If you’re thinking of buying a house and want to strengthen your credit score, there are things you can do to help—and things you should avoid that can hurt. Here are a few to consider:
1. DON’T assume that one late payment won’t matter. According to NerdWallet.com, even one payment more than 30 days late can affect your credit, because that’s when the card issuer is likely to notify credit-reporting agencies of your delay.
2. DO diversity your credit. Mortgage lenders want to see more than just one credit card’s history. Car loans, student loans or other private loans can help.
3. DON’T max out your credit line on your credit cards. Whenever possible, aim to keep the balance you carry at 30% or less of your available line of credit.
4. DO think twice before opening an in-store credit card, such as those for Kohl’s or JCPenney. Although you get a percentage off your purchase, it requires the company to make a “hard” credit inquiry, which affects your credit score. The same is true for requesting credit limit increases.
5. DON’T forget about tickets. Even unpaid parking tickets can negatively impact your credit score.
6. DO keep your zero-balance credit cards open. Showing you have unused credit looks good to lenders, and canceling it shortens the age of your credit history.
7. DON’T rush to co-sign loans for family (or friends). If they can’t pay, it’s your credit that will suffer.
8. DO monitor your credit report. There are several sites that now offer free credit scores, including NerdWallet.com, CreditKarma.com and Credit.com. Look for potential errors that could lower your score and try to get them fixed immediately. Once a year you can request a free, more in-depth report from all three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, TransUnion and Experian—through www.AnnualCreditReport.com.