Maintaining good credit comes with quite a few advantages. When lenders see that you use and pay back your credit responsibly, they may offer you lower interest rates, better terms and a quicker approval process.
In a 2013 Department of Defense survey, 27 percent of enlisted servicemembers estimated their own credit scores to be between 581 and 680. While these scores aren’t bad, they could use some improvement. Many of the suggestions for improving your credit score are the same as those given to people who need to completely rebuild their credit.
These tips include:
- paying loans and bills on time
- staying within credit limits—aiming to keep credit in use under 30 percent of your available credit
- borrowing or charging only what you can afford to pay back
- checking your credit report regularly
If you want to move your credit from good to great, besides following guidelines to rebuild credit, you can use a few strategies:
- Be sure to keep old credit cards open so your available credit doesn’t drop. Having more credit allows you to borrow more, but be sure to stay below 30 percent of your credit limit.
- Work with credit card balances to find what is right for you. Transferring debt to one card with a lower interest rate can help you pay down your debt load. Continue to use your other cards for small purchases that are easily paid off, so they’re still in use.
- Diversify your credit usage through different types of loans, such as credit cards, auto loans or a mortgage
Using Credit to Improve Your Finances
A good credit score makes it easier to shop around for a good price, buy or rent a home, or finance a major purchase. You can take advantage of these benefits to improve your finances even further. With an improved credit score, you can:
- ask for an increase in credit limit and better interest rates. With a better credit score, lenders are more willing to trust you with a higher credit limit and lower interest rate because you’re likely to pay the money back. Lower interest rates allow you to borrow money for a lower price when you need to, and higher limits allow you to borrow more. To take advantage of a good credit score, talk to your lender to request a lower rate or higher limit.
- refinance your mortgage. Finding that sweet spot for getting or refinancing your mortgage is key. Although 720 was considered ideal a few years ago, a score of 740 is often the minimum score required to get the best deal and not incur any extra fees. Now that you have a better credit score, refinancing your mortgage can mean a better interest rate and potentially lower payments.
- get a great rate on a car loan. A higher credit score means lenders are more willing to give you a lower financing rate, which saves you money. Have an existing car loan? Check whether refinancing makes sense for you.
- apply for a new job. Some employers will inquire about your credit history when you’re being considered for a job, which could hold you back professionally. With an improved credit score, you could score a higher-paying gig.