As a student, improving your credit score can help you to set yourself up for success.
At some point in your life, you’re probably going to want to:
- Take out a loan
- Buy a car and a house
- Get an affordable insurance rate
The list goes on and on.
But to do these things, you’re going to need a good credit score.
What does “good” mean?
It means that you’re going to need a credit score of 750 or better.
Thankfully, achieving a 750 credit score is definitely doable.
Here’s what you need to know:
What Is a Credit Score?
Your credit score is a model that predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan on time.
Companies use this model to determine if they’re taking a big risk by lending money to you.
Your credit score is calculated by combining several different factors:
- Bill payment history
- Unpaid debts
- How many loan accounts you have open
- How long you’ve had different lines of credit open
- How much of your available credit is in use
- How many new loan applications you’ve filed
In general, your credit score is a measure of how responsible you tend to be with credit.
The better your credit score, the better off you’ll be when the time comes to apply for any type of loan.
But how do you increase it?
Well, you’re about to learn six tips for driving up your credit score quickly and easily.
Before You Start: Check Your Credit Report
Before doing anything to improve your credit, it’s a good idea to pull a copy of your credit report from each of the three major national credit bureaus,
This will give you an idea of how your credit looks.
The three bureaus you’re going to want to pull your report from include:
Checking these reports will tell you your current credit score and lay out your existing debts.
As a general rule, your credit score is determined by five distinct factors:
- Payment history (35%)
- Credit usage (30%)
- Age of credit accounts (15%)
- Credit mix (10%)
- New credit inquiries (10%)
Seeing it broken down like this can give you a better idea of what actually matters for building your credit score.
Alright. Now let’s talk about six tips to make it happen.
1. Get an Entry-Level Credit Card to Start Building Credit
Capital One offers an awesome entry-level secured credit card that’s perfect for students just starting their credit-building journey.
But really, any secured credit card will do the trick.
The great thing about these credit cards is that you don’t need to have any credit to get one. They actually make it really easy to start building credit virtually from scratch.
This is awesome for students.
You’ll generally need to put down a deposit on the card to start with.
But you usually get this back in pretty short order.
It’s just the best way to get started with credit.
2. Start Making Small Purchases and Paying Off Your Balance
Once you get your starter credit card, start making small purchases with it. Then, make on-time payments to pay off your balance.
You don’t have to go crazy here. Just start using the card as intended, without racking up a huge balance or maxing out your credit.
For example, you could use your credit card to pay for gas, groceries, etc.
Use it to pay for things that you’re going to have to pay for anyway, and then pay off those balances quickly and on time with your real money.
Just be careful not to spend too much on unnecessary stuff.
People start getting into trouble with credit cards when they ‘borrow’ from their future wallets with purchases that they shouldn’t be able to justify based on their current budget.
So think twice before putting that new laptop or gaming console on your credit card if you don’t have cash on hand to cover the purchase.
And of course, the most important part of this process is …
3. Never Miss A Credit Card Payment
This is a super crucial part of the plan:
Never miss a payment.
Missing a payment will reflect very badly on your credit score and will go on your record.
Make sure to check your credit card app/balance regularly so that you never miss it.
Even one missed payment can really cause issues with your score.
This is part of the reason why credit cards can be problematic for some people.
Responsibility is key. The better you are at keeping your balance paid off, the faster your credit score will climb.
4. Keep Your Credit Utilization Under 30%
Your credit utilization rate is the amount of credit you’re using in your credit line.
So, if you have a $200 line of credit, you’re not going to want to exceed $60 in debt.
If you want to build your credit score even faster, keep your credit utilization under 10%.
This is an important metric because it basically shows creditors that you’re not just racking up careless debt.
It’s basically utilized as a part of the algorithm used to determine whether or not it’s safe for creditors to lend money to you.
5. Keep Paying on Your Debt
Credit cards are an important part of your credit score equation, but they’re not the only part.
If you have:
- a car loan
- a home loan
- student loans
- medical bills
… or any other type of debt, it’s crucial to keep making your payments and paying that debt down.
Making your payments and reducing your overall debt just makes you look like a more responsible person.
And that’ll reflect well when lenders are trying to determine whether or not to loan you money (which is basically what a credit score is used for).
Payment History Is Important to Your Credit Score
You may not realize this, but payment history actually has the biggest impact on a person’s credit score.
This is why it can actually work to your advantage to have old, paid-off debts on your credit report.
This information may reflect favorably upon you as a borrower.
For best results, create some kind of system for reminding yourself when payments are due, and always make sure to pay them on time.
You can also work to pay off your debts earlier if possible.
This helps your credit, but it also lowers the amount of money you owe in general, giving you more financial freedom and helping you to cut down on interest payments over time.
Paying a car off in advance, for example, can save you serious money on interest payments!
6. Keep Increasing Your Credit Line
Now, increasing your credit line is NOT the same as increasing your debt.
But here’s the thing. If you increase your credit line without using it or using it only sparingly, this will reflect well on your credit line utilization.
Because it’s another method for reducing your current credit utilization.
Getting a new line of credit and not using it can actually help a lot in raising your credit score.
Because, once again, it signals that you’re a responsible borrower and that you’re not trying to rack up senseless debt that you just can’t pay off.
Avoid Unnecessary “Hard Inquiries” to Your Credit
Now, increasing your credit line may require a hard inquiry into your credit.
But here’s the thing:
You need to be careful about this, as too many hard inquiries can negatively affect your score.
For best results, be very selective in applying for things that’ll require a loan.
Trying to get approved for an auto loan, home loan, new credit card, or even a personal loan will all put a hard inquiry on your credit score — regardless of whether or not you receive the loan or the line of credit you’re applying for.
So, you need to be strategic in balancing this.
If you apply for a new credit card to get another line of credit but then fail to get approved, you could actually work against yourself and hurt your credit score even more.
For best results, be very selective about applying for new lines of credit, and don’t apply for them unless you’re reasonably sure that you’ll be successful in getting them.
There you have it.
Six tips on how to get a 750 credit score, even if you’re young and inexperienced with debt or credit.
The best news in all of this is that anyone can do it.
You just need to make the right moves, stay responsible, and continue to conduct your finances the proper way.
And, if in doubt, you should definitely seek the help of a professional personal finance specialist.
You’ve got this.
Now get out there and make it happen!
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Verge Las Cruces to help them with their online marketing.