5 Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

5 Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

Your credit score plays an important role in your life that can help put you on the right path towards financial success, or veer you off course. It can affect everything from whether or not you get approved for an apartment to getting a low interest rate on a car loan. If you have a poor credit score, you can end up paying hundreds or even thousands more in interest over time.

Fortunately, there are a variety of easy steps you can take to start building good credit. Here are five ways you can improve your credit score starting today.

    1. Pay bills on time

One of the biggest things that affects your score is a record of timely payments. When you are juggling bills and expenses, it can be easy to lose track and end up missing one, which can negatively impact your credit score.

To avoid missing payments, set up automatic payments for your recurring bills, like rent, electricity and cable. For other bills that do not occur monthly, such as car insurance, put reminders on your calendar to remind you to pay before the bill is due.

    1. Use less than 30% of your available credit

Another factor credit companies use to determine your score is your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of credit you use compared to the amount you have available. For example, let’s say you have a credit card with a limit of $10,000, and you have a balance of $3,000. That means your credit utilization is at 30%.

Use less than 30% of your available credit to keep your score high. If you rack up too much of a balance relative to your limit, your score will go down.

    1. Monitor your credit

There are a variety of services that give you a free credit report, so there’s no excuse to not know your credit score and monitor it. Regularly review your credit report for any errors, such as unauthorized accounts or credit cards that do not belong to you. Erroneous charges can end up bringing down your credit score.

You can sign up at creditkarma.com to get free access to your credit scores and reports, with weekly updates.

    1. Ask for a credit increase

Because credit utilization plays a big role in your credit score, you can increase your score quickly by asking for a credit line increase. If you are in good standing with your credit card company, meaning you have not missed payments, you can call and ask them to raise your credit limit. With a larger amount of credit available, your score will go up.

If you do increase your credit limit, it can be tempting to spend a little extra, now that you have more credit available. Don’t fall into that trap! Remember to use 30% or less of your available credit to keep your credit score high.

    1. Consolidate credit card debt

If you have high-interest credit card debt, consider consolidating it with a personal loan. 74%1 of Lending Club customers reported an increase in their FICO scores within three months of taking out a personal loan for debt consolidation, with an average increase of 19 points. Credit cards are a form of revolving debt, while personal loans are installment debt. Having a variety of different types of debt on your credit report can help boost your score.

By consolidating, you can also pay off your debt faster while saving money. Borrowers who used a personal loan through Lending Club to consolidate debt or pay off high-interest credit cards reported that their new interest rate was an average of 30%2 lower than what they were paying previously on their outstanding debt or credit cards. Over the length of your repayment term, that means you may save hundreds of dollars.

Building your credit score

Building your credit score can take time, but if you consistently apply these five tips, you can improve your score and take control of your finances.

If you have decided that a personal loan for debt consolidation is right for you, check your rate today with no impact to your credit score!

10 Key Steps To Getting A Small Business Loan

Small business loans are up to date from a huge range of traditional and opportunity up to daters. Small commercial enterprise loans can help your business grow, fund new studies and development, assist you enlarge inup-to-date new terriupdatedries, decorate sales and marketing efforts, up to date lease new people, and much more.

this article sets forth 10 key steps up-to-date take in getting a small business mortgage, with some sensible recommendation and perception at the lending manner.

1. understand the one-of-a-kind kinds of Small commercial enterprise Loans up-to-date

There are a couple of styles of small enterprise loans up-to-date. The alternatives range depending up-to-date commercial enterprise desires, the duration of the loan, and the specific phrases of the mortgage. right here are some of small business mortgage picks:

Small commercial enterprise line of credit. under a small commercial enterprise line of credit, your commercial enterprise can up-to-date budget from the lender as needed. There could be a cap on the amount of finances handy (e.g., $one hundred,000) however a line of credit is useful for coping with a agency’s coins waft and unexpected fees. there will commonly be a fee for setting up the road of credit, but you don’t get charged hobby until you absolutely draw down the funds. hobby is usually paid up to date and the essential drawn down on the road is regularly amortized over years. however, most traces of credit require renewal annually, which may additionally require an extra price. If the line isn’t always renewed, you’ll be required up-to-date pay it in complete at that time.

