to do your due diligence in spotting errors on your annual credit report.

If you find a discrepancy, report the issue to credit reporting companies as soon as possible. According to the Federal Trade Commission, companies typically must investigate disputes within 30 days of receiving a correction request.

Make Timely Payments
Poor payment habits can be the biggest detriment to improving your credit. Thirty-five percent of your FICO score is determined by your payment history. A track record of late payments or missed payments will result in a downgrade of your score.

Stay on top of payment due dates, and for added safety, make sure to schedule payments with enough time to clear before your creditor’s deadline.

Know All of Your Credit Scores
The FICO score isn’t the only credit score creditors can base their decisions on; in fact, the three credit reporting bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — pulled together to create their own credit scoring model, called the VantageScore.

While FICO is used by more creditors to determine creditworthiness, being aware of your VantageScore and working to improve it can help you look your best should a creditor decide to use this algorithm instead of your FICO score. It can also be used as an educational tool to see where your strengths and weaknesses are.

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