Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Three Strategies to Improve Your FICO Score

It used to be that "people" made decisions about your credit worthiness. You knew your banker and your handshake was all the collateral you needed. Those days are long gone, and now a single number - your FICO score - determines your credit worthiness.

Although there are several credit models, the most commonly used is FICO, based on a model created by Fair, Isaac Company. Their consumer website is, and you can find information about the FICO credit scores there.

Your FICO credit score can be used to determine your interest rate and how much credit a lender will give you. So taking care of your score, and keeping your credit clean will save you money.

Preserving your FICO score, and improving it, is not difficult, but it may take time. Here are some tips to maintain and improve your score, based on three credit situations.

Strategy One: Obtain a Credit History

There are many reasons you may have no credit history. Maybe you're just starting out, maybe you pay cash for everything and have never needed a loan. In any case, if you have no credit history, your FICO score is likely to be low.

The easiest way to raise your score is acquire a loan, and pay it off on time. In general, installment loans are weighted more heavily than credit cards. In other words, you will improve your credit score faster if you buy goods with an installment loan, rather than acquiring a credit card.

Another way to acquire a better credit history is to take $1000 and open a 6 month CD account at a financial institution. Now, get an installment loan for $1000, using that CD as collateral. Now, here's the trick. Take the $1000 loan, and open another 6 month CD account at another institution. Take another loan for the $1000 at the second institution. Do this one more time.

Now what you have is 3 loans. Pay the minimum payment for 6 months. In the last month, cash out your CDs and pay the loans off. You now have a credit history, and did not go into long term debt to get it.

Strategy Two: Maintain Your Good Credit History

Good job - you have paid your bills on time, and do not have high credit card debt. Here's some ideas to keep your FICO score as high as possible.

First, don't close your old accounts. One part of your credit score is based on the amount of credit available verses amount of credit used. Closing old accounts can lower this part of your score.

Second, paying off your credit cards every month is good money management, but you may be able to improve in this area. Here's the scenario: you have a $2000 credit card. Every month, you charge about $1800 to that card. And, every month you pay it off. But here's what happens - your credit card company reports your credit information monthly to FICO. If they report it before you pay off your card, it looks like you carry a balance on your credit card every month. You may find your FICO score improves if you pay off your credit card at a different time of the month.

Strategy Three: Repair Your Poor Credit History

For whatever reason, if you have a poor credit history, there are things you can do to improve your score. Some of them take time, and you will probably be best served by talking to a credit counselor to be sure that you not only repair your credit history, but also eliminate what caused that poor credit history in the first place.

The most heavily weighted part of your score is based on your payment history. The first thing to do to start repairing your credit history is to pay your bills on time. The mortgage is the most important, followed by installment loans, and finally credit cards.

The next largest portion of your FICO score is based on how you use credit. The fastest way to improve this is to pay down your credit cards.

One final thing to look for is errors in your credit report. Get a copy of your credit report from all three primary agencies, and look at all the entries. You can find the agencies here:,, and If there are any errors, start the process to have them removed. Call your creditors - sometimes they will remove negative information.

Your FICO score is an important part of your financial life, and using these strategies may help improve your FICO score. Before making any drastic changes to your finances, consult with a financial advisor.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Five Ways A Credit Monitoring Service Helps Rebuild Your Credit

One of the most effective ways to repair your post-bankruptcy credit is to get new credit. But, as you get that new credit you need an efficient way to monitor the effect it is having on your credit report. To do that, you should use a credit monitoring service. While you can do the monitoring yourself, using a credit monitoring service is helpful for a number of reasons.

1. Credit monitoring services monitor any inquiry made on your credit report and give you the reason for the inquiry.

By getting regular reports of the queries on your credit report and the reasons for those queries you can easily discover any unauthorized activities being done under your name.

2. Credit monitoring services notify you when any new credit accounts are opened in your name.
Obviously, you’ll know about the accounts you open. But, one of the ways identity thieves use your private information is to open up new credit accounts in your name. Then, they max out those accounts and leave you with the bill. A credit monitoring service protects you from the damages of identity theft because you'll know immediately if a new credit account has been opened in your name.

3. Credit monitoring services monitor any changes to your mailing address on your credit accounts.

Another tactic of identity thieves is to change your mailing address for your credit cards. They do this so that your credit card statements are sent to them. When they get those statements, they steal your account information and use it to run up charges on your account. If this ever happens to you, it could take you months to sort out the problem and figure out exactly what happened. With a credit monitoring service you’ll get an immediate notification when there are unauthorized changes of address on any of your credit accounts.

4. Credit monitoring services monitor credit limit changes on your credit cards.

Identity thieves like to request increases on your credit card limits. This allows them to run up even more debt for you. A good credit monitoring service alerts you to such changes as soon as they happen.

5. Credit monitoring services give you quick, convenient access to your credit report.

The ability to access your account information online is a big time saver. And, you can opt to have the credit bureaus email you any alerts on your credit report account. Those alerts are delivered as soon as a change is detected in your account. This makes it easier for you to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Online access to your credit report also makes it much easier for you to correct any inaccurate information on your account very quickly and easily.

Using a credit monitoring service has many benefits for you as you recover from bankruptcy and start the process of rebuilding your credit. If you want to secure you financial future and make the most of your fresh start out of bankruptcy, you owe it to yourself to sign up for a good credit monitoring service.