4 (Perfectly Legal) Hacks to Improve Your Credit Score

You don't have to pay after every day of transactions (though some people do), but no matter how you approach this strategy, make sure you stay organized so you don't miss the actual due date. Your payment history is the biggest factor of your credit scores.

3. Strategically Open Accounts

Applying for credit should be done sparingly, because applications result in a hard inquiry on your credit report. Recent hard inquiries will dock your score a few points, so the more there are, the more points you lose.

If you have low credit limits and reducing your spending isn't necessary, you could open a new credit card account or two to increase your available credit. The trick is making sure you don't increase your spending beyond what you can afford.

"The long-term benefit to your utilization can far outweigh any short-term loss of points," said Barry Paperno, a four-decade veteran of the credit industry. Paperno cautioned that you should only do this if you don't anticipate needing to apply for a car, home or personal loan in the next six to 12 months. Otherwise, those extra inquiries could hurt you.

4. Reporting a Card Lost

This is an obscure one, but Paperno said it came up a lot when he worked with myFICO Forums, a community for conversations about credit.

"You report your card lost," he said. "They close that account, create a new account number for you and move all your history over to that account, including the original open date, and add that new account to your credit report."

If that account has been open for a long time, you now have two trade lines with that length of history, which increases the average age of your credit. Credit age makes up roughly 15% of your credit score.

"I'm not encouraging this, by the way," Paperno said. At one point, he called the practice "borderline unethical," but people do it, and it works. "I think it's more trouble than it's worth. ... But it does point out that you can help your score by more than paying down balances and making your payments on time."

Also, different credit card issuers may report a lost or stolen card differently to the credit bureaus, so this hack may not have the desired effect.

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