Trying to improve your credit score is like starting a bedtime skincare routine: the results won’t appear overnight and it can feel like witchcraft. Most women enter the world not knowing or caring what their credit score is and find out one day by surprise.
\Your credit score impacts every part of your financial world, from how much you pay for insurance, to your interest rate on loans like credit cards or eventually, a mortgage. Not going to lie, it’s also a bizarre, sexist and rigged system, that frankly is out of date. Newer options will treat women a lot more fairly, but until they are widespread, your credit score is your holy grail. Protect it like God gave it to you.
Here are some tips to keep you moving in the right direction.
1. Don’t Apply for NEW Credit TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE
The more unused available credit you have, the higher your score will be, so it might seem like a additional lines of credit will improve your score. Lies! When you apply for a credit card, the “hard inquiry” into your credit report actually decreases your credit score. Having a large credit limit can be beneficial and improve your credit score, but just like with accessories or alcohol, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Don’t go buy a handle of Stoli when you’re recovering from a bender.
2. Don’t Take Out Debt to Support Other People
Many successful women, particularly in communities of color, are asked to help financially support relatives and friends. It’s great to help out your loved ones, but you should never go into debt or tap your retirement money or emergency funds to do so. There are always alternative ways to support your community without putting yourself financially at risk. The impact on your score has long term consequences that prevent you – in the long run – from helping people in other ways.
Your emergency funds are untouchable. Check here for our expertise on how to build an emergency fund.
3. Don’t pay Someone to Negotiate Down Your Debt
First of all, if you’re considering arranging a debt settlement, you should be aware that it typically will lower your credit score. However, the worst thing you could possibly do in this situation is to hire a debt settlement company to negotiate for you. A lot of the time these companies fail to settle any debt at all and can take multiple years to reach a settlement, during which time you will be paying a monthly fee. If the debt is successfully lowered, you will have to pay the settlement company an additional hefty fee. If I may quote a popular meme here, “Don’t do it, girl, it’s not worth it.”
Instead, remember lenders will often negotiate, and the strongest position in a negotiation is the person who has nothing to lose – that’s you. Stash your fear of speaking up and check out this guide on DIY Debt Settlement.
4. Do Not Cancel THAT Credit Card
If you’re trying to cut back on your spending or consolidate your credit accounts, you might be tempted to cancel a few credit cards. However, part of your credit score is determined by the length of your credit history, so you don’t want to ever cancel the accounts you’ve held the longest, especially if there are no fees associated with those cards.
Instead, shred them. Put the shreds in a frame and reflect on them as a success if you’ve paid them off, or as a reminder of your commitment if you’re still on your way.
5. Paying Off Old Collections Accounts won’t improve your score
Here’s a useful tip that might seem counter-intuitive at first. If you have a bill that has been sitting in collections for years, you might be tempted to wipe the slate clean and pay it off — but don’t do that. The older a collections account is, the less impactful it is on your credit score. If you make a payment, the old account will become current and hurt your score even more. The best course of action is to write to the collections agency asking for proof you owe the debt and that they are authorized to collect. If they are unable to prove this, you will be able to dispute the debt to get it removed from your credit report.
If you’re trying to improve your credit score, be patient! Over time, paying your bills promptly and not using your cards and getting to a good place won’t seem so overwhelming.
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