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6 Simple Steps to Improve Your Credit Score

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Going from a 550 credit score to above 700 may seem overwhelming, but you only need six simple steps and to improve your credit score.

Step 1: Get a line of credit

In order to establish credit history, you need to have a form of credit. The simplest way for you to begin will be to open a credit card. If your score is low or non-existent, then you’ll need to apply for a secured card or a store card.

  • Secured Card:  You’ll use your own money as collateral by putting down a deposit of a few hundred dollars with the bank. Typically, that amount will then be your credit limit. Once you prove you’re responsible, you can get back your deposit and upgrade to a regular credit card. [Our favorite is the Discover it® Secured. You can apply here, or learn more about secured cards in general here]

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$100
Regular Purchase APR
16.90% Variable
  • Store Card: People with a low credit score can often still get store cards because banks are more likely to approve users who apply through the store. The catch is that the interest rates are often very high if you can’t make your payments. [Read more here]

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Walmart Credit Card®

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Step 2: Keep your utilization rate low

Utilization is the amount of your credit limit you spend each month. For example, if you have a $500 credit limit and spend $50 in a month, you’re utilization will be 10%. Your utilization is part of what determines your credit score.

Your goal should be to never exceed 30% of your credit limit. Ideally, you should be even lower than 30% because the lower your utilization rate, the better your score will be.

We recommend you make one small purchase (hello, pack of gum) a month to keep your utilization low and help increase your credit score at a faster rate.

Step 3: Pay in full, and on time, each month

The easiest way to prove you’re responsible is to only charge what you can afford. Never use your credit card to buy an item you won’t be able to pay off on time and in full each month.

Being late on your payments has a huge, negative impact on your credit score.

There is also no advantage to only paying the minimum amount due on your card. That will only result in you paying interest and does nothing to help your credit score. So just save yourself money and pay your entire bill.

Step 4: Avoid credit card debt

This goes hand-and-hand with step three. By only purchasing what you can pay off in full, you’ll never accumulate credit card debt.

If you’re already in debt from the misuse of credit cards, then make sure you continue to pay at least the minimum due on time each month. Paying on time is the number one indicator of a responsible borrower. You should consider applying for a personal loan, and using the money from the loan to pay off your credit card debt. Personal loan companies have interest rates that start as low as 4.25%, and they are approving people with credit scores as low as 550. You can shop around for a personal loan without hurting your score, because the lenders will approve you using a soft pull (which doesn’t impact your score). A recent study by Lending Club showed that people who paid off their credit card debt with a personal loan saw their score increase by 31% on average, right away. You can look for the best personal loans using this personal loan tool at LendingTree. [Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.] With a single application, you can check your rate with dozens of lenders. And the best part: LendingTree uses a soft pull, which means your credit score will not be negatively impacted.

After you pay off your credit cards with the proceeds on the loan, do not build up your debt again. Instead, just make one purchase each month and pay it off in full.

Once you pay off your cards, resist the urge to close them. Closing your cards will not only lower your utilization but remove history which damages your score in the “length of history” category.

Step 5: As your score improves, so do your options for better credit cards

You’ll start to get credit card offers as you begin to build your credit history and improve your score. Credit card companies still love sending snail mail.

Beware of any offers, especially for cash back cards, while your score is below 650. These cards typically provide little value and can smack you with high interest rates if you fail to follow step three.

Not sure if an offer is a good deal? Try checking it out in our cashback reward cards page. Our Magnify Transparency Score will let you know if it’s the real deal.

Once you get your credit score above 680, the good credit card offers will start rolling in. You can have your pick of the top-tier reward credit cards and start using your regular spending to get cash back or rack up points for travel.

Step 6: Protect your score

Once you’ve achieved a higher credit score, but sure to protect it by following these simple steps:

  • Always pay on time – late or missed payments will cost you dearly

  • Try to keep your credit used below 30% of your available credit

  • If you apply for a store card to increase your credit then immediately put in the freezer (literally if you have to) and avoid spending

  • Be sure to check your credit reports for accuracy and signs of fraud – you’re entitled to one free report per year from each of the three credit bureaus

If you have any questions or just want a helping hand, please reach out to us at [email protected] or tweet us @Magnify_Money

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Lowry
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Erin Lowry is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at [email protected]

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How (and why) to Request a Credit Limit Increase With Capital One

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Credit Limit Increase with Capital One

Getting a credit limit increase may be beneficial — as long as you maintain responsible spending habits. Here, we’ll tell you how to increase your limit when on a Capital One credit card.

