It’s a Catch-22. If you have bad credit, you pay more in interest on home loans, auto loans, credit cards and more, making it more challenging to make your payments, get out of debt and improve your credit score. On the other hand, if you have good credit, you pay less in interest, increasing the likelihood that you can manage your monthly payments, keeping your credit score high and in tact. The truth is, no matter what your credit score is now, you can achieve the “platinum standard” of credit—a score above 800—and nab yourself the best deals on life’s largest purchases.
As your average 30-something, I’ve been in debt, struggled to pay bills and never had a substantial income to bail me out. But, the one thing I do have (now, anyway) is a credit score of 808. And I’m here to tell you my secrets:
Never miss a payment
I’ve never had a payment reported as late on my credit report. This is crucial to your credit score. Payment history makes up about a third of your credit rating. If you have a good score and miss just one payment, your credit score can suffer upwards of 110 points. Besides debt settlement, foreclosure and bankruptcy, a late payment is about the worst thing you can do to your credit score.
Of course, I’m human. I’ve had flaky moments where I forgot about a bill’s due date and made my payment a few days late. While I was slapped with hefty late fees, I did not get the black mark on my credit report. But I may have been lucky.
Technically, a “30-day late” is any payment received one to 30 days after the due date, according to FICO. However, in many cases, your bank, creditor or lender will give you a grace period of a few days to up to the next due date before reporting your payment as late to the credit bureaus. Find out what your grace period is so you don’t find yourself in a credit crisis.
Keep your balances low and your limits high
Another good chunk of your credit score is determined by your credit utilization, or how much credit you use (balances) compared to how much credit is available to you (limits) – the lower, the better. A good rule of thumb is to keep your balances well below 50 percent of your limits. As soon as you hit the 50 percent mark, your score will begin to take incremental hits. On the other hand, the lower you keep your balances below that 50 percent mark, the more your credit score will incrementally benefit.
Read more: Life Hacke