How can I Improve My Credit Score to Qualify for a Loan?

Components of your Credit Score
35% Payment history
30% Amounts owed
15% Length of credit history
10% Types of credit used
10% New credit

These are approximations based on information from MyFICO.com and other sources.

Steps to Improving Your Score

  1. Pull your free credit report from all 3 credit bureaus. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you 1 free credit report per year. Take advantage of this because knowing the information contained in your report is powerful. In many cases, borrowers find mistakes that can be easily removed which will improve their credit score significantly. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order your free credit report.
  2. Make sure to review the report for errors and contact the credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to have them corrected prior to applying for any new loans. This process can take some time to complete, but the credit bureaus are required to respond to your written requests within 30 days or else remove the disputed information from your credit report. Make sure to send requests via certified mail - return receipt requested.
  3. Payoff all open collections - open collections typically cause denials from most lenders. Some lenders will require any open collections to be paid prior to funding a loan, and most student lenders will not approve a borrower who has an open collection, no matter how small the dollar amount. Small medical or phone company collections sometimes appear on credit reports in error, even though the bills have been paid. Make sure to supply the credit reporting bureaus with written evidence that these bills have been paid so they will be removed from your credit.
  4. Debt ratio - if you owe a balance on a credit card or other revolving account such as retail store cards, make sure it is less than 30% of the credit limit. For example: if your credit card has a $1,000 limit, do not carry a balance of more than $300. It is much better to have small balances on several cards than to have a large balance on only 1 card. If you can, transfer your balances around to multiple cards to keep below the 30% mark. That will help improve your score dramatically.
  5. Recent late payments are NOT GOOD! In cases where you have had recent late payments you can attempt to contact the creditor and beg and plead for them to remove them from your report. If you are not a frequent offender, some lenders will forgive a late payment if you can provide a good explanation - it doesn't hurt to ask. If you cannot have the late payments removed, you can try disputing them with the credit bureaus. Otherwise, only time and keeping your payments current will improve your credit score. Keep in mind that 60 and 90 day late payments are considered serious delinquencies and should be avoided if possible.
  6. Accounts - if you are applying for a student loan, do not open any other accounts. Recent inquiries to your credit report negatively impact your score, but new accounts have a significant negative impact. Also, do not close accounts that you are not using since that will lower your available credit and will hurt your score.