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Credit reports and scores

How do I get and keep a good credit score?

There are no secrets or shortcuts to building a strong credit score. Following these guidelines should help:

Pay your bills on time, every time. One way to make sure your payments are on time is to set up automatic payments, or set up electronic reminders. If you have missed payments, get current and stay current.

Don’t get close to your credit limit Credit scoring models look at how close you are to being “maxed out,” so try to keep your balances low in proportion to your overall credit limit. Experts advise keeping your use of credit at no more than 30 percent of your total credit limit.

A long credit history will help your score. Credit scores are based on experience over time. The more experience you have with getting credit and paying your bills on time, the more information there is to determine whether you are a good credit risk.

Tip: If you close some credit card accounts and put most or all of your credit card balances onto one card, it may hurt your credit score if this means that you are using a high percentage of your total credit limit.

Only apply for credit that you need. Credit scores look at your recent credit activity as an indicator of your need for credit. If you apply for a lot of credit over a short period of time, it may appear to lenders that your economic circumstances have changed negatively.

Tip: Check your credit report regularly and make sure the information in your credit reports is correct. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report from the nationwide credit reporting companies. You can receive a free credit report once every 12 months.

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