5 Ways to Improve Your Credit ScoresCredit scores impact almost every aspect of your life. In fact, your scores can be checked by everyone from landlords and employers to mortgage lenders and credit card issuers. As such, it’s essential for you to know what’s on your credit reports and what your credit scores look like, as we’ve previously explained. If your credit scores aren’t as high as you’d like, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do to improve them. Read on to see why your credit score might be slumping — and what to do about it.

How can you improve your credit scores?

First, it’s important to figure out what is lowering your credit scores. You can do this by checking your credit reports, as the activity on your credit reports is used to determine your credit scores. Get a copy of your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can do this for free once every 12 months, but there will be a fee for any reports beyond that. Look through your reports for a lack of credit history, errors, identity theft and late payments. Once you identify the factor(s) bringing down your credit scores, you can take the following steps to boost your credit scores.

No credit history

You may find that you don’t have much credit history. That is, if you don’t have a record of paying off loans or credit, money lenders and credit issuers don’t have much to go off of to determine whether and how quickly you are likely to pay off debt. In that case, a good way to build up your scores is to start using a credit card. Pick a credit card that requires low or average credit (usually considered a credit score ranging from 620 to 670). While you may be tempted to apply for two or three cards at once, applying and being denied by multiple credit issuers can lower your credit, so only apply for the right card for your credit scores and needs. Once you have your card, use it to pay for things you’ve already budgeted for (like groceries or your monthly bills) and pay off your debt on time.

Credit report errors

Are there errors on your credit reports? They’re not uncommon! Your reports might include the credit history of someone with a similar name, accounts listed with incorrect balances, duplicate accounts or closed accounts listed as open. Some errors might not hurt your credit, like a misspelled name, but those same discrepancies could become an issue later if they keep relevant credit history (like a loan application) from showing up. If you see something incorrect on one of your credit reports, contact the credit bureau that maintains that report to dispute it. The bureau will have 30 days to research the issue and respond. Removing errors can quickly improve your credit scores.

Identity theft

If you see unfamiliar accounts in your name, that goes beyond a minor error — someone may have stolen your identity. With the number of data breaches in recent years, identity theft has become increasingly common. If you see discrepancies that look like identity theft, report them to identitytheft.gov and follow their recovery plan. You may also want to use an identity protection service for additional peace of mind, as our top-rated services will monitor for your information on the Internet black market, where information goes after a data breach, as well as alert you if something is added or changed on your credit reports.

Late payments

Having trouble keeping up with your payments? Late payments can really hurt your credit scores. Oftentimes, credit cards have great intro features that go away after the first year or so. If you find that the APR on your credit card is getting too high, making your debt difficult to pay off, try transferring your debt to a balance transfer card with a low balance transfer rate and low intro APR for a long period of time. You can find the best one for you using our free Balance Transfer Calculator. Most balance transfer credit cards require good credit or better (considered a credit score of 700 or higher), so don’t wait until your credit dips too low! After transferring your balance, you may be tempted to cancel your old credit card. Resist! One of the factors that influences your credit score is the ratio of available credit to debt. By keeping your account open without adding additional debt, you can improve your credit scores.

Secured credit cards can also help

If your credit rating has gotten too low to qualify for most credit cards, whether from identity theft or from mistakes managing your credit in the past, you should consider applying for a secured credit card. These cards require an upfront deposit to act as security in case you default on your payments. Besides that, they function similarly to other credit cards — but unlike most cards, they report your payment history to all three credit bureaus. This means when you use the secured card responsibly, all three of your credit reports will reflect this activity and your credit scores will start moving up!

To learn more about managing your credit, follow our credit monitoring blog. Also, visit our reviews of the best credit cards to find the right card that suits your needs.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.