Home > Credit Score > 7 Ways to Improve Your Credit By Doing Nothing

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If you have a bad credit score, you probably feel like you have to do something to make it better. File a dispute, apply for new credit, or even hire someone to help you repair your credit. Sometimes that’s true. But other times the best thing you can do is … nothing.   

Call it the “lazy person’s way to better credit.” Or the “zen” approach, if you prefer.

Here are seven ways that doing nothing can help improve your credit.   

1. Stop Using Your Credit Cards

If you have balances on your credit cards that aren’t budging, tuck the cards away somewhere safe and stop using them. Continue to make your payments, and your balances will go down. How quickly depends on the size of your payment, of course. But if your balances have been hurting your credit scores, you should see improvement over time because your “debt usage ratio” — a comparison of your credit card balances to your credit limits — improves. (You can see if your credit card balances are a drag on your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

2. Don’t Apply for New Credit

When that friendly store clerk asks if you want to save 10% off your purchase by opening a store credit card, politely decline. No new applications for credit means new inquiries won’t hurt your credit scores, and you won’t see the typical dip associated with a new account either.

(That’s not to say you never want to get new credit if you are trying to rebuild your credit. If your bankruptcy discharge has just been completed and you have no open accounts, for example, you’ll probably want to get a credit card available to those with bad credit such as a secured credit card so you can start the rebuilding process. But if you already have plenty of cards, you don’t need to pile on more.)  

3. Let Accounts Age

Like fine wine, age is your friend when it comes to your credit scores. Older accounts can help boost your scores, as most scoring models consider credit age, or more specifically, the age of your oldest account and the average age of all your accounts. Even negative information carries less weight over time. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

4. Let the Bad Stuff Go

After a certain point, negative information can no longer be reported. And if it’s not in your reports, it won’t affect your scores. Late payments and charge-offs, for example, can’t be reported more than seven years after they occurred, while collection accounts can’t be reported more than seven years plus 180 days from the original date of delinquency (the date you fell behind with the original creditor). As long as the dates on your credit reports are correct, you don’t have to lift a finger. Just monitor your credit and celebrate when those items are gone for good.  

5. Leave Accounts Be

Have credit cards you don’t really use anymore? Rather than closing them out, just let them be. They are more likely to help your credit scores than hurt them. (Of course, if your issuer is charging you an annual fee and won’t waive it, or if you have a co-signer on the account who might go on a spending spree, it may be best to close the account.)

6. Hop on Someone Else’s Credit

Asking your spouse, partner or even your parent to add you onto one of their accounts as an authorized user may give your credit a boost. If the account they put you on has a perfect payment history and low balances, you’ll likely get “credit” so to speak when that account starts appearing on your credit reports. You never need touch the card to benefit from this strategy.

7. Put It on Autopilot

Put your bills on auto-pay and you shouldn’t have to worry about accidentally missing a payment — and winding up with a score-damaging late payment on your credit reports. It’s a super-easy way for the busy or easily distracted among us to stay on track. Of course you will want to do a quick check-in each month to make sure your payments actually went through. But it will still be faster than it was before you set up auto-pay.

And while it may take a few minutes to get started if you set up and use a free credit score monitoring tool you can make sure your scores are on an overall upward trend. Don’t be shocked by small dips — they are not uncommon — but overall you want to make sure your scores are moving in a positive direction.

More on Credit Scores:

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  • Ranger

    I corrected my credit over a year and half ago. Using all the techniques offered here. I had a low 500 score, got several old accounts deleted, and acquired a secured card. Then, got 2 credit cards (unsecured) and charged some music equipment to the cards.
    My score went to the low 600’s. I have paid off 2 accounts to $0, and one has $188 balance. It’s been, as mentioned, about a year and a half, and today October 26, 2015 my scores are:
    TransUnion = 732
    Equifax = 737
    Experian = 695 (I have an old 1987 school loan that comes off 2019) You’d think Experian would/could remove it but they won’t until 2019 because a debt collector reported it in 2012.

    I plan on a Credit Union Secured 6 Month Installment Loan to help move that score up.
    My Utilization is at 6%.

    Ya’ll at Credit.com make great strides in providing valuable articles and advice which have proven to be successful in correcting bad credit if people will just be patient and follow the road already paved.

    George M. aka Ranger

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      George —
      Congratulations. That is really great to hear! (Also, if a debt collector reported an account and there had been no activity since the original account went late, you may be able to challenge it and have it removed. See: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes.)

  • Karen Lanzone

    I paid off my SUV in July. Never late, and paid if off two months early. That closed the account, and my credit score went down 35 pts!!!! I paid off my credit cards, kept them open, and the score keeps dropping. Transunion told me to make payments even if I didn`t owe anything. Why would I do that? And I don`t think the payments would be accepted. I have worked hard for 5 yrs to improve my credit, and now the credit scoring agencies are trashing it because I am doing good.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      It’s hard to understand why someone is suggesting you make payments when you do not owe. Lightly using your credit cards and paying them off each month should be enough to keep your score high (perhaps not as high as if you had both installment loans and credit cards, but once you’re in the excellent range, additional points are mainly bragging rights; they don’t get you better loan terms).

    • Phil

      Karen, that’s crazy. Have you tried contacting your financing company? Also, what is your credit utilization now? Those are the only factors I can think of that could be used to negatively affect your score. Also, the only way to truly get 0% utilization is to pay the entire balance (not just the statement balance) off before the next statement generates since this is what is reported to the credit bureaus. 0 balance on all statements = 0% utilization, it’s expensive I know, but your score will definitely improve.

      Hope all goes well for you.

    • Jack Soffalot

      You paid off your car loan and credit cards. So basically you aren’t using credit anymore. If you don’t use it, you lose it. So use your credit cards for small purchases every month then pay it off after the closing date and that should help.

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