accounts receivable financing. An accounts receivable line of credit is a credit facility secured with the aid of the employer’s debts receivable (AR). The AR line permits you up to date get cash immediately depending on the level of your money owed receivable, and the hobby fee is variable. The AR line is paid down because the money owed receivable are paid by using your up to datemers.

working capital loans. A working capital mortgage is a debt borrowing up to date used by the organization up-to-date finance its day by day operations. groups use such loans up to date manage fluctuations in revenues and fees up-to-date seasonality or different circumstances of their business. some working capital loans are unsecured, but corporations that have little or no credit recordsupdated will up to date pledge collateral for the loan or offer a personal assure. working capital loans up to date beupdated short-term loans of 30 days up to dateupdated year. Such loans normally vary from $5,000 updated $one hundred,000 for small agencies.

Small business time period loans. term loans are commonly for a fixed dollar amount (e.g., $250,000) and are used for business operations, capital fees, or expansion. hobby is paid up to date and the fundamental is usually repayable within 6 months upupdated years (which may be amortized over the time period of the mortgage or have a balloon charge at the up-to-date). time period loans may be secured or unsecured, and the interest may be variable or constant. they may be excellent for small organizations that want capital for increase or for big, onetime fees.

SBA small enterprise loans. a few banks provide attractive low-hobby-rate loans for small organizations, subsidized and warranted by the U.S. Small commercial enterprise management (SBA). up to dateupdated the SBA assure, the hobby rate and compensation phrases are extra favorable than most loans. loan amounts range from $30,000 updated as high as $five million. but, the loan system is time consuming with strict requirements for eligible small businesses. go upupdated the SBA internet site to look a listing of the one hundred maximum active SBA up to daters.

device loans. Small companies can purchase gadget through an system loan. This usually calls for a down payment of 20% of the acquisition rate of the gadget, and the loan is secured via the gadget. interest on the loan is generally paid up to date-monthupdated and the primary is commonly amortized over a - updated four-yr period. The loans may be used up to date buy system, up-to-date, and software. mortgage amounts normally range from $5,000 updated $500,000, and may accrue interest at either a set or variable price. equipment loans also can on occasionupdated be established as equipment leases.

Small business credit cards. even as a few enterprise up to date can be wary of using them, small enterprise credit playing cards can also act as brief-time period small business financing. hobby prices will vary depending on the credit card issuer, the quantity availableupdated on the card, and the creditworthiness of the holder of the cardboard. Many small business credit card issuers require the predominant up to daterupdated up to date be co-responsible with the organization. Issuers of small enterprise credit playing cards consist of American specific, CapitalOne, bank of the usa, and plenty of others. Many credit score cards provide promotional introducupdatedry charges of zero% for a quick time frame (6-nine months). Cashback and rewards packages up-to-date earn rewards from purchases on the credit score card.

 2. studies the up-to-date up-to-date

There are extra lendersupdated than ever earlier than willing up to date lend up to date small organizations, and among the crediupupdated may be discovered from a easy online seek. here are the main types of up-to-date:

 Direct on line up to daters. There are some of on line crediupupdated that make small business loans thru a surprisingly clean on line process. reputable organizations including speedy Capital offer very speedy small business cash advances, operating capital loans, and short-term loans in quantities from $5,000 up-to-date $500,000. sites inclusive ofupdated Fundera and LendingTree provide you up-to-date up-to-date more than one lendersupdated, appearing as a lead era provider for up to daters.

huge commercial banks. The traditional up-to-date updated the small enterprise marketplace are banks along with Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, and Citibank. these up to dateupdated slower with extra rigorous mortgage underwriting standards.
neighborhood network banks. Many network banks have a strong desire up to date make small business loans updated neighborhood businesses.

