5 Credit Score Factors (And How to Improve Each of Them!)

By Chris Huntley

Certified Credit Consultant, licensed insurance agent, and former Series 65 Registered Investment Advisor

Advertiser Disclaimer - Some links on this page may pay us advertising fees.

Summary: Learn the five most important credit score factors as well as tips and tricks to quickly improve all five components, even payment history.

If you're looking to improve your credit score, you've probably asked how credit score is calculated and learned there are five components that make up your score.

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Experian Boost credits you for paying utility and cell phone bills which improves your credit score for free.  

It's quick, easy, and free.

What you might not know is some factors carry more weigt than others and there are lesser-known tricks that can help you improve each category quickly.    

Here are the 5 factors in your credit score:

Also included is the relative weight each factor contributes to your overall score.  

As you can see, it takes a lot more than just getting a credit card and using it once in a while to establish good credit.   Here's how your credit score breaks down.

5 Credit Score Factors - Breakdown of Credit Score

Payment History 35% - The Most Important Credit Score Factor 

Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score calculation.  It may not seem like a factor you can manipulate, but you can.  

... And you can do it quickly!

Since it's the #1 component of your credit score, you should take the most action here!

Here are four ways to improve your payment history.

1. Sign up for Experian Boost™ & eCredable Lift

Typically, you don't earn any positive payment history on your credit file for paying utilities bills on time (such as your cell phone, internet, water bill).

But there are two "new-ish" and lesser-known services that allow you to get credit for your on-time utilities payments.

Both are similar in that they allow you to add up to 2 years of positive payment history to your FICO credit score.

Experian Boost™ is free, but just know they validate the payments by accessing your banking records.  So you have to link that up and then it only works if you pay your bill through the bank.  If you pay your bill via credit card, it won't work.

ECredable Lift is a bit more secure in that they link up to your utilities accounts instead of your bank (who cares if they have access to your utilities account, right?)  

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Increase Your Credit by 100+ Points

In a recent study at Credit Knocks, we found that *48% of clients who used a credit repair company got a credit score increase of 100+ points.

Consultation is quick, easy, and free.

2. Report Your Rent

Normally, when you pay your rent on time, that doesn't help your credit because your landlord doesn't report your payment to the credit bureaus.

But there's a service called "Rent Reporting" that will take all your on-time rental payments for the last year or two and report your payments to the credit bureaus, which can add up to 40 points to your credit score in 10 days.

A lot of these companies will verify up to 24 months of rent payments.

Imagine all that positive payment history hitting your credit file.


Here's our list of the top rent reporting companies.

Note:  Before paying for the service, you might check if your landlord will report your payments for free.

Breakdown of Credit Score

3. "Borrow" Credit History from a Family Member

One way to "trick" the system is to get a family member to add you as an "authorized user" to their credit card.  

The benefit is your credit file will inherit that card's payment history.  

So if the account is 10 years old, your credit file immediately looks like you've been paying on that tradeline for 10 years!  Note, you only want to do this if they have a good payment history.

Learn more about the authorized user strategy here.

Quick Tip:

Don't have a friend or family member with an established card? Or they won't add you? Tradeline  Supply Company allows you to buy your way into an authorized user position on a great credit card.

4. Remove Negative Items: Get Help If Needed

If you have negative items in your credit report such as late payments or collections, it's going to take more than the steps above to repair your credit.

So far we've been talking about ways to ADD positive payment history to your credit file, which certainly helps, but you also have to work to remove the negative history.

Three ways to do this are:

  • Send Goodwill Letters - Did you have a one-time hardship that caused a late payment.  User our template to ask forgiveness from your lender.  Many will remove the negative mark.
  • Pay for Delete Letters - Often you can negotiate with a collections company or a lender to delete the negative mark on your credit if you pay your balance.
  • 609 Credit Repair Template - Use this template if there is incorrect information on your credit report.  Even if you think it might be yours but aren't sure, you can send these letters and sometimes the negative item falls off.

If you need professional help, or simply don't have the time, we recommend you hire the pros. 

We've done the research and have a review of our best credit repair companies here.

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Credit Utilization 30% - Easy Ways to Improve This Score Factor

With credit utilization making up 30% of your credit score, you can see that having a good credit score is about a lot more than not having negative items on your credit reports.

Recently, the CEO of Credit Karma, Ken Lin, wrote an article called "5 Steps for Overhauling Your Credit" at Inc.com.

So what was his #1 tip?

To keep your credit utilization low.

Basically that means the amount you owe compared to your credit limits.  Or in other words, if you have more available credit, your score should be higher.

increase vantagescore 200 points

For example, if you have a limit of $10,000 on a credit card and have a $2,000 balance, you are using 20% of your possible credit limit, so you would have a credit utilization of 20%.

Lin recommends keeping it under 30%.  Here are a few easy ways to lower your credit utilization, since Lin doesn't talk about that in his article.

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Experian Boost Is Free! 

Experian Boost credits you for paying utility and cell phone bills which improves your credit score for free.  

It's quick, easy, and free.

1. Increase Your Credit Limits

The easiest way is to lower your credit utilization is to increase your credit limits. So if you have credit cards, call them up and ask them for a limit increase. They will typically do this if you have been paying on-time.

Note:  When you request an increase, you typically need to know how much you want your new limit to be.  I'd recommend asking for 30% more than your current limit.  For example, if your current limit is $1,000, ask for a new limit of $1,300.

If you don't have any credit cards and need an EASY way to increase your credit limits, you need new credit.  Tip #2 can help you there!

