If your FICO score seems more like a Rubik’s cube, you’re not alone. Many Americans can’t say what a FICO score is, let alone its importance, how to better it, or how to keep an eye on it. You might be wondering, “Do tradelines work?” or even be unsure of what tradelines are! (For the uninitiated, tradelines help boost your credit score by authorized users getting added to accounts in order to gain a higher credit limit).

There’s no reason to feel overwhelmed. The idea that we need to “build credit” is ingrained into us, but the good news is that it’s easier than you think.

Building your credit comes naturally when you make smart, daily financial choices. Charging a large or even everyday purchase to a credit card because you’ve selected a card that earns rewards you can use, and you pay off the balance that same month before interest accrues, you’re building good credit. Keeping balances at zero is key to avoiding overpaying while still making strides towards bettering your score.

Easy Ways to Improve Your Credit

Your FICO score utilizes the three major credit bureaus including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to create a credit profile. Your score dictates rates for big purchases like cars and mortgages and some employers even consider your credit score for certain positions. However, there’s more than one way to build your credit. There are a plethora of ways to boost your credit score. Here are some of the simplest:

Having a credit card alone can drastically improve your score. It might sound strange, but credit scores don’t usually see any difference between bad credit and no credit. (In other words, avoiding credit entirely isn’t the savviest move, but you can make up for it now). Selecting a low-APR card, preferably with some perks you can actually use, and maintaining it properly is the best thing you can do for your credit. Use your card to make a few purchases a month and pay it off right away.

Take Out the Right Loans

Sometimes taking out a loan is unavoidable. There are certain loans that credit bureaus particularly like. Student loans are a favorite assuming you have mapped out a plan to pay them back and it’s in your budget. Current payments on a mortgage and car loan can also help boost your credit score.

Just keep in mind that FICO looks at your debt balance ratio and that impacts your score. For instance, if you owe $14,500 on a $15,000 car loan, your score will be lower than if you owe $3,000 on the same loan. Regularly paying your debts on time and paying more when possible will help propel you towards a more attractive score.

Quick Fixes to do ASAP

It can take time to pull yourself out of trouble. A lot of people get into problems because they get laid off, have a medical emergency, or are otherwise forced into an unexpected credit card “hit.” It’s critical that you keep an eye on your score for any red flags. Sometimes credit bureaus make mistakes. If there’s a fishy “mark” on your credit, it’s very simple to dispute it. Make sure you check your score at least every six months to keep in tip top shape. You can also sign up for a variety of programs, some of which might be included with your credit card itself, to be notified of any changes to your score. This alerts you of potential security breaches or false marks such as a company querying your credit score more than once by mistake.

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