Peer-up-to-date-peer lending web sites. There are some of sites that act as middlemen between character and institutional up-to-date and small up-to-date, such as Prosper, LendingClub, and FundingCircle. these crediupupdated could make choices notably quick.

financial institution crediupupdated subsidized through SBA guarantees. some of bank up-to-date problem loans subsidized by way of the SBA, and, as cited above, this backing lets in the up to date up to date provide greater attractive terms.

3. count on How the Lender Will View Your credit and danger Profile

lendersupdated in the end make a judgement name on whether or not up-to-date make a small enterprise loan primarily based on the borrower’s credit score and hazard profile. up-to-date will study the following elementsupdated, so review them cautiously and remember taking any appropriate remedial movement:

credit score/credit score record. lendersupdated will evaluate your credit score file, credit score rating, and up-to-date of making timely payments underneath credit score cards, loans, and dealer contracts. So evaluate your credit score record and clean up any blemishes that you may.

exquisite loans and cash go with the flow. up-to-date will evaluation your tremendous loans and money owed up-to-date decide that your cash waft may be sufficient up-to-date pay current loans and responsibilities up to date the brand new loan pondered.

belongings within the commercial enterprise. crediupupdated will evaluate the property inside the business (especially modern property along with coins and debts receivable) to peer if there is a superb base of assets up to dateupdated after inside the occasion of a loan default.

Time in commercial enterprise. up to daters will generally tend up-to-date appearance more favorably on organizations which have been running for numerous years or greater.
up-to-date within the employer. up to date will view the agency greater favorably if it has professional project capital updated, strategic updated, or outstanding angel tradersupdated.

monetary statements. up-to-date will scrutinize your financials, as set forth inside the next phase below.

4. make sure Your financial Statements Are so as

relying on the scale of your mortgage, your monetary statements and accounting information could be reviewed cautiously by the lender. So make certain they are whole, correct, and thorough—upupdated stability sheet, profits and loss statements, and coins drift statements. The lender will analyze your coins flow, gross margin, debt-up to date-fairness ratio, bills payable, money owed receivable, EBITDA, and more, so be prepared up to date questions about those up to datepicsupdated. recollect having your accountant look over your economic statements up to date expect issues a lender may additionally enhance.

up to date decide on monetary statements which have been audited through a licensed public accountant (CPA). but many small groups don’t want updated incur the costs of an audit, so one alternative is up to date have the economic statements “reviewed” by means of a CPA (that’s less expensive and faster). but, a few up to daters won’t require both audited or reviewed statements.

5. accumulate targeted records up to date Small enterprise mortgage application

if you want up to date achieve success in getting a small enterprise mortgage, you need upupdated be prepared updated offer unique facts and files about your business. it’s far critical up to date be organized and organized. right here is the kind of statistics that is often required, relying on the sort of mortgage:

name of enterprise (along with any DBAs)
Federal Tax identity
listing of executive officials and their up to dateupdated
legal shape (up-to-date LLC, S corporation, C organisation)
economic statements for the past 2-3 years and year-updated-date financials for the modern-day year (stability sheet, income and loss statements, cash drift statements, shareholder fairness)
Projected monetary statements (in order that the lender can get a sense of your expected future operations and coins flow)
state filings for the agency, up to dategether with a certificates of Incorporation, foreign organization filings, and trueupdated standing certificates
Copies of key man and trendy legal responsibility coverage policies
quantity of mortgage requested
business credit score document (including from a credit score reporting corporation like Dun & Bradstreet)
potential collateral up-to-date for the loan
financial statements of the predominant shareholder/proprieupupdated of the enterprise (especially in the case in which a private assure may be required)
business plan, government summary, or Invesupdatedr Pitch Deck of the business enterprise (see up-to-date Create a exquisite Invesup to dater Pitch Deck for Startup groups)
The tax returns of the organisation for the past 2-3 years (signed copies with all attachments and well-knownshows)
commercial enterprise financial institution statements
See also sixty five Questions task Capitalists Will Ask Startup businesses.

