Consumer Alert: The first step to improving your credit score in a month

Consumer Alert: How to change your credit score for the better

Consumer Alert: How to change your credit score for the better

So how are you feeling? If today’s consumer sentiment numbers are any indication, you’re feeling pretty glum. The survey results fell to a six-month low.  So, this Consumer Alert aims to empower you. I figured we all need to feel empowered, and there are few things that can do that like having a credit score so fantastic that lenders are lining up to give you money.

There are five factors that determine your credit score.  The biggest factor is your payment history, at 35 percent. Next, at 30 percent, is the amount of debt owed versus your amount of available credit; that’s your credit utilization ratio. At 15 percent is of your credit history. Your mix of credit makes up 10 percent. For example, in addition to revolving debt like credit card debt, you also want amortized debt like car loans, loans with an end date.

Lastly, how much new credit are you applying for? That’s 10 percent of your score. Jarrett Felton, personal finance expert and founder of wealth management firm Invessent, says the fastest way to see an improvement in your credit score is focusing on your credit utilization rate.

“Each credit card that you have or debt that you have outstanding that you’re making payments on, they report to the credit bureaus on a monthly basis,” said Felton. “And you just want to know when the closing date is on your credit cards, and if it’s a personal loan or an auto loan when they report, so you want to know when they get the good news that you went from 50 percent utilization down to 20 percent. Your credit score could change literally in 30 days. There’s hope.”

Remember, credit card companies want your utilization rate to be 30 percent or less. Felton says one way of improving that ratio is to call your bank and ask them to raise your credit limit. Or you may want to consider taking out a personal loan to pay off your credit card debt. The interest rates for personal loans are usually lower, so you can pay off the debt faster. It also will do two things. decrease your utilization rate while also diversifying the type of debt you’re carrying.

There are possible drawbacks to taking that route.  The interest rates for personal loans aren’t always lower. And personal loans come with fees — application fees, origination fees, prepayment penalties and more. So, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons. Click here for the Associated Press’s picks for best personal loans:

In short, we don’t have to view our credit scores as this nebulous number created by some FICO fiend on high. If we know how it’s created, we have the power to change it.