When you have a 700 credit score, you can officially say you have good credit. But getting there can take time if your credit history is limited or your credit report has blemishes. This guide will show you how to break into the 700 credit score range.

7 Steps to Get a 700 Credit Score

If you have yet to reach the 700 range, you may still have good credit. A good credit score is typically anything higher than 670 to 680. Still, getting your score above 700 is a significant milestone. Follow these seven steps to get there.

1. Pay Everything on Time

Yes, paying your bills on time is a painfully obvious first step. But it bears repeating in any guide to improving your credit because it’s by far the most important.

Your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score, making it the most important credit factor. One missed or late payment will stay on your credit report for seven years, though your score will typically start to heal after two years.

To build payment history, your payments must be reported to the credit bureaus. Credit card, installment loan and mortgage payments are typically reported to the bureaus. But other bills, like utility and cell phone payments, generally aren’t reported unless you’re so behind that the account gets sent to collections.

2. Get a Secured Card if You Can’t Get Credit

If you’re saddled with an average credit score that’s a long way from a 700, the first step may not be helpful because you might not have credit available. It’s often difficult to qualify for credit if you have a bad credit score or no credit score. As a result, you can’t build a credit history, which can leave you feeling stuck.

A secured credit card is a good fix. You put down a deposit that becomes your line of credit. There’s little risk to the bank, so it’s easy to get approved even if you have terrible credit. Typically after a year or so of on-time payments, your credit score will improve and you’ll be able to qualify for a regular credit card.

3. Pay Down Your Credit Card Balances

If you’re trying to decide which debt to conquer first, start with credit card debt. Not only will you save money, since credit cards typically have higher interest rates than other debt, but you’ll also improve your credit score.

That’s because your credit utilization ratio, which is the percentage of open credit you’re using, drops when you pay down lines of credit. Credit utilization is the second most important credit factor, accounting for 30% of your score.

Paying down car loans and student loans is great for your finances. But reducing your loan balance won’t decrease your credit utilization ratio. That means you won’t get the same credit-boosting effects that you would from lowering your credit card balances.

Pro Tip

If you can’t pay off your full balance, aim to get your credit usage below 30% of your credit limit.

4. Ask for a Credit Limit Increase

If you have an existing credit card and you’ve been making on-time payments, try asking the issuer to raise your limit. A limit increase can boost your score because it increases the amount of open credit you have. Your credit utilization will drop as a result.

Of course, getting a limit increase will only lower your utilization if you don’t increase your balance. So commit to keeping your spending in check before you ask for more credit.

5. Keep Old Accounts Open

Your average length of credit determines 15% of your score, so your score benefits from keeping old credit cards open, even if you only use them occasionally. In fact, people with credit scores above 800 tell us that keeping their oldest credit card open is one of their top tips for building excellent credit.

Keeping credit card accounts open that charges exorbitant fees may not be worth the credit score benefits. But if the fees are low, keep your credit accounts open. You can use them once a month for a small purchase you’d normally make and then use cards that offer better credit card rewards for bigger purchases.

6. Apply for New Credit Selectively

When you’re aiming for a 700 credit score, be careful about applying for new credit. While access to more revolving credit helps your score, whenever you open a new account, you lower your average credit age. Applying for a new account also results in a hard inquiry to your credit report, which temporarily dings your score.

7. Monitor Your Credit Reports

About 1 in 5 credit reports contain errors, so it’s essential to monitor your credit reports to make sure yours isn’t among them. Free credit monitoring services that alert you to changes to your score are a good starting point. But looking at your actual credit reports, which is the source of the information that determines your score, is a must.

You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com. Make sure you recognize all the accounts and that the payment status and account balances are accurate. If there are any errors, dispute the information directly with the credit bureaus.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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