Your credit score is a number you need to know. This score is a numerical representation of your ability to pay your bills and maintain good credit use. Lenders of all types, some employers, insurance companies, and others use this score to determine how trustworthy and reliable you are. It pays to do your best to ensure it is the highest number it can be.

First, Know Where Your Credit Stands

There are several steps to take here. First, get a free copy of your credit report. This is the file used to create your credit score. You can do this through the official and original website, This is the only site Money FCU’s recommends using. There are no fees to obtain your reports from all three bureaus. You should NOT pay to obtain your credit score. There are free ways to do this.

What to do with the Credit Report

Verify ALL the information on your report is accurate.

Check for:

  • Any Names Listed – all they all yours?
  • Addresses (past and present) – have you lived at all of them?
  • Credit Inquiries – did you do these?
  • Outstanding Loans – are they all yours?
  • Delinquent or Past Due Payments – are they your loans?

If there is any wrong information, file a complaint with the credit reporting agency directly (Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian.) You can find out what your credit score is by using one of several free services, including Money FCU’s My Credit if you’re a member of the credit union.

So, How Do You Improve Your Credit Score?

Your FICO score, the most commonly used credit scoring tool, breaks down specifically what factors influence your number. The scale ranges from 300 to 850. The higher the number is, the more responsible you are with your credit. Lenders, such as the credit union, establish what is considered a “good score,” to them. That means, all credit unions and banks have different standards. Typically, credit scores over 700 are considered good.

Now that you’re ready to boost your score, take these three steps to make it happen.

#1: Pay Your Bills on Time – Every Time

Most of your score is related to your ability to pay your bills on time. This is, by far, the most important component of your credit score. To help make this possible, consider these tips:

  • Set up automatic payments, whenever possible, for any credit card or loan you have. This ensures your payments are always on time.
  • If you’re behind or going to miss a payment, contact your lender immediately. They may help you rework the debt so you can make payments on time.

#2: Work to Pay Down Your Debt

Reducing the amount of debt you have is always a good thing. Plus, it saves you money. Your goal is to reach a debt-to-credit limit ratio that is under 30%. This means you’re using less than 30% of the available credit.

  • Always pay more than the minimum amount due on credit cards. In some cases, paying the minimum can stretch out even a small debt over ten years or longer. Accruing interest makes it difficult to get rid of credit card debt unless you pay more than the minimum amount.
  • Pick the credit card with the highest interest rate, and pay it down. Put any extra money onto that one card. Once it’s paid off, move to the one with the next highest interest rate. Paying off the one with the highest rate first means you’re saving money on interest.
  • Set up a separate savings account with the credit union. Then, automatically move a portion of every paycheck to it. This way, you can stash money away specifically for paying down debt.

#3: Use Credit

We know this feels counteractive to the goal. But, you can’t build good credit history without actually borrowing money or using credit cards. However, you MUST do it wisely.

  • Open a low-interest credit card with the credit union to start establishing your credit history.
  • Make small purchases (such as gas for your car) on that credit card. Pay it off, in full, every month.
  • Obtain other small loans (aside from credit cards) to build your score. This could be a car loan or lease, a personal loan.
  • Get a credit builder loan. This loan is only meant to build good credit, not pay for something else like a car or home loan. The credit union will start by putting a certain amount of money on hold. Let’s say $500. Then, we will help you pick a monthly payment and term that you can handle. As you make those monthly payments, the money that’s on hold becomes available. You can either use it or save it. Making the payments on time boosts your credit score by logging good payment history onto your credit reports.

Overall, it is possible to improve your credit score by using smart money management strategies. The key here is to work to build your credit consistently using these strategies.

We’re Here to Help!

If you have questions on budgeting or about using credit responsibly, call, text, email, chat, or stop in! We’re here M-F, 9am-4pm ET. (315) 671-4000


Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.