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How I Raised My Credit Score To 800 // 3 Quick Steps

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Okay, I’ll have to admit that I used to suck at managing credit!

And looking back, that’s probably because I had no clue about how the credit system actually worked. 

Even so, back in 2015, I found myself in desperate need of a new car.

The problem is that first I had to get past the credit check.

I remember sitting in the salesman’s office on pins and needles, saying a silent prayer and hoping for a good result!

But deep down, I knew that my credit was shaky, so I was also bracing myself for the worst. 

And just as I suspected, the news was not good.

Fortunately, I had my husband as a backup. And with his credit, we were able to get the car financed with 0% interest!

That’s when I realized the true power of good credit

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So after that, I got to work!

And I started taking deliberate actions to increase my credit score.

Then, two years later, when our daughter needed a car, I bravely tried my credit again.

This time around though, I knew my credit was in a much better place.

But still, I took a deep breath while waiting for the results.

The salesman looked at me and asked, “What do you think your credit score is?”

It had been a while since I checked my score, so I cautiously said, “I’m not sure, but I know it’s upwards of 700.”

He smiled and said, “Try upwards of 800!”

Wait -- what?

I was stunned! For the first time in my life, I not only had good credit, but I had excellent credit!

And don’t worry, I’m going to tell you exactly what I did. But first, you’re probably wondering...

What Makes A Good Credit Score?

Well, it starts with the FICO score. That’s the three-digit number that most lenders use to get a snapshot of whether you are a good credit risk or a not so good credit risk.

In other words, how likely are you to pay them back? 

The typical FICO score range is between 300-850. And the average good credit score starts around 670. 

However, different lenders may have their own guidelines for deciding what they consider to be a good score.

Here’s a quick list of what each credit division classifies as a good credit score.

  • FICO range: 300-850; Good = 670-739

  • Vantage range: 300-850; Good = 661-780

  • Equifax range: 280-850; Good = 660-724

  • Experian range: 300-850; Good = 660-780

  • Transunion range: 300-850; Good = 700-749

So now you’re probably thinking...

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What Factors Impact A Credit Score?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I used to be pretty clueless about credit. 

I thought it was all about buying the stuff I wanted and being able to make at least the minimum payments.

But, as it turns out, there is an entire process lurking behind the scenes. 

If only I had known that sooner I could have saved thousands of dollars in high-interest rates, extra fees, and large down payments.

Here’s a simple breakdown of how credit scores are calculated:

  • Payment History (35%)

  • Credit Utilization (30%)

  • Length of credit history (15%)

  • New Credit (10%)

  • Types of Credit/Credit Mix (10%) 

So, once I discovered that there is a method to the madness of boosting a credit score, here’s what I did.

Increasing Credit Score

Well, you probably already guessed that the very first thing was...

Become An Authorized User

Actually, I tend to think of what I did as more of a modified authorized user strategy. 

Because remember, I was the one who needed the new car. So I didn’t get added on to an already existing account.

Instead, we used my husband’s credit to finance my car and to get a 0% interest rate. Then, I was added on to that new account.

The only potential downside to this method is that on paper, the car is technically in his name.  

Payment history is the number one component of your credit score, accounting for 35% of your score.

However, in the real world, I held all the responsibility for making the payments. 

The good news is that once I paid off the car, it helped both his credit score and mine, so that was a win-win!

But, to get to that point, I had to be flawless since both of our credits were on the line.

So that leads me to the next very crucial step that I did, which was...

Set All Fixed Expenses On Autopay

As you can see in the breakdown above, payment history carries the most weight for improving your credit score. 

But like I said, mine has always been shaky in the past. So making sure that I didn’t miss a beat became a top priority. 

That’s why I took the set-it-and-forget-it approach. I put ALL of our monthly fixed expenses, including that new car payment, on autopay.

Some of our other fixed expenses included our mortgage, insurance, cellular bill, and personal loans.

Previously, I had been afraid to try autopay because I worried about overdrafting my bank account.

But then, I had to look at it like this -- necessities have to be paid regardless. So, I might as well make sure to pay them first, and on time.

That way, I can avoid late fees, build a good payment history, and boost my credit score all in one fell swoop.

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As for my variable expenses like the electric bill, I set reminders on my cell phone. I make sure to get an alert the day before and the day of, when a bill is due.

This brings me to the next thing that I did.

