5 Little-Known Tactics To Raise Your Credit Score

Advertising Disclosure: When you buy something by clicking links on our site, we may earn a small commission, but it never affects the products or services we recommend.

Smart clever brilliant thinking genius with a great idea
Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock.com

Credit scores are important for anyone with a credit card, mortgage, car loan, job and more — or anyone who wants those things.

Many confusing details can bring your score down for a long time, and consumers often get the same old advice on how to fix it: Pay your bills on time, dispute errors on your credit reports, leave cards open even if you’re not using them.

All of those things are good tips, but you probably already knew them. Following are some tactics for raising your score that you maybe haven’t thought of.

1. Expand your credit mix

Woman shopping online
mimagephotography / Shutterstock.com

Something called “credit mix” accounts for 10% of your credit score, according to FICO, which designs some of the most popular scores used today.

Basically, lenders like people who can juggle different kinds of loans. They seem less risky to lend to.

The way you prove you’re that kind of person is to have examples of both major types of credit on your report: revolving accounts and installment accounts.

Revolving accounts are flexible credit, like a credit card or home equity line of credit. You can borrow some, pay some, borrow some more.

Installment accounts steadily move in one direction as they’re paid back over time. They include things like a mortgage, student loan or auto loan.

This is a long play, because opening a new account is likely to cause a dip in your score in the short term. As MyFICO explains:

“Is it worth a drop in your score to apply for a small loan to show creditors you can manage payments successfully? With credit mix being such a small percentage of your credit score, the answer is, ‘probably not.’ […]

However, if you’re striving to bring your FICO Score to the highest level it can be, your credit mix can play a part.”

2. Know your lender’s schedule

Calendar with pushpin on "payoff credit cards" note
xstock / Shutterstock.com

If you don’t know when your balance is reported to the credit bureaus — something that usually happens every 30 to 45 days, according to Capital One — find out.

Yes, even (and especially) if you pay in full every month. It’s a fast and easy way to inflate your score.

Here’s why: Say your due date is on the first of the month and you auto-pay it. Great. But your lender happens to report the previous month’s spending on the 30th — when your balance looks its highest.

That means you’re not getting full credit for responsibly paying your bill. But if you know when the lender will report your balance, you can make a point of paying just before that date.

How much you pay every month didn’t change, but suddenly your credit report shows 0% credit utilization instead of, say, 35%. Instant boost.

3. Play with percentages

Shocked woman using a calculator
Doucefleur / Shutterstock.com

Credit scores look at how much you owe across all accounts relative to the total amount you can borrow. This is called your credit utilization ratio, and it’s a biggie — it’s generally understood to be worth 30% of your score.

The thing is, it’s not only about your total credit utilization. Scores also consider different categories of debt individually, MyFICO says:

In addition to the overall amount you owe, your FICO Scores consider the amount you owe on specific types of accounts, such as credit cards vs. installment loans.

So if you’ve got two credit cards or other flexible loans and want to maximize your score, the goal should be to distribute the debt in a way that each is individually under 30% utilization and, ideally, under 10%.

The more debts you have with a low percentage of credit used, the higher your score. So prioritize the way you allocate your payments wisely.

4. Ask for more

Peshkova / Shutterstock.com

Another way to improve your credit utilization percentages is to ask for a higher limit — and then not touch the extra credit.

If you’re a reliable customer, lenders are often willing to do this once in a while and may even approve it online instantly. You may not even need to speak to anyone to accomplish it.

It’s worth a shot once or twice a year. Your score may take a very temporary dip if the lender makes a hard credit inquiry before a decision, but it’s worth it for the permanent gain.

We can’t say there’s no harm in asking: If you don’t trust yourself not to touch this extra credit, it may not be a good idea to ask for it.

5. Make a deal

Two pair of clasped hands on a conference table.
vchal / Shutterstock.com

This last tip is a bit old school and isn’t guaranteed to work. Because of how credit score calculations have changed over time, it’s less helpful than it used to be, too, and could even backfire.

Still interested? If you’ve got a debt in collections — which is different from a “charged off” account a debt collector wrote off as hopeless — you can try to talk your lender into a pay-for-delete arrangement.

Simply paying off a debt in collections isn’t going to improve your score. The damage, such as it is, is already done. It’ll go away on its own in seven years when it falls off your credit report.

But, as Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson explains, there’s sometimes room to negotiate:

“Before you pay anything, write a letter to the creditor and ask to have the charge-off removed or marked as ‘paid as agreed’ in exchange for your payment. After the creditor agrees (in writing) to remove the negative mark, pay the balance. Better yet, as Cindy mentions in her question, offer a radically reduced amount. If you owe $8,000, offer $1,000 and settle for $2,000. After all, this is found money for the creditor. They’ve already written it off, so anything they get is better than nothing.

This process is called ‘pay for delete.’ You can find a sample letter by searching the term ‘Pay for Delete Sample Letter’ on this site or others. Note: Some debt collectors are happy to lie to collect a debt. If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.

Also important: Before contacting a lender or collection agency, you should know that making a partial payment on a debt or in any way acknowledging its accuracy could restart the statute of limitations.

That last part is why this strategy could backfire on you. You might be better off letting sleeping dogs lie, rather than giving collectors another chance to come after you.

Get smarter with your money!

Want the best money-news and tips to help you make more and spend less? Then sign up for the free Money Talks Newsletter to receive daily updates of personal finance news and advice, delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for our free newsletter today.