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Credit Score Need a Lift? These 7 Smart Financial Moves Can Provide a Quick Boost

For consumers seeking to borrow money — whether for a home, a car, or with a smaller line of credit such as those given for financing an appliance or home-improvement services — having a high credit score can bring big benefits. Not only can a good credit score play an outsized role in helping a borrower secure a loan approval, but it can also open the door to lower interest rates. And particularly when the loan is a sizable one, lower rates can deliver substantial savings, especially over time.

What is a good credit score?

Credit scores typically range from 300 on the low end to a ceiling of 850, the perfect credit score. Serving as a numeric indicator of a consumer’s credit history, these scores are generally considered good when they fall in the 670-739 range, very good in the 740-799 range, and excellent when they land at 800 or higher. And while a good or excellent credit score doesn’t come easy — generally taking years of responsible financial practices and minimal debts to accomplish — there are ways to effectively raise a lower-than-ideal credit score, sometimes even relatively quickly.

7 ways to raise a credit score fast

If you’re looking to elevate your credit score quickly, consider making one or more of these seven credit-score-boosting financial moves:

  • Pay bills on time: Since it’s the leading factor used to determine a person’s credit score, maintaining a long history of on-time bill payments is the best way to accomplish a high credit score. Make timely bill payments a habit — and be especially sure to avoid letting any bill payment become more than 29 days overdue. Once a payment becomes 30 or more days late, the delinquency can be reported to credit bureaus, lowering the consumer’s credit score. If you simply won’t be able to get a bill paid by then, call the creditor to see if a payment plan can be arranged — and ask if they might be willing to delay reporting the delinquency.
  • Pay credit cards down multiple times per month: Known as “credit utilization,” the portion of your available credit that you actually use is another substantial factor used in determining your credit score. The lower the percentage of your available credit you’re actually utilizing, the better. And by making multiple payments to your credit cards throughout the month, you can keep this percentage as low as possible — and thereby give your credit score a boost.
  • Ask for higher credit limits: In the same vein as the above, by increasing the amount of credit available to you — without actually using it — you can lower your credit utilization percentage and thereby lift your credit score. This can be accomplished by requesting (and ideally receiving) higher credit limits on any credit cards you already have. Since most creditors can approve and activate higher credit limits without much delay, this can be an especially effective way to raise your credit score quickly.
  • Keep your credit cards — even unused ones — open: Still another tactic for maintaining a low credit utilization is to refrain from closing out any of your credit cards, even if you have no plans to use them anytime soon … or ever. Especially if the cards are totally paid off with no balance remaining on them, keeping them open makes their full credit lines available to you — resulting in a lower credit-utilization percentage and a higher credit score.
  • Check for — and fix — any credit-report errors: By law, all U.S. consumers are entitled to receive a free copy of their credit report once per year from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Getting the copies is a relatively simple process that can be completed by visiting annualcreditreport.com and making a free request. And once your credit reports are in hand, you can review them for accuracy, then dispute any errors that you might find. And by removing any credit-history errors that are negatively impacting your credit score, you can realize a quick credit-score increase.
  • Keep any new account applications limited — While adding to the amount of credit you have available to you can help lower your credit-utilization percentage and boost your credit score, doing so by applying for new lines of credit comes with a considerable drawback. When you apply for new credit cards or other lines of credit, many potential creditors will perform a hard inquiry on your credit report to determine the level of risk they’re taking on by loaning you money — and each hard inquiry that is made lowers your credit score a bit. While the occasional hard inquiry doesn’t carry much of a negative impact, they can add up to deliver a more significant impact to your credit score if a number of them are performed in a short period of time.
  • Consider debt consolidation — If you have a number of outstanding debts and as a result are making payments to multiple creditors each month, a debt consolidation loan from a bank can simplify your life — and potentially save you money with a lower interest rate. And because such a loan can reduce the number of monthly bills you need to pay on the debts each month to one, it can reduce the likelihood you’ll mistakenly miss a payment, thereby helping prevent any hits to your credit score. Further, any lowered interest rate that you realize in the debt consolidation can help you pay down the debt faster, delivering another potential credit score booster by way of improving your credit utilization ratio.

Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.

Man doing his banking online

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.

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Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.

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Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:

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Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.

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Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.

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Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.

Contingencies:

  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.

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Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.

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Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.

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Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.

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Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.

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