How to Protect and Improve a Fair Credit Score

Having a fair credit score is not the end of the world, but it can spell financial difficulties for the consumer if it drops. Maintaining and improving fair credit can make a huge difference now and in the future. Fair credit scores generally fall into the 620-679 range and are calculated by scoring systems based on payment history, outstanding debt, length of credit history, type of credit and new credit inquiries. Good credit scores usually range from 680-719.

A fair credit score typically indicates the consumer is carrying too much debt and / or has a few late payments in the credit history. The dangers of descending into a poor credit score are far reaching. For example, lower credit scores make it harder to get good loan rates, receive credit card accounts and rewards, buy or rent housing or even land a job.

Protecting a Fair Credit Score

While having a fair credit score should not be your ultimate goal, you should work continually to keep the score from sliding. First, check your credit score. You can do this for free (no credit card required and no obligation) at LendingTree.com. In addition, you're entitled to a free copy of your report each year from all three major credit bureaus -- TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You can order them at annualcreditreport.com, which is a government site, and you can purchase your scores for a modest fee.

Report mistakes immediately to the bureaus, providing documentation and requesting corrections. There is no credit penalty for requesting your own credit scores.

Next, pay all your bills on time and stay atop of all your credit card balances. Make up missed payments as quickly as possible. If it becomes impossible to make a payment, contact the creditor immediately. It can be vital to hold your current credit cards and refuse temptation to grab new cards with attractive promotions. Flat-lining credit or allowing your credit accounts to stagnate won't really protect a credit score. Credit bureaus like to see some activity on all your accounts. Severely limit your transactions on a poor card, but make some.

Improving a Fair Credit Score

By raising credit scores from "fair" to "good (680-719)" or "excellent"(720-850), consumers can benefit from increased credit card limits, along with account perks such as cash back, travel rewards and other bonus packages. Improved credit leads to more attractive lending rates on home mortgages, better car loans and lower leasing rates and lower interest on refinancing. Other plusses include better insurance rates, reduced or no security deposits on phone plans and home utility service.

Improving a fair credit score takes time, but as you replace bad history with a string of on-time payments, and as you pay down your account balances, your score will come up. Here's your plan of action:

  • Pay all bills on time every month. If you have a hard time with this, pay them online or set up automatic transfers form your checking account.
  • Attack your balances to get them below 30 percent of your credit limits.
  • Do not shop for additional credit -- the inquiries generated will drop your score.

The Federal Trade Commission urges consumers to steer clear of credit repair scams that promise to "erase bad credit, 100 percent guaranteed." There is no magic cure for bad credit but good paying habits and being careful on how you use your credit can mean an increase in your score.  Little-by-little you will see your score raise over time.

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