It’s the personal finance Catch 22—you need credit to get credit. But did you know that many people don’t need debt to get credit? Specifically, you don’t need to carry debt to boost credit scores.
In fact, if you’re looking for ways to boost your credit score quickly, your best bet actually involves paying down high balances on revolving lines of credit. Get some credit booster ideas below that don’t involve getting mired in more debt.
1. Add Rent or Utility Payments to Your Reports
Your credit report and score are meant to help demonstrate whether you can manage money and bills in a responsible manner. But not every bill you manage gets reported to the credit bureaus.
Rent and utility payments are common items that people may have dealt with even if they have never had any credit. These items don’t typically appear on credit reports in part because landlords and other providers don’t tend to report them. But you can invest in services that ensure your rent and utility payments do get reported.
For example, ExtraCredit lets you link rent and utility payments as a credit line to be reported to the credit bureaus. As you make payments you’re already making, you can help establish your credit.
2. Pay Down Current Debt
As already noted, paying down certain types of debt is potentially one of the best things you can do for your credit. That’s because when you pay down revolving credit, you reduce your credit utilization.
Revolving credit includes credit cards, lines of credit and home equity lines. Your credit utilization is a ratio of your total revolving credit balance compared to your total revolving credit limit.
For example, imagine you have:
- A credit card with a credit limit of $5,000 and a balance of $2,000
- A line of credit with a limit of $5,000 and a balance of $1,000
You would have a total credit limit of $10,000 and a total balance of $3,000. That’s a credit utilization of 30%.
Credit utilization accounts for around 30% of your credit score. It’s second in importance only to paying your bills on time. Keeping your credit utilization as low as possible helps positively impact your score.
3. Check Your Credit Reports for Errors
One way to potentially boost your credit score without incurring debt is to ensure everything on your report is accurate. Inaccurate items, such as a late payment when you never missed a payment, could unfairly bring your score down.
Start this step by getting a good look at all three of your credit reports. You can get a free credit report from each of the three bureaus every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a desire to help consumers better manage money during that time, you can actually get your credit reports weekly through April 2021.
You can also sign up for Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card. This provides a snapshot of your credit report with information about how you’re doing in the five critical areas for your score, including credit utilization. Knowing how you’re doing can help you pinpoint areas that might need some help.
If you do find an error on your credit report during your investigation, be sure to challenge the accuracy of the error. Under law, you have a right to a credit report that is fair and free of errors, so if information can’t be proved by the reporter, the credit bureaus will have to remove it. If you’re looking for a way to impact your credit score, this can be one option. The bureaus have to investigate and respond within a short period of time.
4. Get a Credit Card
Getting a credit card—and using it responsibly—can be a great way to boost your credit without actually going into debt. It might seem like a contradiction, but remember that a credit card doesn’t automatically mean debt. If you pay your balance off each month, you’re never in debt.
But you get some of the potential credit-boosting benefits of holding a credit card. The first is that your credit mix may be increased depending on your other credit types. Creditors like to see that you can manage multiple types of credit, and your credit score benefits when you have both installment and revolving credit. Credit cards are revolving credit.
Having a credit card—whether it’s a secured card or a traditional card—also lets you address your credit utilization. That’s the amount of your total revolving credit that you’re actually using. If you have a credit card and you pay off the balance every month, you’ll have a lower credit utilization with responsible payment history, which is good for your score.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
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- *View our Cardholder Agreement located at the bottom of the application page for details of the card
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5. Become an Authorized User
If you don’t feel ready for your own credit card or can’t qualify for one, see if a family member will add you as an authorized user to their credit card account. Many banks and issuers report account activity to both the cardholder’s and authorized user’s credit report.
You do need to make sure you consider this option carefully. First, make sure the person you ask is responsible with their bills. If they pay their credit card bill late, you could end up with negative marks on your report.
Second, make sure the credit card company reports on authorized users. If the information doesn’t get added to your credit report, it can’t have an impact on your credit score.
Ultimately, the best way to positively impact your credit score is to make good money and credit management decisions long term. Building credit is more of a marathon than a sprint, but you can use some of the tips above to boost your credit, potentially quickly.