6. Be organized up to date Specify How plenty You want up-to-date Borrow and the expected Use of Proceeds from the loan

The lender will want up to date know how a lot investment you are looking for and how the loan proceeds could be used. Will the mortgage be for equipment or capital expenditures? enlargement or hiring? increase in up-to-date? more suitable income and advertising efforts? New research and development of generation? New product development? enlargement inup to date new centers or terriup-to-dateries?

you may want up to date borrow a upupdated greater if you run right into a coins crunch that lasts a month or two. up-to-date avoid going inup to date default underneath the loan.

7. decide What safety or assure may be furnished

A lender is in the main involved about the capability of the borrower up-to-date pay off the loan. To the volume that a security interest may be given up-to-date the lender on company assets (business enterprise equipment, property, debts receivable, and so forth.), the borrower shouldupdated be up to date increase its chances of getting a loan on favorable terms. some up to daters may additionally insist upon the non-public guarantee of the predominant up to daterupdated of the commercial enterprise. this is great averted if viable as it puts the up-to-date’s non-public assets, and now not just the enterprise property, at risk.

8. analyze the key phrases of the Proposed business loan

To make certain the proposed business loan makes experience in your business, you will want up to date the key terms proposed by means of a lender and evaluate them with phrases upupdated from alternative crediupupdated. right here are the important thing phrases up-to-date:

what’s the hobby price on the mortgage and how can it vary over the years? Many loans vary through the years relying on the triumphing “upupdated charge” or LIBOR.

How regularly is the interest payable (weekly or up to date)?

when is the major due or how is it amortized over the lifestyles of the mortgage? You need up-to-date be comfortable with the mixed hobby and fundamental bills from a cash waft angle

what is the mortgage origination fee?
What different charges or charges are imposed (along with underwriting expenses, management expenses, mortgage processing expenses, and so forth.)?
What working covenants are imposed up-to-date business (up-to-date a maximum debt-updated-fairness ratio or a minimum coins threshold held by using the organization)?
What are the occasions when the lender can name a default on the loan?

Is there any security or collateral required?

What periodic reports or monetary statements are required updated be furnished updated the lender?

Are there limits on how the loan proceeds may be used?

Can the mortgage be pay as you go early without a penalty? And if there is a penalty, is the penalty affordable?

9. evaluate Your on-line Profile and Postings

A small enterprise lender will carry out due diligence, which can include reviewing the statistics up-to-date on line about the commercial enterprise and its predominant up-to-date. So do the following review, up to dateupdated such due diligence to look in case you up to date make any modifications or deletions up-to-date on-line presence:

evaluation your corporation’s internet site. Is it 3177227fc5dac36e3e5ae6cd5820dcaa and professional looking?

review its presence on LinkedIn, facebook, Twitter, and different social media sites.
overview any Yelp reviews your commercial enterprise may have obtained.
evaluate the primary up-to-date’s postings on LinkedIn and different websites.

10. Get further educated at the Small commercial enterprise Lending method

The extra educated you’re approximately small business lending options and procedures, the more likely you may be successful in obtaining a loan.


Small commercial enterprise loans are up-to-date from many specific crediupupdated with a myriad of picks tailored up-to-date the economic state of affairs of your business. via watching for what these lendersupdated will evaluation and require, you significantly increase your probabilities of obtaining a useful small enterprise mortgage.

4 Things You Can Change About Your Credit Card With a Phone Call

When it comes to your credit card, you have more power than you realize.

A simple phone call can potentially save you hundreds of dollars, improve your credit score, score you extra frequent flier miles and more – and your chances of success are higher than you’d imagine.
Most people never make that call, though. Maybe they’re too busy. Maybe they don’t know what to say. Maybe they don’t think it will matter.

