Researching the most effective ways to improve your credit scores can be a little like playing Russian Roulette. You can sometimes find sound, effective advice from trustworthy sources. However, once in a while you are bound to come across some unusual or “secret” credit improvement methods from a self-proclaimed expert that either won’t work or may actually cause damage to your scores. Here are five strategies for improving your credit that you may have heard of, and the truth about whether or not they actually work:
1. Use a HELOC to Pay down Credit Card Debt
Your credit scores will suffer if you have a large amount of credit card debt. The closer you get to your credit limits, the more your credit scores will fall. However, credit scoring models put very little importance upon the balances carried on your installment accounts and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). Using a HELOC or a personal loan to pay down your credit cards is extremely likely to have a positive impact on your credit scores and will probably save you a bundle of money on interest fees at the same time.
2. Open Several Retail Store Credit Cards
This concept is totally misguided! Opening numerous retail store cards in a short period of time could actually damage your credit. Doing so adds a large number of inquiries to your credit reports, lowers your average age of accounts, and raises your debt-to-limit ratio if you carry balances on any of the new cards (because of their low credit limits). Additionally, retail store cards are notorious for carrying very high interest rates, which could seriously cost you.
3. Become an Authorized User on Someone Else’s Account
Let’s say you have a close friend or family member who has a credit card with perfect payment history and a very low balance. This person could agree to add you to their account as an authorized user and you could reap the benefits of their good credit without even having to use the card.
The authorized user strategy can be very effective and is often employed by parents to help their children, though it can work for other loved ones as well. Make sure you choose carefully, and keep in mind that being added as an authorized user could also damage your credit scores if the cardholder misses his payments or runs up a large balance.
4. Opting out of Prescreened Credit Card Offers
Another myth you may come across is that opting out of prescreened credit card offers (www.optoutprescreen.com) will give your credit scores a boost. Unfortunately, there is no truth to this idea. Not only will your scores not improve as a result of you opting out, but the scoring models don’t even know whether or not you’ve opted out.
5. Disputing a Legitimate Debt
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to dispute any item on your credit reports with which you disagree. There is no clause in the FCRA that prohibits you from disputing any account, for any reason.
If you dispute an account and the data furnisher (i.e. the creditor or collection agency) fails to verify the account, it will be deleted from your credit reports. The deletion, of course, could potentially have a positive impact on your credit scores depending on the your circumstances. Whether or not disputing legitimate accounts is the right thing to do is up to you; however, you certainly do have the right to do so.