First, it’s important to understand that each credit card company has different requirements for limit increases. Before sharing the criteria Capital One uses to grant or deny a limit increase request, let’s discuss why you might want a credit limit increase in the first place.

How to increase your credit limit with American Express and Barclays

Why increase your Capital One credit limit?

Capital One offers flexible credit cards for personal or business use that provide several benefits and perks, from bonus rewards and Uber ride discounts to  cashback and 0% intro APR promotions. While the perks of using a Capital One credit card are nice, if you are spending near or close to your limit each month, your credit may be taking a negative hit. It’s important to ensure you’re using credit cards for convenience and to improve your credit, not because you need them in order to get by.

Keeping your utilization below 30% of your credit limit each month is ideal for credit-building. Plus, if you are spending less than 30% of your credit limit, it will be easier to pay off the balance in full in month, allowing you to avoid paying high interest rates. Even if your card currently has a 0% APR for a limited time, it’s best to get into the habit of paying off your balance in full each month, because that promotion won’t last forever.

With that being said, a credit limit increase may help improve your credit score, just as long as you don’t inflate your spending. If you keep your spending at the exact same level after the credit limit increase, your utilization will automatically drop. For example, say you spend $300 a month on a card with a $1,000 limit – a 30% utilization rate. You requested an increase and now have a $2,000 limit, but continue to spend just $300 a month. Without doing anything differently, you’ve lowered your utilization to 15%, which could help improve your credit score.

What to know when considering a Capital One Credit Line increase

Capital One allows users to request a credit line increase either online or by phone. Accounts not eligible for a credit line increase include those that are less than three months old, as well as those that have received a credit line increase or decrease within the past six months.

When you submit a credit line increase request, Capital One looks at a variety of factors, such as on-time payment history, average monthly payment amount and your credit score. A credit score of 700 and above is generally considered good.

They will also look at your current utilization rate. If you are responsibly using your card and paying more than the minimum each month, this tells Capital One that you can handle potential increased monthly payments if they offer you a credit increase.

What’s nice about this process is that it will not negatively affect your credit. When you submit a request to increase your credit limit, Capital One will use the information they normally receive from the credit bureaus each month, so your credit report will not be pulled.

How to request a Credit Limit increase with Capital One

Requesting a credit limit increase is easy, and it only takes a few minutes. First, we’ll walk you through how to do it online, then explain how the phone option works.

Step 1

Once you’ve logged in, click on ‘I Want To…”.

Step 2

Under Offers and Updates, click on Request Credit Line Increase.

 

Step 3

Fill out the short form to the best of your ability, then click Submit Request.

In some cases, Capital One says they can approve credit limit increase requests immediately. If they do not, you will be taken to a confirmation page. As stated on the confirmation page, Capital One will notify you with the outcome of your request in two to three business days if you are signed up for a paperless account, or within 10 business days if you receive paper statements.

If you prefer to request a credit line increase by phone, you can call 1-800-955-7070 and choose the ‘More Options’ prompt to get to the credit line increase request option.

What’s next?

If you’re denied a credit limit increase, Capital One allows you to apply again at any time, but there’s no guarantee your request will be approved. It’s best to work on addressing the reason or reasons why you were declined in the first place.

In addition to making payments on time, and making more than the minimum payment each month, Capital One recommends you keep your income and employment information up to date, as these factors are crucial for determining  if you’re eligible for a credit limit increase. They will also help you to build a strong credit score overall.

If you’re approved, your new credit line will be available immediately. Try to stick to responsible spending habits, and continue using your card wisely.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Chonce Maddox
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Chonce Maddox is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Chonce at [email protected]

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Do Credit Builder Loans Actually Work?

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If you have no credit or bad credit, getting a loan may seem impossible.

When lenders are considering a loan application, their main concern is whether the applicant can pay the loan back. If there is no loan repayment history, or a record of late payments or loan defaults, a lender will likely determine that the applicant is too risky.

