Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on your score, especially if your payment is 30 days or more late.
If you have missed payments, get current and stay current. This won't improve your score immediately, but if you can begin to manage your credit, your score will get better over time.
Be aware that paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report. It will stay in your history for seven years.
If you are having trouble making ends meet, discuss it with your creditors. Your instinct may be to avoid them, but you might be surprised by how much some creditors are willing to work with you.
If you need help managing your debt, try a non-profit credit counseling service. Watch out for companies that charge for their services or who claim that that they can "fix" your credit history. These companies are usually scams.
Keep balances low on credit cards and other revolving credit. If your balance is high compared to your credit limit, it can lower your score.
Get rid of your cards with small balances. If you have multiple credit cards with small balances–pay them off. Then choose a couple of main cards that you can use for everything.
Pay off debt rather than moving it around. In some cases, debt consolidation could actually lower your score.
Don't close unused credit cards and don't open new credit cards that you don't need just to increase your available credit. Both of these approaches could backfire and actually lower your score.
Note that closing an account doesn't make it go away. A closed account will still show up on your credit report, and may be considered by the score.
Have credit cards - but manage them responsibly. In general, having credit cards and installment loans (and paying on time) will raise your score. Someone with no credit cards, for example, might be scored as a higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.
Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Don't open accounts just to have a better credit mix - it probably won't raise your score.
Don't open a lot of new accounts too rapidly. New accounts will lower your average account age, which will have an effect on your score. Also, rapid account buildup can look risky.
Do your rate shopping for a given loan within a limited time period. FICO® scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new loans, in part by how close together the credit inquiries occur.
Re-establish your credit history if you have had problems. Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your score in the long term.
It's OK to request and check your own credit report. You should make sure that the information on your credit report is correct, both to keep your report accurate and as a way to fight identity theft. Doing this won't affect your score, as long as you order your credit report directly from the credit reporting agencies. You are entitled to one free report per year from each agency. You can visit annualcreditreport.com for more information.