A high credit score shows you’re likely to repay loans and make payments on time, which improves your chances of getting mortage loans or credit cards. Learn how to raise your credit score from Ethan Ewing of Bills.com, who describes how credit cards, mortgage loans, and home equity lines of credit affect a line of credit.
“Today’s challenging times are a wake-up call to all of us,” he says. “We need to get our financial houses in order.”
To learn how to achieve your financial goals, click Your Credit Score, Your Money, & What’s at Stake by Liz Pulliam Weston. And, read on for Ewing’s ways to raise your credit score through your credit cards, mortgage loans, home equity lines of credit, and debt management…
How Credit Cards Affect Your Credit Score
“Banks are cutting limits on credit cards to reduce their lending risk. Many individuals have had their limits slashed by thousands of dollars, down to levels that are close to their outstanding balances — and even below,” Ewing says. “No laws protect consumers from these changes, though this can reduce available credit and thus negatively affect your credit score.”
To raise your credit score with your credit cards:
- Know your credit card limits.
- Check credit card charges and balances regularly online or by phone to avoid going over the limit, incurring over-limit fees and possibly going into default.
- If a limit is cut below the existing balance and an over-limit fee is charged, call the lender to protest. The lender might waive the fee.
- Do not close your account.
- Do charge only what you can afford to pay off in full at the end of every month.
How Mortgage Loans Affect Your Credit Score
“A person’s home is his or her greatest asset — and often, greatest liability,” Ewing says. “Furthermore, the payment history on a mortgage has a major impact on a credit score.”
To raise your credit score through mortgage loans:
- Stay on top of payments.
- If you get behind, contact the lender immediately.
- If there is a realistic likelihood that you will lose your income, consider selling the home. Both sales and rentals are tight today, and a sale takes time. Do not wait for foreclosure as it has a huge negative impact on credit.
How Home Equity Lines of Credit Affect Your Credit Score
Mortgage lenders are reducing or eliminating home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and many homeowners have received notices that their HELOCs are being closed. “With banks short on credit reserves, they do not want people drawing thousands of dollars from those lines — especially if the funds are being drawn down for emergency funds that might not be repaid,” Ewing explains. “It is generally not a good idea to use a home as a piggy bank, but many people who counted on their HELOCs to provide flexibility for home renovations or major home maintenance expenses will now be out of luck.”
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To raise your credit score through home equity loans:
- Most credit reports differentiate credit cards from HELOC draws. A HELOC’s unavailability should not have a significant effect on a credit score.
- To compensate for the lack of a HELOC as an emergency resource, do whatever you can to build an emergency fund with savings. Start with only $50 a week if need be, and add more when you can.
How “Bad Debt” Affects Your Credit Scores
“When people cannot pay the bills, it’s okay to seek help,” Ewing said. “Many options exist, including credit counseling, debt settlement and bankruptcy.”
To raise your credit score while managing debt:
- Try calling lenders to explain the situation; they might renegotiate terms and interest rates, depending on the situation.
- Debt settlement can help resolve large balances at reduced payoff amounts while avoiding bankruptcy, but it does have a negative impact on financial credit scores. It’s generally best to look for alternatives to bankruptcy.
- Financial bankruptcy, generally viewed as a last resort for people in seriously financial difficulty, comes with a severe impact on the credit report. Talk with an attorney to determine suitability and qualification for bankruptcy.
“Reliance on debt can make you even more vulnerable in a time of crisis,” Ewing cautioned. “Take the time to analyze your credit scores, educate yourself on your options, and make smart decisions to start reducing debts and raising your credit score.”
If you have questions or thoughts on raising your credit score, please comment below!
Bills.com is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues, including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages, and other loans.