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10 Things to Do Now If You Have a 500 Credit Score

Laurel Funk
·4 min read
A young business boy dressed in business suit, flight cap and goggles stands on springs in the Utah desert.
A young business boy dressed in business suit, flight cap and goggles stands on springs in the Utah desert.

A poor credit score can be damaging — and demoralizing — particularly when you apply for a mortgage or new car loan. FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850 — and the higher the score, the less risk is associated with lending money or credit to you. Events such as missed payments, foreclosure and bankruptcy all lead to a poor credit score. A FICO score or other credit score of 500 or below is considered very poor. The good news is, no matter the reason for your low number, there are things you can do now to raise your credit score.

Last updated: Nov. 20, 2020

Young brunette curly female reading her bill papers, looking stressed.
Young brunette curly female reading her bill papers, looking stressed.

10 Things to Do to Raise Your 500 Credit Score

Negative assessments on your credit report can last up to a decade based on the severity, making it essential to take steps toward raising your credit score immediately. Click through for 10 simple ways to improve your credit score.

credit-card-payment
credit-card-payment

1. Make Payments on Time

Your payment history is the first indicator lenders review before approving credit. Setting up automatic payments can help eliminate the need to remember what bills to pay when, making it harder to miss a payment.

credit-score
credit-score

2. Keep Your Credit Utilization Ratio Low

When rebuilding credit, a key number is your credit utilization ratio, which encompasses your total credit card balances divided by your total credit limit. Having a utilization ratio below 30 percent makes you more attractive to lenders, indicating you do not max out credit cards.

Ways to decrease your utilization ratio include paying off existing debt and keeping a low credit card balance, as well as piggybacking on the credit account of a responsible user.

Female hands cutting a credit card with scissors.
Female hands cutting a credit card with scissors.

3. Pay Down Existing Debt

This might seem obvious, but reducing your current debt load can boost a 500 credit score. Focus on being aggressive with payments on credit cards with the highest interest rates first.

Check the interest rate of each card on your credit report. Once those cards are paid off, the unused credit lowers your utilization ratio.

Shot of a young woman using her credit card to make an online payment at homehttp://195.
Shot of a young woman using her credit card to make an online payment at homehttp://195.

4. Avoid Using Your Cards With a 0 Balance

Another component of credit score relates to the number of open accounts and their balances. If possible, stop using your cards for purchases, especially those with zero balances.

Generally, accounts with zero balances tend to improve your credit score rating. But restraining from using your credit cards will also help you pay down your debt more quickly.

Read More: What Is The Highest Credit Score?

Portrait of a mature man writing something as he uses calculator.
Portrait of a mature man writing something as he uses calculator.

5. Create a Budget

Although budgeting is not the most attractive step for credit score improvement, it’s an effective piece of the credit rebuilding puzzle. Budgeting will make apparent what you can and cannot afford, preventing — or at least signaling — potential financial overreach. You can use helpful budgeting apps such as Wally, Mint and Goodbudget to make it easier.

Business man review his resume on his desk, laptop computer, calculator and cup of coffee,Seleted focus.
Business man review his resume on his desk, laptop computer, calculator and cup of coffee,Seleted focus.

6. Don’t Open Unnecessary Credit Cards

Every time you apply for a new line of credit, the application appears on your credit report. Using the credit you’ve already obtained displays your commitment to responsibly managing credit, which can raise your credit score. Plus, having too many credit cards can lead to overexerting funds.

Expert showing how to fill the real estate sale contract.
Expert showing how to fill the real estate sale contract.

7. Diversify Your Debt

Credit scoring models take into account all types of credit cards and loans. If your debt comes from the same credit source — for example, if all your credit is with major department stores — it can reflect poorly on your credit card score.

Aim for a good mix of credit — that could include credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans.

user typing login and password on digital tablet computer, data protection and internet security concept
user typing login and password on digital tablet computer, data protection and internet security concept

8. Safeguard Against Identity Theft

Fraud can cause irreparable harm to your credit score if not dealt with immediately. Typically, the identify thief maxes out credit cards in your name — and those charges never get paid. An array of identity protection agencies can monitor your spending activity and alert you of risks. Keeping a frequent eye on your credit report can be helpful, too, as new accounts opened in your name will appear on it.

Woman does online shopping on tablet-PC with credit card while sitting in cafe.
Woman does online shopping on tablet-PC with credit card while sitting in cafe.

9. Get a Secured Credit Card

One way to reshape your credit history is by using a secured credit card. Secured credit cards require a deposit as security, reducing the risk of missed payments because the deposit should, in most cases, cover them. The deposit also acts as the credit limit.

Secured credit cards allow you to have the flexibility of an unsecured card with the reassurance of a protective deposit. In time with good behavior, it’s possible to graduate to an unsecured card because you’ve regained trust with lenders.

calling-utility-company
calling-utility-company

10. Dispute Any Mistakes on Your Credit Report

It is possible to find mistakes on your credit report, and if you do, report them right away. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to dispute any information you believe is false.

“Inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 30 days,” according to the FCRA. Be aware, you must make your argument through writing a formal letter.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 10 Things to Do Now If You Have a 500 Credit Score