A credit score is not just a number – it’s the most important measure of an individual’s ability to manage debt responsibly. Not only is it a key factor in securing a car loan or mortgage, but it also affects access to loans, interest rates and employment opportunities. 

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“Your credit score can be a passport to financial freedom,” said Amy Maliga, financial educator with Take Charge America, a nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency. “If your score is lower than you’d like, take steps now to improve your credit and open up new opportunities.”  

While there’s no magic formula to improve a low credit score, these 11 tips will guide your journey to better credit in the short- and long-term: 

  1. Monitor Your Credit: Regularly review your credit report to assess your current status and detect any errors. 
  2. Prioritize Timely Payments: Punctual payments on all forms of credit are crucial for boosting your score.  
  3. Set Up Autopay: Automate payments to ensure you’re never late. 
  4. Consider Additional Payments: Instead of once a month, make payments every other week to pay down balances more quickly.  
  5. Address Past-Due Accounts: Catching up on delinquent accounts can improve your payment history and overall credit score. 
  6. Maintain Low Credit Utilization: Limit your spending and pay down debt to get your credit utilization below 30%. You can also request a credit limit increase – not to rack up debt, but to improve your credit-to-debt ratio. 
  7. Minimize Credit Inquiries: A new account often requires a hard credit inquiry. Too many inquiries in a short timeframe can lower your score. 
  8. Limit New Accounts: New credit cards will reduce the average age, or length, of your credit history, also influencing your score.  
  9. Don’t Close Old Accounts: While this may seem counterintuitive, keep these accounts open to maintain the length of your credit history. 
  10. Negotiate a Lower Interest Rate: If your lender won’t approve a better rate, transfer balances to a lower-rate card. 
  11. Consider a Secured Credit Card: If you’re struggling to get approved for credit, start with a secured credit card. It works like a regular card, but may require a deposit to open the account.  

Added Maliga, “Beware of any company promising quick fixes. Repairing your credit score is a gradual process requiring patience and diligence, but it’s  worth it.” 

For additional financial resources, visit Take Charge America’s Budget Tools