It does matter – and people’s reluctance to make that call can cost them.

Of course, not everything can be fixed with a phone call. For example, if your payment is late for the fourth time in six months, don’t expect the bank to cut you any slack. But many things can be tweaked or improved if you take the time to call your card issuer.

Here are a few examples:

Late Payment Fee

A CreditCards.com survey last year showed that 86 percent of cardholders who asked to have a credit card late payment fee waived got their wish.

The problem is only 28 percent of cardholders have asked. While not everyone has been late with a payment, chances are lots of cardholders are paying those fines without knowing that a simple call could get them out of it.

Some card issuers – Discover being perhaps the most prominent among them – advertise that they won’t charge a late fee on your first late payment. Many other card issuers will waive the fee for some of their cardholders, but only if the cardholder asks.

A good record of on-time payment can help seal the deal. When you call, make sure the bank knows you’re rarely late and that it won’t happen again.

Interest Rates

That same survey also revealed about 2 in 3 cardholders who requested a lower interest rate got one, but just 23 percent had ever asked. Again, that means a large number of cardholders are missing out on a large amount of savings.

How big? Consider this:

  • If you have a $5,000 balance on a credit card with a 20 percent interest rate and pay $150 per month, you’ll pay $2,359 in interest before paying the card off over 50 months.
  • Lower that interest rate to 15 percent and keep everything else equal, you’ll pay $1,508 in interest in just 44 months. That’s a savings of $851!
Could you get your card issuer to lower your APR as much as 5 percent? Maybe or maybe not. But even lowering that APR to 18 percent – just a 2 percentage point drop – would save you about $375 in interest.
Credit Limit

An increased credit limit can do wonders for your credit score. That’s because it can quickly shrink your credit utilization ratio – how much debt you have compared to your available credit. For example, say you have $5,000 in available credit and $2,000 in debt. That means your credit utilization is 40 percent, well above the recommended goal of 30 percent or less. However, if you can increase your credit limit to $7,000, your utilization rate suddenly drops to an acceptable level of 29 percent. Your credit score is likely to improve as a result.

Be cautious, though. Don’t expect the bank to double your credit limit. You can likely improve your odds of success if the increase is a baby step rather than a giant leap.

One temporary downside: Your credit card issuer might do a hard pull of your credit when deciding whether to increase your limit. With any hard pull, you will likely see a small, temporary decrease in your credit score. However, the long-term benefit of the higher credit limit will likely outweigh any brief hit your credit might take.

Sign-up Bonuses

This is a move you’d need to make before you actually get the card, and you’ll need to do some homework to make this work.

Say you’ve received an offer in the mail from your bank for a card that you really like. The card comes with a low APR, no annual fee for the first year, no foreign transaction fees and a 20,000 point sign-up bonus. Sounds great, right? Yes, except for the fact that you’ve gone online and seen other offers of 40,000 or 50,000 points.

Well, if your credit is excellent, there’s a good chance that you can have those points. Just give your bank a call, tell them about the other great offers that you’ve seen and ask the bank to match the offer. Again, if you’ve got strong credit, you’ve got a good chance of success.

No Guarantee of Success

As mentioned, data has shown that cardholders are more likely to have their requests granted than they’d expect. But that doesn’t mean any of these are a slam dunk. The reality is that people with the best credit get the best treatment, the best rewards, the lowest APRs and the most fees waived.
Before you pick up the phone to talk to your bank, be sure you know where you stand with your credit. Get a free copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, and dispute any errors or omissions you find. Get your FICO credit score. And of course, pay your bills on time, every time, in the weeks and months leading up to your request. These moves can help increase the chance that the next request you make will be a success.

How to Dispute Credit Report Errors

t’s unfortunate, but the credit bureaus don’t always have your information correct. In fact, a 2013 Federal Trade Commission study found that one in four consumers identified errors on their credit reports that might affect their credit scores. This is a pretty serious issue, as just one error could drop your credit score and cost you thousands of dollars in interest.

