How Can You Improve Your Credit Score?

It's very difficult to change your score in the time between the decision to buy a home or refinance their mortgage and when application. But there are strategies you can take to make sure your score is as high as possible when that time comes.

1. To start, make sure that the information each of the three credit reporting bureaus has on you is consistent and up to date. Order a copy of your credit report about once a year, and dispute any inaccuracies.

2. Payoff past due accounts. The more often you make payments on time, the better your score will be. Accounts that are 90 days late will have a bigger negative impact on your score than those that are 60 or 30 days late. So pay off the most past-due accounts first, and gradually catch up on all your payments.

3. Improve your debt-to-credit ratio. This is the difference between how much money you owe versus how much credit you have available. Here are a few to try:
   - Ask for a credit increase. This improves your debt-to-credit ration without paying an extra dime on your outstanding debt.
   - Pay down revolving debt first. You should see some movement by paying down installment loans, however you will see more movement by paying down revolving debt like credit cards and lines of credit first.
   - Another option to look at is consolidating all your credit card debt under a personal installment loan.

Theoretically, if a series of credit reports is requested on your behalf during a limited amount of time, your score tends to drop until time passes without any inquiries. A series of requests in relation to getting a mortgage or car loan is not treated the same as a number of credit card requests in a limited time. This is because the credit bureaus, and lenders, realize that people request their own credit reports to keep up with what's on them.

Unsolicited credit card solicitations in the mail don't count against your credit report, so don't worry.