5 Things That Won't Improve Your Credit Score

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  • Your credit score impacts how much you pay to borrow money via credit cards and loans of all kinds.
  • Your marital status and income don't have anything to do with your credit score.
  • Ignoring your credit score won't improve it, but you can pay down debt and make on-time payments to watch your credit score grow.

Don't assume any of these will help (or hurt) that important three-digit number.

Your credit score says a lot about your financial past, and can have a huge impact on your future financial prospects. After all, credit scores are used to determine how much interest you'll pay when you borrow money, whether you'll be approved for that sweet rewards credit card, and even how much you'll be charged for auto insurance. In short, it pays to keep on top of your credit score.

With that in mind, here are a few factors that you might think have an impact on your credit score, but actually don't.

1. Getting married -- or divorced

Being married (or not) doesn't matter for your credit score. Your marital status doesn't even appear on your credit report. The only way you and your spouse are linked via your credit is if you apply for credit together (such as a mortgage loan). Then the lender will consider both of your credit histories and likely base approval (and interest rate) on the lower score.

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2. Paying your rent or utility bills

Except in very select circumstances (such as signing up for a credit-boosting service), paying your rent, utilities, or other bills doesn't improve your credit. These payments aren't reported to the credit bureaus the way payments on loans and credit cards are. This is also why in most cases, banks don't have evidence of all the years of rent you paid on time when it comes to approving you for a mortgage loan.

3. Increasing your income

While a lender may ask you for your income, or even request pay stubs or a W-2 to see evidence of your earnings, your salary doesn't impact your credit score. So if you've just scored a big raise at work or switched jobs to something that pays better and are now expecting a credit score boost, well, you'll be disappointed. However, having more income can help your credit by allowing you to pay off existing debt.

4. Having a low interest rate on a loan

If you have a low interest rate on an existing loan, your credit score will not improve directly as a result of this. The inverse can be true, however. If your interest rate on a personal loan is low enough that you can make higher payments toward your principal balance, you'll pay the loan off faster. As your debt decreases, your credit score will increase.

5. Ignoring it

Pretending your credit score doesn't exist at all is absolutely the opposite of productive when it comes to improving it. The best way to address a low credit score is to tackle it head on, because you absolutely do have ways to improve it.

How can you actually improve your credit score?

Your credit score is made up of five different factors that you have influence over, and they're weighted differently.

  1. Payment history (35%): If you haven't always been good about paying your credit card bills on time, work at it, because payment history has the biggest impact on your score.
  2. Credit utilization ratio (30%): Credit utilization ratio refers to the percentage of your credit you're using. If you can pay down some existing debt, it'll improve your credit score.
  3. Age of credit history (15%): How old are your accounts? Try to keep credit accounts open and in good standing for as long as you can.
  4. Credit mix (10%): It's not a good idea to borrow money in different ways only to boost your credit score. But if you have an auto loan, a mortgage, and a few credit cards, and all are in good standing, you have a good credit mix.
  5. New credit inquiries (10%): You can keep this in good shape by applying for new credit sparingly. Every time a lender does a hard credit check, it dings your credit score by a few points.

Credit scores aren't such a mystery. Treat yours with TLC by focusing on the weighted factors above, rather than worrying about those that don't impact it.

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