To ensure that your score is based off the most accurate information possible, you’ll need to dispute errors. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do this:

1. Pull and review your credit reports.

Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, which was created to help consumers ensure their credit information is correct and guard against identity theft, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major bureaus every year. Simply go to AnnualCreditReport.com, enter your personal information and answer a few verification questions.

If you’ve never pulled your credit reports before, you may want to request all three to begin with and ensure that each one is error-free. Otherwise, pull a different report every four months so you can check up on your credit throughout the year. Keep in mind that your lenders aren’t required to report to all three bureaus. Before requesting a report, check with your creditor to see which bureau it reports to.

Once you’ve pulled your report, go through it page by page and thoroughly examine it for errors, circling or highlighting any inaccuracies. In particular, keep an eye out for common inaccuracies such as incorrect account details, fraudulent accounts and identity errors.

2. Gather documentation that supports your dispute.

Once you’ve identified and marked the errors on your report, you’ll need to find proof to send that shows the information is wrong and needs to be changed. For example, if your credit limit is being reported as $2,000, when it’s really $5,000, include a copy of your credit card statement that shows the correct limit.

3. Write a dispute letter.

Now it’s time to write a good old-fashioned letter to send to the bureaus. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy – just use the FTC’s sample dispute letter as your guide.

4. Make copies of everything.

If your dispute is unsuccessful or gets lost in the mail, you don’t want to waste time repeating the first three steps. Take the extra precaution and make copies of your marked up credit report, the documentation that supports your dispute and the letter you wrote.

5. Send your dispute and wait.

While the bureaus accept online disputes, it’s a good idea to dispute errors via postal mail so that you have a paper trail if you need it. Be sure to send your report, evidence and letter, and request a return receipt so you’ll know the credit bureau successfully received your materials.

Then comes what may be the hardest step – waiting.

After the credit bureau receives your dispute, set up a reminder to follow up with the bureau if you haven’t heard back after 30 days; they’re required by law to investigate your claim and will typically do so within that timeframe. They’ll also likely forward your supporting documentation to the company or organization that provided the information and have that information provider investigate and report back. If your dispute is successful, the provider is required to notify the other two credit bureaus so that they can correct your information. Then, the credit bureau will have to report the results back to you and provide a free copy of your updated credit report.

6. Take steps if the dispute is unsuccessful.

While four out of five consumers in the FTC study experienced some form of success in disputing and updating their reports, disputes aren’t always successful. Your dispute may have failed if…

  • The disputed item wasn’t an error. Unfortunately, you can’t remove negative items from your report if they’re accurate. If you want to improve your credit health, you’ll need to make on-time bill payments and keep your credit utilization rate low.
  • Your dispute was considered “frivolous.” If you try to dispute too many things at once, don’t have proof to support your claim or continually harass the credit bureaus, the bureaus may refuse to investigate your claim. You can attempt your dispute again, though, if you don’t consider your claim to be frivolous – just follow the steps above.
  • The credit bureau claims there wasn’t an error, but you have proof otherwise. In this case, either dispute again by following the steps above or go directly to the furnisher of your line of credit to perform what’s called a “direct dispute.” The process is similar – simply submit your dispute letter directly to your creditor, making sure to include your full name, account number with the company, the purpose of your dispute and documentation that supports your claim.

The Bottom Line: Remember that even if your dispute is successful, new errors could be introduced in the future. Continually monitor your credit to ensure your information remains as accurate as possible. With your credit score and financial situation on the line, it will be well worth your time.

How to Get a Credit Card Late Payment Fee Waived in 4 Easy Steps in 2017

It was all my fault, and I felt awful about it. Worse yet, I was stuck with it, unless I got a break.

I’m talking about a $25 late payment penalty fee on a department store credit card that I opened within the last few months. As so many people have, I signed up for the card at the checkout counter, largely for the discount, and didn’t really concern myself with the interest rate. But I would pay it all off in a big hurry, so I didn’t have much to worry about – or so I thought.

