Are you stuck when you are not able to get the loan you need?
Maybe you want to take out a mortgage loan, plan a wedding, apply for a car loan or build up funds for retirement. If that is the case, improving your credit score should be your top priority.
A Credit Score is a number used by lenders as an indicator of how likely you will repay your debts and the probability of going into default. It is guaranteed to influence the borrowing for your big-ticket items. The higher your score, the better your chances of getting the credit you need.
So how do you know your credit score? And more importantly, how to improve your credit score if it’s not measuring up?
Here are five tips to help you improve your credit score…
#1. Check your credit report and rectify any mistakes
No system is perfect, even the credit score system in Singapore. Sometimes, there could be mistakes in your credit data which will affect your credit score. Sometimes, it could be just some transactions raise alert to the bank. (read my personal story)
The first thing you should do is to obtain a credit report from Credit Bureau. Check your report thoroughly and get it fixed if you do see a mistake or factors that have pulled down your score.
It is advisable to check at least once a year. Take steps to fix it and follow up to ensure it has been resolved. Otherwise, the error will remain on your report and could possibly hurt your credit score.
If you wish to dispute the completeness or accuracy of any item of information such as the account status, previous enquiries and overdue balances, you can contact Credit Bureau Singapore (CBS) and CBS will post a notice in your credit file that the credit data is being disputed and is under investigation.
#2. Pay your bills on time, all the time
A missed credit card bill payment will have the greatest and longest lasting impact. The more recent the missed payment occurred, the greater that impact will be, and the more missed payments you have, the longer it will take to recover. The prescription here is clear: Pay your bills on time, all the time.
Financial institutions determine your credit risks by the following factors:
- How you charge purchases to your credit card
- How you pay off your credit card debt every month
Paying your credit card balances in full every month helps you to maintain your credit rating and build up a good credit score. This will enable you to use credit to work harder for you, rather than becoming a slave to credit.
Where possible, always try to pay in full as you may already know, the rollover or outstanding balances will be charged at 24% p.a!
I use to pay my credit card bills manually because I felt I had “control” over my spendings. Later I realized that was just an illusion. Sometimes I was too busy and I paid the bill a couple of days late and I had to call the bank to waive the late fee and finance charges. All these were just not worth the time and effort.
Now I use GIRO to ensure payments are not late, and I schedule a fixed date every month to check all my bills.
The consistency of paying bills on time is critical to your credit score. Yes, it is simply month after month of plain-vanilla, on-time payments. This will greatly help improve your credit score especially if you are trying to offset the late credit card payments. These on-time payments will make positive behaviour in your favour moving forward.
#3. Avoid multiple new credit applications within a short period of time
There is no hard and fast rule to this, but sometimes a few new credit applications will push you from a responsible consumer to an unreliable one from a bank’s point of view. And every bank has a different set of requirements and criteria to satisfy.
Whenever you apply for new credit facilities, it would put enquiries against your credit report. Many enquiries within a short period of time can have an adverse effect on your credit score.
For your information, “Previous Enquiries” are retained on your credit report 2 years from the date of enquiry. So it takes a long time before the effect wears off.
#4. Keep your credit active
From time to time, people ask me why they cannot get credits even if they have no outstanding debt at all. If you check your credit score, you may have a CX Grade.
It may seem contradictory, but it is not good enough to simply pay off your credit card bills and not utilise them again.
You see, one of the main purposes of having a good credit score is to ascertain that you are a responsible user of credit. But if you do not use your credit, the banks cannot assess it. If you have “insufficient credit activity”, there is very limited information such as credit applications or accounts status history to derive a score.
In today’s world of credit repair, part of proving you’re a good credit consumer is actually using your credit. – Ivan Guan
There’s a solution though, but one that should not be treated irresponsibly. Use your cards from time to time, manage within your credit limits and generate a sustained history of on-time repayments. Keep your credit active.
#5. Commit to keep it simple and improve your credit score
In Singapore, default records stay on your credit report for 3 years upon full or negotiated settlement, and bankruptcy data is retained for 5 years from the date of discharge.
It is ok if you have made mistakes before. But if you want to see the light of the tunnel, you know you have to commit to the following in the long term:
- Check your credit report annually and rectify if there is any mistake
- Pay your bills on time, all the time and keep your balances low
- Avoid multiple new credit applications within a short period of time
- Keep your credit active
And your credit score will work out fine. Many of us tend to over think credit, but it is that simple. It is all about prioritising what’s important to you.
Rebuild your credit success…
Not everyone may have a sterling credit record but the good news is, it is entirely within your power and control to rebuild your credit health.
Now I have shown you 5 ways to improve your credit score, but you know credit is not something that grows by leaps and bounds. Nevertheless, if you treat it right and be consistent, it will not fail you but push your score in the right direction.
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