Credit scores—bad, good or otherwise—are not sexy. They don’t come up over girl talk at brunch, and no one is thinking of them in the middle of a first date. However, a bad credit score can negatively impact your ability to act as a high-functioning adult and can become a shameful little secret that nags you in the night. To fix the fiscal missteps of your past takes patience, as credit scores are easy to ruin and tough to repair, but there are a few things you can do now that will start you on the road to recovery. Here, 5 steps to lessening your score shame ASAP.
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Everyone hits tough times once in awhile. If you’d generally paid a certain bill on time—until you became suddenly unemployed, were hit with an unexpected expense that prevented you from continuing to pay that bill, etc.—you can try writing in, calling or using whatever means necessary to negotiate with the creditor to have that ding removed from your record. You should also thoroughly scan your credit report to ensure there aren't errors—such as your name on an account that wasn't yours, or an account listed as having been closed by the creditor when you were the one who opted to shut it down. You can then opt to file a dispute through the credit bureau or directly with the account holder.
Parents of millennials are used to hearing pleas for financial help, so this one may not be a biggie. Ask to be added to one of their cards (assuming they have good credit). Agree upon an amount you're allowed to spend per month as well as a repayment plan. Their responsible payments will guarantee the card doesn't dent your score—just make sure the arrangement doesn't dent your relationship (in other words, make sure you can actually pay them back for whatever you borrow).
Ideally, you’re only using 10 percent of the credit limit offered to you at any given time. Plan to max out at 30 percent, and lower your spending whenever possible. If you can afford to spend more than 30 percent per month, consider making multiple payments each billing cycle to keep the amount it looks like you're spending low. Note: Your credit is affected by your statement balance, regardless of whether or not you pay it in full each month.
If you're already maxed out, see if the credit company will raise your limit. This will help your score by lowering the percentage of available credit used. However, this only works if you don't then start spending at your new limit. Self-restraint is crucial!
Simply inquiring about credit cards can impact your credit score, so be wary of applying for any and every offer that comes your way. Also, spending more than you usually do (or paying less toward your balance) can negatively affect your score. Try to keep your habits consistent (as long as they’re good ones!).