5 Things to Do Right Now to Boost Your 600 Credit Score

A 600 FICO score isn't awful. Since credit scores can run from 300 to 850, it's easy to see how much worse things could be. A score of 600 puts you about in the middle. You won't qualify for the best financing offers, but not the worst, either.

The truth, though, is that a 600 credit score will hurt you financially, even if things could be worse. Your credit score tells lenders how well you've managed your credit and paid your bills in the past. A score of 600 shows that you've had some financial missteps along the way — and because of this, you'll end up with higher interest rates and subpar credit card offers. Some lenders might even reject your application altogether.

Fortunately, you can improve a 600 credit score. It just takes time and commitment to developing better financial habits. (See also: 5 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score Fast)

1. Pay all your bills on time

The most common reason for a low credit score is missed payments. If you pay your credit card bill late by more than 30 days, your credit score could fall by 100 points or more. The same holds true for your car loan, mortgage, and student loan.

The lesson? Build a history of paying your bills on time. Just as missed or late payments hurt your credit score, on-time payments will boost it. Resolve to never pay a bill late again. (See also: 5 Simple Ways to Never Make a Late Credit Card Payment)

2. Don't skip payments on "less important" bills

Some bills are more important than others when it comes to your credit score. The creditors behind your mortgage, auto loan, credit cards, student loans, and personal loans all report your payments to the national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Missed or late payments on these bills will quickly damage your score, while regular, on-time payments will continue to boost it.

Other payments aren't reported to the bureaus. This includes medical bills, cellphone payments, utility bills, rent, insurance payments, and cable bills. But this shouldn't be an excuse to pay these things late without fear of consequence. If you miss enough of these other payments, the provider may send your account into collections. That will show up in your credit reports and send your score tumbling. (See also: Here's What Happens to an Account in Collections — Even When You Pay Up)

3. Pay off your credit card debt

Paying down your credit card debt will also have a positive impact on your credit score.

Having large amounts of credit card debt brings high interest rates, which can overwhelm you and leave you at risk of making late payments. Your credit utilization ratio — the amount of available credit you're currently using — makes up about 30 percent of your credit score. If that ratio tips too high, your score will also tick downward. Lenders like to see you using less than 30 percent of your available credit, but the lower your credit utilization ratio, the better.

Make sure to always pay more than the minimum required monthly payment on your credit cards. Your goal should be to pay down that debt as quickly as possible. If you do, you'll see your FICO score gradually rise. (See also: The Fastest Method to Eliminate Credit Card Debt)

4. Keep paid-off credit card accounts open

If you do pay off a credit card, don't close the account. This could immediately send your credit score falling. This is once again due to your credit utilization ratio. Closing a credit card automatically increases that ratio, even without you making a single new charge.

Say you have $2,000 worth of credit card debt spread out over four cards with a total available credit limit of $10,000. If you close one card with a credit limit of $3,000, you are now using $2,000 of $7,000 of available credit. That's a higher credit utilization ratio than you'd have if you were still using $2,000 out of $10,000 of available credit. (See also: Stop! Don't Cut Up Your Credit Cards)

5. Order free copies of your credit reports

You can order a free copy of your three credit reports — one each from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com. Once you do this, study your reports carefully for any errors.

Your credit reports list your personal information and how much you owe on credit cards and loans such as mortgages, auto loans, and student loans.

Errors on these reports could leave you with an artificially low credit score. Maybe your report states that you missed an auto payment three years ago. If you know this isn't true — and you have the documentation to back up your claim — contact the credit bureau listing the mistake. Fixing this error could provide an immediate jolt to your credit score. (See also: How to Read a Credit Report)

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