I used the card several times in a fairly short period to save a little bit extra on some clothes I needed to buy, and I quickly paid all but a small portion of my balance off quickly. But as weeks passed following those shopping trips, I basically forgot about the card. Out of sight, out of mind – at least until that second bill arrived.

Angry at myself over my mistake, I didn’t beat myself up. I took action.

Here’s what I did:

I paid the bill … The next day, I paid the bill through my bank’s website. I knew it would take a few days to process and for the money to actually get to the credit card issuer, but that was OK. Since I acted quickly, I knew I wasn’t in any danger of ending up 30 days past due, getting a black mark on my credit report and slashing my strong credit score. (If you are nearing that 30 days past-due threshold, don’t rely on online banking. Call your bank and arrange something that ensures the bank gets paid more quickly.)

2. … but not all of the bill. I pay my credit cards off each month, typically. I’ve been deep, deep in credit card debt and have no intent of ever returning to that point. However, in this case, paying the entire statement balance would have been a tactical error. Instead, I paid the balance minus $25 – the amount of the late payment fee, which I hoped would eventually be waived by the credit card issuer.

3. I set up electronic billing and auto pay through my bank. I made this move for the card issuer’s peace of mind – or algorithm. My bank allows me to receive electronic bills through the bank’s website and then pay them in full automatically each month. It seemed like a win-win for me and the bank. My thought was that if, when speaking with the issuer about waiving my late payment fee, I could tell the company that I’ve made these arrangements to ensure I’ll never be late again, that might help my case. Of course, the issuer would have no way of knowing if I really had done it or if I was just saying I had, but even so, it felt like a worthwhile good-faith gesture to make.

4. I called and made my pitch. “Hi, my name’s Matt Schulz. I was late with a payment recently. However, I just paid my bill online – and even set up electronic billing and auto pay so it won’t happen again – and I’d like to see if you could waive my late payment fee.” I was nervous about asking, since I don’t have a terribly long track record with this card, but I asked anyway. The customer service representative said she needed to speak with her manager and proceeded to put me on hold. As I waited, I considered what I would do if my request was rejected, possibly going as far as threatening to close my card. But that became a moot point. A few nervous minutes later, she told me that the bank would grant my request, but only this once. Mission accomplished.

Of course, it probably helped that I have very strong credit overall, even if my history with this particular card is short. The better your track record with the credit card issuer, the more likely it is to cut you some slack when you mess up.

Still, the fact is that you don’t have to have a perfect credit score to get a fee waived. Some credit cards – like the Discover it card – include a policy that allows a cardholder’s first late-payment fee to be waived. But typically you do have to ask, and sometimes if you do, you might just find that you’ve saved yourself $25 for your efforts.

Ways to Build Credit – Without Using Credit Cards

Ways to Build Credit – Without Using Credit Cards

You’ve probably heard over and over that it’s important to have a credit card or two and to use them responsibly if you want a high credit score. No doubt you’ve also been told that making monthly, on-time payments on your mortgage and car are other ways to keep your credit score healthy and impress lenders. All true.

Your credit score – for young adults perhaps just joining the credit conversation – is the number credit bureaus offer up as a symbol of your ability to repay a loan. Generally, the credit score number everyone is concerned with is the FICO credit score, which ranges from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the more likely lenders will want you to borrow money from them, and the better interest rates they’ll offer.

But what if you would like to see your credit score climb – but you’re not crazy about having a credit card? What if you live in an apartment or a yurt and thus aren’t making mortgage payments? What if you live in the city and take the subway? What then? Here are some somewhat under-the-radar ways to build credit for those who prefer the road less traveled.

Use your rent payments to build credit. For most of credit and rental history, on-time rent payments haven’t officially counted as a sign of someone who is responsible with money.