Slash Credit Spending

I was notoriously bad for maxing out my credit cards.

I’m sure at one point, I was probably using at least 95% of my available credit. Sheesh, it’s no wonder I was broke!

So, even though I was paying bills on time, my credit score was still taking a hit due to my extremely high credit card balances. 

Money experts tend to recommend that you use less than 30% of your available credit

Otherwise, it looks like debt is putting too much strain on your money.

So, to bring down my credit utilization, I basically had to go on a spending fast. 

And to do that I:

  • Completely stopped using credit for at least 9 months 

  • Unsubscribed from all my favorite shopping sites

  • Only used cash or debit for all my purchases

FYI, now I’ve gotten so good at managing my credit that I keep my utilization at about 3% or less.

On top of doing the spending fast to lower my credit utilization, I also had to...

Pay More Than The Minimum Payment

During all the years that I was in debt, there was one thing that used to frustrate the crap out of me.

And that was after I would scratch and claw to make credit card payments just to see that the balance never freaking budged. 

It’s like, one month, my balance was $1500, and after six months of making payments, it only went down to $1499. Huh! How is that possible?

Well, I think it was a deadly mixture of: 

  • Outrageous interest rates

  • Only making the minimum payments

  • Constantly charging more items 

So, to actually see results, I had to work it into my budget to send an amount that was more than the minimum payment

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My goal was always to send double the minimum amount due. But sometimes, I didn’t have enough money available to do that. 

When that happened, I sent what I could. Even if it meant that I could only squeeze out an extra $10 for that month. 

The problem is that doing that wasn’t fast enough! 

I was serious about paying down my debt and bringing up my credit score, so -- I had to bring out the big guns and...

Do A Balance Transfer

Now when I say “big guns,” I mean, that once again, I had to rely on my husband’s good credit. 

You’d think he would get tired of me asking, right? 

But, the truth is that I took better care of things that affected his credit than I did with my own. 

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Plus, all he had to do was make a phone call, and he was able to get 0% interest for 18 months on one of his cards.

So, we transferred my balances onto his card, and that made all the difference!

Now, every dollar I was paying drove down my balance significantly.

And by the time the 18 months was over, I had paid off at least 60% of my debt. 

After that, he was able to get another 0% interest rate for 12 months on a different card. 

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The best part is, that was all the additional time I needed. 

By the time the second balance transfer ended, I had completely paid off my entire balance.

Talk about a win!

Oh, and also another important thing that I learned helps to raise credit scores is...

Don't Close Out Old Accounts

Initially, I thought that after I pay off a card, I should get rid of it so I won’t be tempted to use it again.

But, as it turns out, old paid off accounts work in your favor by showing a long credit history. 

My oldest account is a student loan from over 20 years ago that I finally paid off until 2011.

Unfortunately, it will more than likely drop off my credit report next year. 

But, for now, it’s still providing that much-needed long credit history.

So, it’s important to remember that even if you don’t plan to use the cards anymore, you can cut them up if you want to-- but DO NOT cancel them!

On the flip side, here’s another crucial thing you should know if you want to increase your credit score.

Don't Open New Accounts

You know how I mentioned that older credit history helps to boost your credit score?

Well, opening up a new line of credit does the exact opposite of that!

Most people already know that it creates a hard inquiry that will lower your score, at least by a few points.

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But, it can also have other negative effects that you might not have thought about. 

For instance, it decreases your average length of credit history

So, unless you have some really old accounts in good standing to balance it out, then your score could take a plunge. 

On top of that, it increases your credit utilization if you begin making any purchases with the new account.

For me, not opening new credit was a no-brainer, because the last thing I ever want is another bill to pay!

So there you have it! Those are the things that led me to reach an 800 credit score in 2017.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, it’s not just one thing, but a series of steps that go into getting a better credit score. 

And here’s a quick recap of the credit score breakdown:

  • Payment History (35%)

  • Credit Utilization (30%)

  • Length of credit history (15%)

  • New Credit (10%)

  • Types of Credit/Credit Mix (10%) 

Also, keep in mind, that a good score is based on the lender and the credit bureau being used.

But, the key takeaway is that taking consistent steps as I did above, will definitely help you skyrocket your credit score in the end.

*A recent nationwide survey by Credit Knocks showed 48% of credit repair clients got a 100+ credit score gain if they stayed with their company for at least 6 months.

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