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Sunday Reader Question: How Do I Increase My Credit Score?

by on October 23, 2011 · 28 comments

in Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions

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TPG reader Ron writes in with a success story and a question about getting his credit score back up after an extensive round of credit card apps:

“I was introduced to your site at the end of August! I really did not expect much, but I read extensively what you suggested and now, on October 22, 2011 I have:

300K AAdvantage miles, 130K Delta sky miles, 50K Chase Sapphire points, Chase Marriot 2 free nights and 30K points, Starwood 10K points (the additional 15K points require $5,000 to spend so I’m holding off on that for now), 60K Continental/United miles, 50K Southwest miles, and 50K Premium Amex Rewards, which I have converted to Delta at a 50% gain, and still will have 25K points transferred back within a month via Email.

I have told you all of this to firstly thank you for “creating a monster within me” and allowing me to discover these previously unknown ways to get a ton of free flights and hotel stays.

Now to my question-I started with a credit score of 800. It is now 749. Still not bad, but I am trying to research how to get it back to 800. Who better to ask than my new Guru, you!

If I lower the credit lines on all of the cards, will this help? I always pay immediately when billed by a credit card company and have never had a late payment.

Do you have any suggestions for me? I know that I should not complain with a 749, but psychologically, I would like it back where it belongs before becoming addicted to your web site!”

First things first, a 749 is a great credit score so I wouldn’t be too concerned, but I understand why you want to get it back up. Credit scores are fluid numbers that change all the time and they are used to help give lenders understand someone’s credit-worthiness. Your score usually goes down by a couple points whenever you apply for a new line of credit (like a credit card), but it goes up when all of your accounts are paid on time. It’s very likely that your score is already rebounding as long as you aren’t delinquent on payments or carrying a huge debt load.

Per the FICO website, the five main factors of your credit score are:
35% payment history, 30% amounts owed, 15% length of credit history, 10% new credit, 10% types of credit

To get your score back up:
1) Pay off your balances every month
2) Make your payments on time – or before your statement closes
3) Keep your old accounts open to help the average age of your accounts
4) Try to have a diverse array of credit – especially by having a mortgage

The inquiries on your credit won’t drop off for 2 years and there’s nothing you can do about that. However, there are many people who apply for even more credit cards than you who have no issues getting credit. I’d recommend cooling off your applications if you are going to apply for a mortgage anytime soon, but otherwise you are fine.

As for reducing credit lines, that will actually harm your credit, so I’d keep them as they are and just make sure they are paid off in full (or as close to it as possible).

In the end, you’ve amassed enough points and miles to get many thousands of dollars back in free travel – all while maintaining a strong credit score. That’s called winning the game in my book – nicely done!

Related reading: Understanding How Your Credit Score Works

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Credit abuser

    Don’t sweat it, it’s just all the inquiries and new accounts. In 6 months you should be back up again. Cancel the cards you’re not using after a decent interval.

  • Justin M

    How did you get to 300k AA points so quickly?

  • Anonymous

    I was wondering the same thing, I can see 225 (the three Citi’s)… or maybe him and his spouse both got two citi’s.

  • http://drcreditcard.weebly.com Sean

    Even the inquiries fall off your report after 2 years, they only lower your score for 6 months. So Ron really has nothing to worry about. Of course, a shorter average age of credits may lower the score a bit, but a larger total credit line will most likely offset that.

  • aloha A

    Can anybody help me here? My FICO score is around 800, house is paid off and lots of money in the bank. Have been using AMEX Costco for ten years. I was so excited to come across these sites and applied for the Marriot Rewards card last week. Got it instantly.

    Three days later I saw the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and ordered it. Got turned down for too many “credit inquires or open accounts” with them. I did call them and convince them, but honestly I was stunned. Turned down for only my second credit card application?

    I don’t understand how people get all these cards and I got turned down for my second one?

    Can anyone give me some advice?

  • Josinei

    The most important thing to fo is pay your bill in full at least 2 days BEFORE your statement closes. Thats because all credit card companies report your balance at the stat. closing date and not after the due date. So, doing this, you would have 0 balance or the lowest balance possible and that afects your crefit in 30%.

  • Chris

    Hi aloha A,
    The likely reason is because both of these applications are through Chase. While some people have reported getting multiple applications through Chase approved, most get rejected. Try to space your Chase applications out at least 3-6 months to avoid this in the future.

  • David

    It’s because both of those cards are offered by Chase… Generally you can only get one chase card every 1 or 2 months minimum. Of course you can call and ask for a reconsideration or to adjust credit lines on existing cards, but with two now you should avoid chase cards for 3 or 4 months.
    I would apply for cards from Citi, bank of America, Barclays, capital one, And American express currently. 1 each. Then wait 3-5 months and do it all again!

  • Anonymous

    Call Chase again at 1-888-245-0625 and explain you want to use the Sapphire for travel and dining and the Marriott card for your Marriott stays. If you have good credit, you should be able to get approved with no problems like many people are reporting in the comments on this post:
    http://thepointsguy.com/2011/06/getting-approved-for-the-chase-sapphire-preferred-card/

  • Keith

    A timely article on the impact applications/cancellations of travel credit cards on credit scores.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204618704576640931800937612.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsFifth

  • aloha A

    Thanks everyone. I did call them back and made my case and was granted the card. But I just couldn’t figure out how everyone was getting 7-12 cards a year and I couldn’t get two!!

    I’m assuming you’re all correct and it was because they were both Chase. Thanks for making me feel I’m not such an outcast after all. ;-)

    A

  • Boomersooner02000

    You can look into bumping the inquires off of your reports. There is a method to it. Check http://www.creditboards.com for the monster thread.