Things are slowly changing, however. Since 2011, Experian has included rent payments in consumers’ credit histories. But it isn’t automatic. If you want your rent payments to be included, you need to be proactive and opt in.

There are a number of websites that will send rental-payment information to the credit bureaus, but according to WilliamPaid.com CEO Jeff Golding, his site is the only one that has an official partnership with one of them: Experian. Consumers who visit WilliamPaid.com can register and pay their rent through the site, and it’ll be reported to Experian (it’s free if you opt for electronic withdrawal; if you pay with a credit card or debit, it’s 2.95 percent of the total payment; if you pay in cash, a $10 flat fee).

If you’re late with your payment, Golding says his company will report that information to Experian but thankfully, not before checking with your landlord first. “We’d make sure, for instance, that the landlord didn’t tell the tenant not to pay rent because they said they’d first fix a leaky faucet,” Golding says.

Get a credit builder loan. This is a suggestion from John Ulzheimer, credit expert for CreditSesame.com, a free web tool that, among other things, helps consumers manage credit. Ulzheimer says credit builder loans are typically extended by credit unions, precisely to help members build or rebuild credit reports and credit scores. Some community banks also offer them.

“The loan is approved for some small amount, normally not much more than $1,000,” Ulzheimer says. “But instead of the consumer getting that $1,000 like they would with a normal loan, the money is placed into an interest-bearing account with the credit union. The consumer makes payments monthly, and after a year or two, the loan is paid off, and the funds, plus interest, are released to the consumer.”

Ulzheimer adds that because the loan was an extension of credit, the credit union can report the loan to the credit bureaus. “Everyone wins,” he says. “The consumer gets the benefit of the account on their credit reports, plus the loan proceeds with interest. The credit union has an almost risk-free borrower and a happy member.”

Just make sure the credit union or bank policy is to actually report the credit building loan to the credit bureaus. And consider that you could be socking away money in a bank account instead, creating something of an emergency cash stash. In other words, it’s going to be a good idea for some people but unnecessary for others.

Self-report. “Credit reports only track money you’ve borrowed,” says James Miller, owner of Biltmore Wealth Advisors, LLC, in Scottsdale, Ariz. That’s why credit reports don’t include information on whether you’ve been paying your utility bill and monthly rent on time, he adds.

Miller suggests consumers check out Payment Reporting Builds Credit (prbc.com), a national company that has been around since 2002 and allows consumers to sign up for free and self-report payments like rent, rent-to-own purchases and utilities like your water or electric bill.

“PRBC might not yet have the clout of the big three credit bureaus, but a solid report from PRBC might be enough to get your foot in the door with a lender,” Miller says.

The PRBC site is free to use, but not all self-reporting third parties are free, and whether many of these companies are actually able to do what they purport to do for a fee is up for debate. After all, you can report anything to a credit bureau; that doesn’t mean it’ll do any good.

That’s why Golding says WilliamPaid.com doesn’t report rental information to the other two credit bureaus, Equifax and Transunion –not yet, anyway. “We would love to provide that service to our customers,” Golding says, “but until the other credit bureaus start accepting that information, there’s no need to report it to them. It kind of goes to a black hole.”

Keep in mind that none of these strategies will work if you don’t pay your bills on time. In fact, you could make things worse by self-reporting if the information being reported shows you’re always late with bills. But if you are paying without trouble, and you simply don’t own a house or credit cards and aren’t making payments on a car or student loans, then getting lenders to see that you’re consistently paying bills on time may just lead to a higher credit score – eventually.

“The quickest way to build up a favorable credit score is to borrow and pay back the debt on time. There really is no way around that,” Miller says.

“It isn’t necessarily hard – it just takes discipline,” says Hitha Prabhakar, a retail and consumer analyst based in New York City and a spokesperson for Mint.com, a free and well-known money management website.

Having a well-paying job also helps. A good relationship with your bank is another plus, Prabhakar adds. But above all, a long credit history without a lot of black marks is what will really make a lender comfortable.