2. Fingerhut, Not Amazon

Next time you need to buy something on Amazon, buy it at Fingerhut instead.

Fingerhut is an online retailer like Amazon - the only difference is you buy their items on credit and pay them off at a monthly cost as little as $6.99 per month.

Click here for our full review.

Fingerhut will extend a small line of credit to you, and you can build your credit while you shop for things you need anyway.

(This one recommendation helped boost my brother's credit by 50 points and is one of our top recommended credit tools!)

It's free to sign up, just about anyone can qualify, and since they'll extend a line of credit to you (remember - increased limit means decreased credit utilization) it may give you a credit score boost of 20 points or more just for signing up.

3. Pay Your Credit Card Bill PRIOR to the End of the Billing Cycle

Most people assume that as long as they pay off their credit card every time they get a bill, a zero balance will show up in their credit file.

But that's not how it works.

Here are the actual steps:

  1. Your bill cycle ends - Let's say it's from June 20th to July 20th
  2. Credit card company sends your bill - You'll get a bill for your balance on the last day of your bill cycle (July 20th in the example above).  You typically have at least 3 weeks to pay without incurring interest or fees.
  3. Your balance is sent to the credit bureaus - The credit card company sends your balance AS OF THE LAST DAY OF YOUR BILLING CYCLE to the credit bureaus, not your balance after you make your payment!

The problem is if you pay a lot of bills with your credit card to get points and rewards, every month, the credit card company is sending a potentially large balance to the credit bureaus, EVEN if you are paying the bill off in FULL!

Simple solution.  Adjust your payment date to a few days before the end of the bill cycle.  Do NOT pay off the entire balance or your account will look inactive.  Look to pay off 90% of your balance.

This will keep your credit utilization super low!

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Low Credit Score?

Get a free consultation with a credit repair expert to see how much they can help your credit score.

It's quick, easy, and free.

Credit Age 15% - How to Add 10 Years to Your Age of Credit

If you want to improve your credit score, you've probably learned that length of credit history is an important component of your score.

Credit age makes up 15% of your credit score, in fact. 

But how can you manipulate credit age?

I mean, doesn't it take years to improve your "length of credit history?"  

As it turns out, our little "authorized user" strategy we reviewed in the payment history section above, does wonders for credit age as well!

So here's what you do:  

  1. Review the authorized user section again by clicking here.
  2. Ask a family member to add you.  Here's a video I shot that will help you get them to say "yes."
  3. No family member to ask?  Click here to buy old aged tradelines.
how i raised my vantagescore 200 points

Credit Inquiries 10% - How to Remove Them or Keep Them to a Minimum

When it comes to credit inquiries, we're only talking about 10% of your score.

However, it makes sense that if the credit bureaus see you requesting money from multiple lenders, they should be more cautious that you are struggling financially and they may penalize you a bit for this.

Three important items here:

  1. Soft Inquiries Don't Hurt Your Score - When you check your score at places like Credit Sesame, this doesn't hurt your score.  We're only concerned about when you apply for a new line of credit, which turns into a "hard inquiry."
  2. According to Equifax, multiple hard inquiries within a certain time period for a home or auto loan are generally counted as only one inquiry.
  3. You can dispute hard inquiries that you did not authorize or that do not belong to you.  See our article about this.

So be cautious when applying for new credit.  Think about the following if you need to borrow money:

  • Can you get by with a loan from a friend or family member?  
  • If you do apply for a loan, be sure to find out if they do a soft or hard inquiry.  Many personal loans pre-approve you with a soft inquiry causing no damage to your credit.
  • If you are going to rate shop, be sure to do so within a 30 to 60 day window so it only shows up as one inquiry.

Also be sure to see our article on how to remove a hard inquiry.

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Increase Your Credit by 100+ Points

In a recent study at Credit Knocks, we found that *48% of clients who used a credit repair company got a credit score increase of 100+ points.

Consultation is quick, easy, and free.

Credit Mix 10% - How to Improve This Credit Score Factor

One of the things that helps your credit score is having a diverse credit mix.  It accounts for 10% of your score.

So you probably know credit cards give you "revolving credit," but you also want the type of credit with fixed terms and payments called "installment loans."

"But those are hard to get with lousy credit, aren't they?"


Not anymore.

Self offers what's called a "credit builder loan" to people with bad credit.

How is Credit Score Calculated?  It Depends

When asking how credit score is calcuated, the big question is "which credit score?"  In this article, we've covered how FICO, (the most popular credit scoring model) calculates their score.  But there are many scoring models, some with different ranges and having different components than the 5 we've covered here.

Here's an example:

You pay Self Lender $25 per month for 2 years. Every payment is reported to all 3 credit bureaus as an "installment loan" (Great for your credit mix because this is like a car or home loan). After two years, Self gives you $520 (you get back the amount you paid minus their interest)

So it's like a forced savings account, but Self makes it a loan.

Key Benefits:

  • 45 point average credit score increase
  • Build your "payment history" and "credit mix"
  • No credit check

Obviously the big difference between this type of loan and any other loan you've ever seen is you get the loan money on the back end instead of the front end.

This is tremendous for your credit.

Many people who use Self say it increases their score 40-60 points in 60 days.

Take Action!

There you have it.  How to calculate credit score AND how to improve every aspect of it.  Please take action and if you found this helpful, please share on social media and tag a friend.

*Study participants who received 100+ point gains stayed with credit repair company for 6 months or more, on average.

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