6 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score

Most landlords and property management companies will run reports on potential tenants. These include things like work and criminal history, and your credit score will undoubtedly figure in the mix, as well. Business is business – they simply use this number to gauge your level of financial responsibility.

What's in a number?

Well, it's not everything, but it definitely counts. Credit scores run from 300 to 850, with the average being 600-750. Generally speaking, the minimum score most rental properties will consider is about 620.

Is yours lower? Don't count yourself out. Renting with bad credit isn't impossible. And there are steps you can take to improve it before heading out on your apartment search.

If you have some time…

It takes longer to repair your credit than it does to wreck it. If you're a year – or at least several months – out from your apartment search, take the following steps right now. Over time, your score will improve.

1. Make your minimum payments on time

Your landlord wants to see the rent on or before the due date and the same goes with your creditors. Pay all of your bills on time, and if you can manage it, pay more than the minimums!

2. Reduce your debt-to-income ratio

This is a fancy term for how much of your monthly income is already going toward debt you've incurred. If your debt-to-income ratio percentage is high, stop using your credit cards. Get a debit card and pay “cash" for everything. Live within your means and start chipping away at what you owe.

3. Consider consolidation

If your debt is high and scattered, it might make your life easier to transfer all of it to one lender at a reasonable interest rate (which will then “pay off" your other creditors) and make one simple payment per month.

If you're short on time….

You may need to get into that apartment fast, but all is still not lost. If you're short on time and need to move, try the following to get accepted.

4. Raise your credit limit

This sounds crazy, but it's not. If you have a line of credit that isn't overextended, call them to see if they'll raise it. That could boost your score. However, do NOT use this as an excuse to incur more debt!

5. Get help from family

Is there someone you trust – who also trusts you – who would consider adding his or her name to your account as an authorized user? Having an additional user on the card who has good credit history and gainful employment can help boost your debt-to-income ratio.

6. Check for mistakes

If you've made all or most of your payments, but your creditor says otherwise, give them a call and find out how to correct the situation. Once rectified, be sure to get proof of the correction and let all the credit reporting bureaus know as soon as possible.

A.D. Thompson A.D. Thompson spent the first half of her 25-year career behind the editor’s desk, including time at Playgirl Magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Orlando Sentinel and a host of other publications, print and online. Now a full-time freelancer, she is the Orlando expert for USA Today’s 10Best.com and writes about everything from Mickey Mouse to marijuana-based tourism with equal levels of enthusiasm – and occasional bouts of the munchies.

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