How to Improve Your Credit Score

Many people who have been through a bankruptcy ask how they can improve their credit score. No one wants to go back to being strapped with credit card debt, but anyone would want better interest rates on car loans and mortgages—and let’s face it, there’s not much you can do without at least one credit card in today’s world. Here are some things that everyone can do, whether they’ve gone through a bankruptcy or not.

Open an account at a bank or credit union, and get a loan at that institution. Many financial institutions, especially credit unions, have small-loan programs for depositors.

Apply for a credit card with a small balance. Right after bankruptcy, you may be surprised to receive credit card offers in the mail, but it makes sense, as you are a perfect credit risk: You don’t have any debt, and you can’t file bankruptcy again for years. Open a credit card, even a secured credit card, and you will start to rebuild your credit.

Get a co-signer. If you need a co-signer for a car loan, bank loan, or credit card, get the credit; it counts on your credit rating.

Keep a small balance on a credit card. Credit card lenders don’t like the customers who use the card infrequently, and pay off their balance every month. They make money off the interest, after all. While paying down credit card balances is the best way to avoid high interest charges, keeping a small balance on a card actually helps improve your credit rating.

But not a big balance. Pay down credit cards so that the balance is not near the limit—keep the balance under 50%, or better, no more than 20-30%, of the limit.

Don’t cancel inactive credit accounts. Canceling a card removes that amount of credit from your total credit availability, so if you have a balance on other loans, your debt-to-credit ratio takes a hit. Keep that card open and use it occasionally.

Take care in applying for credit. If you are shopping for a car loan or a mortgage, find out all the information you can without actually filing an application. Each application counts against you. If you do make several applications to try to get the best rate, make all applications at around the same time—within a month of each other. That will reduce the hit on our credit score.

A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to ten years—but you don’t have to wait for ten years to fix your credit. Start right away, and you may be in the pool of good interest rates for car loans and mortgages within a couple of years.