A credit builder loan is one way you can start building a strong credit history that should eventually help qualify you for other loans.

What is a credit builder loan?

Building good credit, whether you are starting from scratch or repairing a bad credit history, requires patience. You’ll need to put in the work to show lenders you are a consistently reliable borrower who makes on-time debt payments.

A credit builder loan is a great way to begin establishing a good credit history. Here’s how it works:

A financial institution such as a credit union, which typically issues credit builder loans, deposits a small amount of money into a secured savings account for the applicant. The borrower then pays the money back in small monthly installments — with interest — over a set period of time. At the end of the loan’s term, which typically ranges from six to 24 months, the borrower receives the total amount of the credit builder loan in a lump sum, plus any interest earned, if the lender offers interest.

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APR

As low as 3.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO®

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Varies

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LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender.


A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.

As of 28-Feb-2019, LendingTree Personal Loan consumers were seeing match rates as low as 3.99% (3.99% APR) on a $10,000 loan amount for a term of three (3) years. Rates and APRs were based on a self-identified credit score of 700 or higher, zero down payment, origination fees of $0 to $100 (depending on loan amount and term selected).

How a credit builder helps boost credit

A credit builder loan helps borrowers build credit by providing an opportunity  to make small monthly payments. As the lender reports regular loan payments to credit reporting agencies, your credit history will show you can make regular, on-time loan payments over the life of a loan.

Most credit builder loans are small, ranging from $300 to $1,000, which means they also have small monthly payments. Interest rates vary by bank, so be sure you compare all your options to get the best rate.

To apply for a credit builder loan, you can visit a local lender’s branch or apply online. Because you won’t receive any money until the loan is paid in full, credit builder loans are typically easy to qualify for.

What to watch out for

Credit builder loans are not free, so be sure to ask about fees and interest rates. Some lenders may charge an application fee, and interest rates vary widely among lenders. While some offer rates in the single digits, other lenders’ rates may be significantly higher.

Where to get a credit builder loan

Here are examples of a few types of credit builder loans.

Credit unions

Many credit unions list details of their loans online and provide an online application.

1st Financial Federal Credit Union, for example, offers these terms:

  • Minimum Loan Amount: $300
  • Maximum Loan Amount: $1,000
  • Loan Term: 12 months
  • Interest Rate: 12%
  • Payment history reported to credit bureaus
  • 50% of interest refunded back with on-time payments

Banks

Some regional or local banks offer credit builder loans with the intention of helping clients build a good credit score as they work toward good financial health.

The Sunrise Banks Credit Builders Program, for example, places loan funds into a Certificate of Deposit (CD) for the borrower. The CD earns interest as the borrower repays the loan, which can be withdrawn when it’s paid in full. Consumers can borrow $500, $1,000 or $1,500, and they are assigned a repayment schedule of monthly principal and interest payments. Payments are reported to Experian, Transunion and Equifax.

Self Lender

Self Lender, based in Austin, Texas, is designed to help consumers increase their financial health. Working in partnership with multiple banks, Self Lender offers a credit-builder account that is essentially a CD-backed installment loan. In other words, you open a CD with the bank and they extend a line of credit to you for the same amount. When you make payments, they report it to the credit bureaus.

The money you put in the CD itself is what secures the loan.

Self Lender offers four loan amounts, each with 12 or 24 month terms. Borrowers can receive loans of $525 to $1,700. Fees vary from $9 to $15. See Self Lenders website for more details.

Pros of credit builder loans

  • A credit builder loan forces you to save money, as you are essentially making payments into a savings account.
  • Credit builder loans are secured by the money the bank has deposited for you, so they are typically easy to apply for.
  • When the loan is paid off, you will receive a payment in the amount of the loan. Some lenders also pay you dividends, or refund a portion of your interest.
  • You will develop good savings habits through a credit builder loan, which requires you to set aside money every month for a loan payment.
  • As you make payments on time every month, you’ll develop financial discipline that you apply to bigger loans.

Cons of credit building loans

  • Late or missed payments will be reported to credit reporting agencies, which could hurt your credit score.
  • They aren’t all free. For one, Self Lender charges a $15 non-refundable administrative fee.

