High credit scores: they’re the keys to the kingdom of the financial world, unlocking lower interest rates and better credit card perks — not to mention helping to make big ticket items like houses and cars more accessible.

But if you don’t have a high credit score (or you don’t have any credit at all), what can you do? Plenty! It just takes a bit of patience. Here are the tips that people with high scores have used to climb their way up.

1. Always pay on time.

Paying your bills before or on the deadline is one of the most crucial things you can do. If you’ve been slipping up in this area and making late payments, it can tank your score quickly.1 To make the process easier, enroll in your credit card company’s automated bill paying program, which will automatically withdrawal the funds from your bank account on the due date. Or sign up for email and text alerts.

2. Chip away on your balances.

To save money on interest, always try to pay more than the minimum monthly payment when you can. Even paying an extra $20 a month could make a difference. Check out this calculator to see why paying more than the minimum is a best practice.

3. Once you have your debt under control, pay off your balances in full every month.

This is one of the major positive habits of people with good credit,2 since paying off your balance ensures that you won’t be accruing additional financing charges on purchases. You can save that money instead! Keeping your cards balance-free will ensure you have a low credit utilization ratio, which also factors into your credit score.1

4. Monitor and address errors in your credit report immediately.

It happens. The major credit reporting bureaus —Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax — or your creditors do sometimes make mistakes. If you aren’t checking your report regularly, you won’t know if there’s an error somewhere that could be keeping you from attaining an optimal score. Check your reports at least once a year — you can get it for free from Annual Credit Report. If you see something that looks incorrect, get in touch with the appropriate credit bureau and have it investigated and addressed.2

5. If you make a mistake and miss a payment, fix it quickly.

Once you’ve missed a payment, it might be tempting to let it slip — but how late you are matters. So if you make a mistake (and we all do — even those with high credit scores!), all is not lost! If you are late less than 30 days, for example, you may have to pay a penalty fee — but the late payment may not show up on your report. If you’re later than that, note that credit reporting bureaus report late payments in 30-day increments: so being 30 days late looks a lot better than being 60 or 90 days behind. The sooner you pay, the sooner you can get back to building better credit.


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