You haven't checked your credit score in a while, and you have finally decide to do it. To your horror, it is much lower than you anticipated. In previous years you would have been much less concerned, “I’ve got time to build my credit” you would have thought. The fact is that seniors have a tendency to check their score less often than younger people, mainly because of technological challenges. However checking inconsistently can lead to surprises like a low credit score or a discovery that you've been scammed.
If you are a senior with a low credit score, there is no need to worry. Having a low number is not the end of the world. Fortunately your credit score can be improved with just a few simple steps. Consider these tips on how to improve your score:
1. Check your score and credit report regularly.
One of the best things you can do to keep your credit score healthy is to check it consistently. Certain websites, such as AnnualCreditReport.com, allow people check their credit report once a year for free. You can get one report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Though you may have to actually pay for your credit score, monitoring your report will help you catch any issues, large or small. The report has the data that is used to determine your credit score. Review your credit report very carefully because if the data is wrong, your credit score may be also. As long as you are financially stable and do encounter any hardships later in the year, your score should remain relatively consistent. Keeping a watchful eye on your credit report each year will help prevent any surprises from year to year. If you do find discrepancies in your report, discuss it with the credit bureau. Be sure to hang onto any documents that support your case to prove there are errors.2. Bring down your debt.
One of the quickest ways to improve your score by simply reducing the amount of debt you have. The first way to do this is by avoiding unnecessary debt. Credit cards have revolving credit, so keeping balances low on these accounts can help you avoid debt. Never shift your debt around between accounts, as this doesn't eliminate the problem. Instead, examine your credit report and see what accounts have late payments and subsequent fees. Determine exactly how much you owe on each and determine what the interest rate is, which can put you in greater debt. Pay off those with the highest rates first.
3. Take advantage of autopay.
If you have difficulty remembering to pay your bills on time, consider setting up automated payment plans. Many seniors in retirement communities live on a fixed income that is fairly low, therefore, timing is impeccable. There are applications that can manage your financial accounts all at once and pay them off at various times so you always have money in your account, and you may be able to set up scheduled payments with individual providers as well. That way, you can easily manage your bills and lower the chances of late payments, which will lead to a lower credit score. One final caution is to beware of automatic payments which only pay off the minimum amount. If you would rather control things yourself, consider setting up payment reminders through your bank that can be viewed via email or even text message!