A low credit score can have big ramifications when it comes to you buying a car, getting a mortgage or just opening up any kind of line of credit.
Having a low credit score also is quite shameful to many people. According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling™ online poll last year, 30 percent of respondents indicated they would be the most embarrassed to admit their credit score among the list of choices such as admitting their weight, bank balances.
But there are a variety of ways to raise your credit score with tricks, secrets, and hacks that the credit bureaus would rather you not know.
“If you have poor credit score because of credit card debt, you have the ability to pay it off or pay it down, and you could see considerable improvement in your score,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at CreditSesame.com. “In the best case scenario, you would go from your credit cards maxed out to a zero balance. That’s an optimistic scenario. and most people can’t do that all at once. But if you can chip away at it, and do it in baby steps, you will do 10 points up here and there.”
Swap Credit Card Debt for an Unsecured Loan
One strategy that is very effective, he says, is to open an unsecured personal loan and pay off all of your credit card debt.
“If you have $50,000 in credit card debt, it won’t work. But if you have $8,000 or up to $12,000 in credit card debt, and you have the income to pay off a personal loan, it could really change your credit score dramatically,” Ulzheimer says. “You just converted your score from damaging revolving debt into installment debt. By doing that, your scores will fly through the roof.”
But he warns that there is no guarantee that your personal loan’s interest rate will be lower than your credit card interest rates. Many times they can be as low as 10 percent or as high as in the 20s.
“But you will pay if off a whole lot faster, and psychologically, it’s such a better place to be. If you just paid the minimum on your credit cards, it could take decades to pay off. This way also, you only have one monthly bill to pay not gobs of them to different credit card companies,” he says.
Open New Credit Card Accounts – But Use Sparingly
For those who aren’t addicted to credit cards and max them out, Ulzheimer also suggests opening up a new credit card or two. But don’t go crazy with them and go on a shopping spree.
“It’s all about the percentage of your credit limits on your credit cards. The higher the ratio, the lower your scores will be. So, by opening up a new credit card and letting them be unused, that would result in a lower ratio,” he says.
Credit Score Hack: Become An Authorized User
John Boll, credit restoration expert and owner of The Credit Card Company headquartered in St. Louis, said one of the quickest ways to raise your credit score is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.
“If your parents have good credit, you can piggyback on their good credit. Your credit score will jump up quickly,” he says.
But beware that if you do have a bad financial history, they might just say no to you. But if you are a college student or young person who hasn’t established any credit yet, this could be a great way to start the ball rolling.
Use Rent Payments to Jack Up Credit Score
Also for those who need a big boost quickly in their credit score, Boll suggests they check out RentalKharma.com. The company was founded on the belief that everyone should be able to build their credit score without having to go into debt. It supplies a service for renters to add their rental payments to their credit report which in turn increases their credit score.
“It can raise your score 30-100 points. It will report your rental history as an installment. What makes the difference with this company is that they contact your landlord,” he says.
They talk with the landlord for a few minutes about your rental history, and then ask for some type of utility bill or something that shows he owns the building.
“The only problem is that it only reports to one of the three credit bureaus – TransUnion. But it’s working on the other two,” he says.
Credit Cards for Credit-challenged Consumers
He also suggests to his clients to sign up for Fingerhut for its credit.
“It doesn’t cost anything, and you can start out with $400-$600 credit line. As soon as you get it, buy something like a mug for $10 and pay it off quickly. That will show up on your credit report in 30 days and raise your credit score,” he says.
He also helps his clients to raise their credit scores by applying for a Down2Shop credit card. This is an unsecured card for those with challenging credit scores. But it is financed by an FDIC bank and it is reported to all three bureaus. There is a $125 processing fee and an annual fee of $100 that is billed at $25 a month the first four months.
“They will give you $1,100 to $6,500 line of credit. Most of my clients that are signing up are getting about $4,000. I had a client rise his credit score 80 points in less than 2 weeks,” he said.
Credit Score Hacks That Work
Often there’s no overnight way to increase your score. But there are a ton of hacks and tricks that the credit bureaus won’t tell you.
Trying some of these strategies are sure to raise your score and give you the leg up on future purchases.
Lee Nelson writes for national and regional magazines, websites, and business journals. Her work has appeared in Yahoo! Homes and many Hearst publications such as Life@Home and Women@Work.