How to Raise Your Credit Score by Paying Off Debt
While there's no exact blueprint you can use to raise your credit score, boosting those crucial three digits largely comes down to demonstrating how well you can manage debt. After all, a credit score helps lenders predict a potential borrower's credit risk. People with higher scores are often allowed to borrow more, and with better terms, than those with lower numbers.
It's important to remember that you don't have just one score. There are many scoring models available to lenders including Fair Isaac's FICO Score and the newer VantageScore, which was developed by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Those three credit bureaus each store your credit history, and the information they have collected about you help feed their FICO and VantageScore algorithms. However, they don't always have the same data, and that's why your scores from each bureau can vary slightly.
Reduce Your Credit Card Debt
The total amount of money you owe is one factor of your score, and bringing down your overall debt load will have a positive impact. However, you should prioritize your revolving credit. That's the debt with a set limit you can repeatedly access over time, like credit cards or a credit line from your bank. Your credit scores take into account the amount of available credit you're accessing — the credit utilization rate.
Using a smaller percentage of your available credit could help raise your score. According to Experian, it signals that you're managing credit well by not overspending. A common recommendation is to use less than 30 percent of your total credit limit.
Aim to reduce the balances of cards with the highest interest, and knock out some smaller balances altogether if possible to get below that 30 percent mark. It's also a good idea to do your best to pay off your new credit card balances each month.
Keep Making Loan Payments
Another type of debt you may have are installment loans, which are sums of money you repay at regular intervals like mortgages, student loans, and auto loans. Paying off installment loans should also help lift your score, but they're treated differently than revolving credit.
According to The Simple Dollar carrying a large balance of an installment loan will likely have a minimal impact on your score. These loans are generally less risky for lenders because they're secured by assets that borrowers could lose if they don't pay back the money.
Revolving debt, on the other hand, is much more predictive of elevated credit risk. (Two exceptions: Student loans are installment debts that aren't secured, and home equity lines of credit are revolving debts that are secured by a home.)
It's crucial to make timely payments on your loans, credit cards, and other debts. Doing so can reflect positively on you since payment history makes up a big percentage of your credit score. One option to look into to help with this is debt consolidation, which can merge some or all of your debt into one balance.
Ultimately, with so many variables at play, it can be hard to predict how your actions will affect your score. Don't get discouraged — just know that taking steps to reduce your debt will ultimately have a positive effect on both your score and financial future.