Repeat after me: My debt and credit report are conquerable.
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I know what it’s like to be hindered by poor credit. It affects car insurance policies, determines whether or not you can get a cell phone without a security deposit and can even effect your job eligibility. In my case, it made it difficult for me to move. Thanks to a high debt to income ratio from student loans and several missed payments, my credit score was less than stellar. Luckily, I never really believed in credit cards so that wasn’t an issue. But I did have outstanding medical bills from a period when I had trouble with health insurance. None of it reflected well on my credit score, and it certainly didn’t help when it came time for me to move.
I knew that I would not stand a chance of moving into a larger apartment until I could raise my credit score. Obviously, the best way to do it was to payoff my debt. Unfortunately, paying off that much debt in the time period I needed wasn’t an option so I had to find other ways to make it happen.
I did research, joined financially focused Facebook groups, got my finances together and did whatever I could to raise my credit score. The outcome: I was able to move into a beautiful apartment.
While my credit score did improve I knew that it wouldn’t t really stick unless I get all of my debts paid off or under control. However, I know I’m not the only one who is in the situation of needing to raise credit scores without paying off debt. I’m certainly no financial expert or advisor, but I’m sharing my tips anyway in the hopes that they will help someone else. Follow my advice and do your own research. Here’s how to raise your credit score even if you can’t pay off debt:
1. Pull your credit report
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you plan to fix your credit, you need to get your credit report. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. While pulling your credit score for free from creditkarma.com is helpful, it’s also advised you pull from annualcreditreport.com. This way you will have access to your vantage and Fico scores. It will also help to understand what comprises a credit score. This blog post from Financially Fit & Fab, does a great job of explaining the components of a credit score.
Once you get your report, comb through it to see if there are any inaccuracies, such as misspelled names, false late payments or closed accounts that are still being updated as open. This will be much easier if you keep accurate records of your debts and bills. If you don’t already do so, consider getting a budget planner like this one with a debt tracker to keep payments and accounts organized.
2. Raise your credit limit
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I don’t do credit cards. However, that changed when I got sick of putting down huge deposits every time I rented a car when using a debit card. While I do recognize, the convenience of credit cards I still prefer not to have them. Plus, it’s important to understand how credit card debt can make or break your credit score.
Your debt utilization plays a part in your credit score. If your credit card limit is $2,000 and you’ve maxed out your credit cards or even spent $1500 on credit cards, you’re doing a disservice to your credit score. Keeping high balances is a sign that you’re in over your head and can’t afford to take on new debts because you can’t manage the debt you have. Of course, this means your credit score can drop. Instead, keep your credit utilization to 30 percent of your limit or less. So if your limit is $1,000, your balance should not exceed $300.
Obviously, it’s preferred that you pay down your debts to get 30 percent utilization. However, I understand that takes time and isn’t always possible in the necessary time frame. Another way to help with credit card utilization is to ask the companies to increase your credit limit. If your limit is $1,000 and you have $500 on credit, having your credit limit raised to $2000 will drop your credit utilization and possibly lead to an increase in your credit score.
If you do raise your credit card, do so responsibly and be sure that you have the will power to avoid over spending.
3. Find out when balances are reported
While we’re on the subject of credit cards, ask the company when they report to credit agencies. Once you find out the date, make sure you submit your payment before the reporting date. This will help to make sure the lowest possible balance is always being reported to the credit agencies.
4. Get late payments deleted
Now, everyone knows that late payments reflect poorly on your credit score. What most people don’t know is that sometimes you can get those late payments removed from your credit report; especially if it’s a debt that’s already paid in full.
In combing through my credit score, I found a few debts that were paid off that were reporting late payments. So I decided to dispute these late payments with the credit agencies. In doing so, I was able to have some late payments removed which of course, raised my credit score.
This can also be done for debts you are still paying on.
5. Remove medical debts
Because of HIPAA privacy laws, it’s possible that your medical debts could be reporting to credit agencies illegally. You can dispute medical debts with credit agencies and have them removed. Or send a letter to the debt collectors requesting proof that the debt is yours. Examples of proof would be something with your signature – It can’t be a bill or something just that states the balance.
6. Sign up for Self
Self has been amazing when it comes to raising my credit score. It’s basically a savings account that reports to the credit agencies as on time loan payments. When you sign up, you set the the specific “loan” period, loan amount and monthly payments. The money is then direct debited out of your account and applied to your “loan”. It’s a credit builder without the risk of a credit card or actually borrowing money.
Because 30 percent of your credit score is based on payment history, the positive payment reports from Self can really boost your score. The best part is you get to keep the money. Once you meet the amount you set at sign up, the money is withdrawn and sent to you, so it’s really not a loan at all. You have the chance to walk away with money and a higher credit score. I signed up a year ago and will be reaching my goal of $500 in a few months which I will soon have access to. And yes, my credit score has increased. I’m unable to tell you how much as I didn’t track it accurately and did do several of the things credited here which all contributed to my higher score. However, some people have reported in various financial forums and Facebook groups their credit score increased anywhere from 5 to 75 points. It all depends on your credit profile, debt to income ration and versatility in your credit report. So it’s definitely worth a shot. Sign up for Self here.
7. Payoff debt
So I know this post is called how to raise your credit score without paying off debt, but you really should make an effort to pay them off. At the very least, try to get current on all of your debts. Your debt-to-income ratio as well as your payment history is a big part of your credit score. Plus if you aren’t current on your debts, any credit increase may likely be temporary once your late payments start reporting again. I know it’s not easy at all, but if you have free time, start selling on Ebay to make extra payments to pay off debts and raise your credit score. Or look into other part time income work. Check out my post on side hustles for other ideas.
Are you happy with your credit score? Do you have any tips for raising your credit score?
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