Learn more:

Why your credit score matters

Credit scores are calculated by using your credit report, which is a record of your credit activity that includes the status of your credit accounts and your history of loan payments. Many financial institutions use credit scores to determine whether an applicant can get a mortgage, auto loan, credit card or other type of credit. Applicants with higher credit scores typically qualify for larger loans with lower interest rates and better terms.

Three federal credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion, collect information from data providers and lenders, and use it to calculate your credit score.

Consumers typically have multiple credit scores. The two key scores are FICO and VantageScore.

FICO scores

FICO scores represent the likelihood that a borrower will pay back a loan on time. Scores range from 300 to 850, and over 90% of lending decisions in the U.S. are influenced by an applicant’s FICO score.

Five factors determine a consumer’s FICO score:

  • Payment history (35%)This is a record of your loan payment, and notes whether they were on time, late or missed.
  • Amounts owed (30%)Also known as utilization, this shows how much you use your credit limit. For example, if you have a credit card with a $15,000 limit and you have a debt of $3,000 on the card, your utilization is 20%. Ideally, your utilization should be less than 30% on all debts combined.
  • Length of credit history (15%)This measures the length of time you’ve had credit. If you opened your first credit card 20 years ago when you were a college student, for example, your credit history likely would be slightly higher than someone who took out their first loan a year ago.
  • New credit (10%)New credit looks at how frequently you’ve inquired about your credit and opened new accounts. For example, when you open a new credit card, your credit score could be slightly lower for six months before going back up.

VantageScores

VantageScore, which also measures your credit risk, is used by 20 of the 25 largest financial institutions. As is the case with FICO scores, higher Vantage scores lead to better loan opportunities. VantageScores range from 300 to 850, and are available for free online. VantageScore takes six factors into account.

Extremely influential

  • Payment history

Highly influential

  • Your age and type of credit (maintaining a mix of accounts over a long time is beneficial)
  • Percentage of your credit limit used (utilization)

Moderately influential

  • Your total debt balance

Less influential

  • Recent credit inquiries and credit behavior (don’t open a lot of new accounts at one time)
  • Available credit

How do I get my credit score?

There are numerous ways to get your FICO and VantageScore for free. Check out our guide on Ways to Get Your Free FICO Score.

Other ways to build credit

Credit builder loans aren’t the only way to establish a good credit score. Here are some other options if you don’t want to take out a loan.

Secured credit cards

Like credit builder loans, secured credit cards are an easy way to build or rebuild credit history. The application process is the same, but secured credit cards require a deposit between $50 and $300 into a separate account. The bank then issues a line of credit that is typically equal to the deposit, allowing you to build a credit history without putting the lender at risk.

Many secured credit cards allow you to “graduate” and move to a traditional credit card after you’ve proven you can make payments consistently. Lenders will report your payments to credit reporting bureaus, and some offer autopay, online payments and alerts to help ensure you pay your monthly bill on time.

Keep in mind: Some secured credit cards have annual fees and APRs as high as 25%.

Unsecured personal loans

Unsecured personal loans can be easy to qualify for, and can help you build credit. These loans typically range from between $2,000 and $50,000, and some lenders will offer them to borrowers with lower credit scores.

The borrower will receive the money in a lump sum upfront, and can then use the money to repay the loan.

Using an unsecured personal loan to build credit, however, can be risky. Many unsecured personal loans come with origination fees, and interest rates can be high, which means the loan can be an expensive way to build credit.

LendingTree
APR

As low as 3.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO®

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company

Advertiser Disclosure

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender.


A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.

As of 28-Feb-2019, LendingTree Personal Loan consumers were seeing match rates as low as 3.99% (3.99% APR) on a $10,000 loan amount for a term of three (3) years. Rates and APRs were based on a self-identified credit score of 700 or higher, zero down payment, origination fees of $0 to $100 (depending on loan amount and term selected).

The bottom line

While credit building loans can be a key step in establishing a strong credit history, it’s imperative that you make all your payments in full and on time. When you are committed to building a strong financial future, successfully paying off a credit builder loan can be a significant factor in someday getting favorable terms on a mortgage and other loans.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marty Minchin
Marty Minchin |

Marty Minchin is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marty here

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