  • Walt K

    Be careful with this. It can cause your credit file to be split which can be more of a hassle than it is worth. Inquiries stay on your report for two years, but FICO only scores them for one year.

    The main things that are impacting your score are the inquiries, but also the fact that adding so many new accounts reduced your average age of accounts. There’s nothing to do about either of these things but wait. Closing accounts will not help increase your average age because FICO scores against both open and closed accounts to calculate your average age of accounts.

  • Benthelefty

    what cards do you suggest for each of these banks? I’m loaded w/ Citi and Chase (3 each) and 1 w/ Cap One, but no BOA, AmEx, or Barclays.

    Also, I believe it’s 1 per 30 days max. (although the 1-2 month wait guideline is a wise one!)

  • Benthelefty

    In regards to your #4 Brian, what other options are there for a good “mix.” I mean yeah a mortgage is different, but those and CCs seem to be the only options…what are other practical options?

  • Anonymous

    >>thank you for “creating a monster within me” and allowing me to discover these previously unknown ways to get a ton of free flights and hotel >>stays.

    The “monster” feeds off of spending, AFAICT.
    Yes, skills & “hobby” time influence results, but generally,
    those that spend $10K/yr realize less than
    those that spend $20K/yr realize less than
    those that spend $30K/yr realize less than
    those that spend $50K/yr realize less than, etc., etc.

    Sure would like to be proven wrong on this…

  • Anonymous

    BOA- 35,000 miles for Hawaiian Airlines card- those points convert at 1:2 ratio to Hilton, so its 70k hilton- not bad
    https://www.applyonlinenow.com/USCCapp/Ctl/entry?sc=UABKKI&mboxSession=1302325108131-243279

    Amex- 50k points for Mercedes Benz Platinum card. $450 annual fee, but lots of benefits like lounge access and $200 airline credit
    https://www.mbfs.com/mbfsr/en/misc/creditCard.do

    Barclays- get a Grand Slam hit for the 40k US Airways card- no fee first year
    http://www.mostmiles.com/apply/Landing.action?campaignId=1465&cellNumber=163

  • Anonymous

    There are plenty of people who don’t make a lot/spend a lot who maximize credit card sign-up bonuses. There are ways to generate spend without assuming the 100% burden of that cost

  • Anonymous

    Other types are auto loans, student loans, department store charge cards

  • atxtravel

    I use estimated tax payments to almost double my annual spending. That extra $10-15k a year in spending this creates can be a gold mine.

    IRS payment services charge around 2 – 2.3% (http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=101316,00.html) and the points you get are worth around 1 – 3 cents, so your effective cost is under 1.3%. In the case of the Starwood card, you’re actually getting more money in points than you spend in fees, since their points are worth 3 cents!

    I only use this strategy to meet minimum spend requirements during churns, or if I need to top off my mileage accounts. My monthly spend is under 2k so this allows me to continue maximizing my rewards on regular expenses, like for example taking advantage of my Chase Sapphire / Freedom bonuses.

  • Anonymous

    “There are ways to generate spend without assuming the 100% burden of that cost”

    Are these ways covered in Beginner’s Guide? Not 100%, but what percentage?

    “IRS payment services charge around 2 – 2.3%”

    Looks like 1.9% for Mastercard & 1.95% for VISA according to lowest found here:

    http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=101316,00.html

    Still not getting why do it, even if break even, e.g.,
    if someone has (4) quarterly est. tax payments totalling
    $100K, & fee is ~2% = $2,000, & 100K points or miles = $1,000-$1,500 r.t.,
    why not pay r.t. with card & comparatively net $500+ & 1,500 points or miles?

  • atxtravel

    That 1.95% is only for Visa debit if you look at their website.

    Your example is extreme, but even in that case, 100k miles isn’t worth $1500. You can redeem it for a business class overseas flight which is worth $3k or more.

    Also, airlines usually sell miles for close to 3 cents/mile or more, so if you need a few thousand in a hurry to reach a valuable award (like business or first class) this makes sense.

    I mostly use it for meeting large spending requirements quickly, without having to deal with thousands in gift cards. If the difference between getting 50k or 75k miles means paying $60 to charge $2k, that’s a good value, and you get an extra 2k miles on top of that.

  • U5i333k

    It’s got to be him and his spouse. Browsing flyertalk and the miles/points blogs recently, I repeatedly see people saying “I got X points” when they really got X/2 and their significant other got the other half. You have to take most claims with a pinch or more of salt.

  • Anonymous

    “100k miles isn’t worth $1500. You can redeem it for a business class overseas flight which is worth $3k or more.”

    It may have a “game” value of $3K, but for some of us,
    the value is what, in reality, it kept in our pocket, MINUS
    what we had to take out of our pocket to get it…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BYB2OPRFSKFUVVBCVYHKIHBFQU smiles

    What is “decent interval”? Is it an year? Knowing this would greatly help manage different new accounts. Thanks!

  • toomanybooks

    I have head that sometimes they will report balances even more randomly throughout the month than that. So I have take to paying off CC balances even earlier, as long as I have the money. It’s not like I can earn any interest in the meantime.

  • zzd

    According to an interview I read with a FICO VP, “you can’t have too much credit” and in fact the ratio of credit used to total credit available is a key component in credit score. Thus, canceling a credit card could have an adverse impact. Instead of cancelling, why not just convert the credit line to a free card, leave it open, but simply never use the card.

  • Matt Steele

    I set reminders a month before I expect to get hit with an annual fee. I don’t know any other strategies, but that seems like the ideal time to cancel my churn cards.

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