1. Get a Copy of Your Credit Report
Although you can’t get your exact credit score for free, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once each year. To do so, visit AnnualCreditReport.com
and request a report.
This is actually the only way to get your reports for free; the site was created in response to federal legislation requiring that the three national credit reporting companies inform consumers about their status. Companies like FreeCreditReport.com actually charge you for expenses related to obtaining your credit report.2. Make Sure You’re Aware of Any Existing Accounts
Typically, your credit report will show any accounts you have open. It’s easy to forget about credit accounts that you don’t actually use, like credit cards you stopped using but chose not to close the account ‘just in case.’
These credit accounts can easily represent the most likely upcoming dings to your credit: card companies and other lenders have started closing inactive accounts in order to limit their liability. As the amount of credit a person has goes down, so does their credit score. Be aware of this so that if your accounts do close, you won’t be taken by surprise.3. Set Up Automatic Payments
One of the easiest credit score factors you can control is how good you are about making payments on your current balances. Even if you don’t usually carry a balance, making a payment or two late can cause a preventable dip in your credit score. Automatic payments can be a simple way of avoiding even one late payment.4. Get Serious About Your Balances
One of the factors in a good credit score is how much credit you have available. That means that reducing your current balances has a direct connection to helping your credit score. Even adding a few dollars to your minimum monthly payment is enough to at least get you started on an upwards trend. Moving around debt, say to a zero-interest credit card, doesn’t actually help with your overall credit score.5. Keep Your Number of Cards Constant
While your available credit is a key factor in your credit score, opening a bunch of new credit cards just to increase the amount of credit you have available won’t really help. Instead, the system used to determine credit scores reads such a move as a need for more credit: if you open several cards in a short time span, credit reporting agencies assume that you plan to use that credit and might even be planning to get yourself into some trouble with it.
Since closing unused credit cards can also have a negative impact on your credit, keeping your number of cards constant is usually the best compromise between getting the best credit card options and maintaining your good credit score.