Despite the important role your credit score plays in helping you live a successful life, it's not always easy to know what you can do to improve it. Your credit history is a hard thing to change, and trying to undo some of it can result in more pain—like closing a paid-off credit card you've had for 15 years.
As a business owner, you can face some of the same credit woes—your personal credit is often used in lieu of business credit when you're starting out, and companies that can't obtain business credit cards may have a hard time paying bills or getting loans to expand.
That means it's important to do everything you can to keep your score up going forward. Because credit scores are supposed to be based on the entirety of your credit record, boosting them quickly is a challenge. Adopting the right habits now, however, can go a long way toward strengthening your credit score in the future.
Getting Your Credit Where It Needs to Be
If you're looking to up your score before the end of 2019, start by:
1. Correcting all errors.
Errors in your credit reports could adversely affect your credit scores. The easiest thing you could do right now to get your score on track is to check your credit report for any errors and correct them.
The three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—all offer free credit reports to users annually. All credit bureaus must respond to any disputes you raise within 30 days, so fact-checking your credit report is an efficient way to help get your score where it needs (and deserves) to be.
To start 2020 with strong credit, you need to do everything you can to get your finances in order now.
2. Creating a billing schedule.
When it comes down to boosting your credit score naturally, however, you need to take stock of how you manage your financials (and your business's). The single biggest factor that affects your credit score is how and when you pay off your debts, so it's important to make a plan for covering all of your bills.
Create a schedule for every payment you need to make for the rest of this year. Make sure you have all of the money you need to have at the right time to cover all of your bills. This may not be obvious—you may need to save a little money at the end of the month to cover a payment due on the first of the following month, or you may be able to make payments right when you have money in hand (not just when the invoice arrives). This is especially crucial when it comes to making payroll in a timely manner.
Set up autopayments when possible; for the rest, set calendar reminders so you pay things on time (or early) every month. Covering your debts in a timely manner is a surefire way to help keep your credit score steadily increasing.
3. Think about your credit utilization.
Another big influencing factor behind your credit score is your credit utilization, or how much of your credit limit you actually use. The more you push up against this limit, the lower your credit score can go. Lenders may be wary of people who maximize their lines of credit, so it's important to keep your credit utilization as low as possible.
An easy way to lower your credit utilization is by simply maintaining your spending but requesting a credit limit increase. If you qualify, you'll naturally be using a smaller proportion of your credit limit without having to change your payment habits at all.
Another way of keeping your credit utilization down is by micromanaging all of your credit cards, particularly if you run a business where multiple people have access. Paying off your card balance several times a month keeps you far below your credit limit. It can even be beneficial to turn your credit card into a pseudo-debit card by paying off all payments as soon as they're charged. There's typically no penalty for how or when you pay, so get comfortable making smaller payments if they work for you. In fact, some credit cards are sold on this premise of paying as you go.
4. Chipping away at existing debts.
If you're looking to bump up your credit score in a shorter time frame, speeding up the process of debt removal is a valuable option. Requisitioning additional funds from your budget and putting them toward your outstanding loans will naturally give your credit score a lift. Banks and credit cards are eager to establish relationships with individuals and companies that pay ahead of time.
A little bit can go a long way in this department. Even just getting one or two payments ahead by the time the year is up can make a strong impression on the rest of your credit report. As a bonus, you'll pay less on the debt over time as you chip away at the principal and avoid interest. As a business owner, that's more money in your pocket to invest in the company—and avoid taking on additional debt in the long run.
To start 2020 with strong credit, you need to do everything you can to get your finances in order now. Your credit score—and your company's—will never improve if you don't make an effort to add positive aspects to your credit report. Finish out 2019 strong by focusing on what you can do to boost your credit score—it will give you a lot more freedom and opportunities in 2020.
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