While it may make sense to many consumers that paying down their credit card balances will improve their credit score, it may surprise them to learn just how much it can help.
Because the amount of credit available on each card makes up about 35 percent of a consumer's credit score, one article in the Boston Herald suggests that the quickest way for a consumer to lower their credit score is to pay down the balances on all their accounts to the point where there is about 60 percent or more of the credit is available.
The article suggests that consumers looking for a mortgage or another kind of large loan make their payments as quickly as possible. Upon doing so, they should then ask the creditors they just paid off to provide a signed letter that shows their current credit limit, balance and available credit. This way, brokers can supply them to credit bureaus and request a "quick credit score" which can boost a score almost immediately and give the consumer a better interest rate.
The article also says that the only way to definitely improve a score is "time and a diligent effort to keep payments current." Accounts can stay on a credit report for seven years - more if a consumer files for bankruptcy - but if an account is current for 24 months, the credit score will start to improve.
Many consumers also aren't necessarily aware of what is on their credit report. The article recommends that all consumers check their reports from all three major credit bureaus for accuracy at least once a year. Any error on a report can cause severe damage to a score. It is important to check all three because each bureau computes its score differently, and some creditors will not necessarily provide data to all three bureaus.
A new report from CBS Moneywatch also says that by following several simple steps - like paying the most recent past-due bills first, requesting good-faith adjustments to their reports from creditors and paying off collections agencies that agree in advance to remove negative information from a report – a consumer can boost their credit score by as much as 20 points in a single month. Having a better credit score will result in a better rate on big loans like mortgages.