If you have a credit score at 620 -- generally considered the dividing line between good and bad credit -- boosting it by 20 points could save you thousands of dollars on your mortgage. And there are simple ways to do this in a short time.
An analysis of about 300,000 loan requests received through Zillow.com in September revealed that a homeowner who raises his or her credit score to 640 points may benefit from a 0.10 percent reduction in their annual percentage rate, or APR.
For a $300,000 home loan with a conventional 20 percent down, this yields a savings of $10,000 in interest costs over the life of a 30-year fixed-rate loan.
What about those with credit scores under 620? Without enough loan requests in that segment, Zillow was unable to generate any findings for those deemed to be in the "bad credit" zone. (According to Fico.com, this is an estimated 29.3 percent of all Americans.)
"People with scores under 620 should not expect the same conventional rates," says Jason Biro, author and founder of the nonprofit, Saving Your American Dream. "Lenders are now looking at entire credit history, such as a bankruptcy or foreclosure, and credit worthiness, not just your score."
However, Biro says that those falling within the threshold of 620 to 719 should keep working on their credit scores to benefit from lower interest rates. Here's what you can do to easily boost your score 20 points within a few months:
1. Pull your credit report. Obtain a free copy of credit report from annualcreditreport.com, which you are entitled to each year by federal law. Request a copy from each of the three repositories (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and review them for accuracy.
2. Dispute discrepancies on your credit report. By e-mail or mail, you can appeal any inaccuracies on your report with the repository. According to Biro, if you don't get a response from the agency within 45 days, the law requires that this information be removed from your credit file.
3. Pay your bills on time and don't use more than 30 percent of existing credit. Gail Cunningham, vice president of public relations at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, says 65 percent of your score depends on paying bills on time and the amount of available credit. She suggests using less than 30 percent of your existing lines of credit to see an immediate jump in your score and being diligent about timely bill paying (all you need to cover is the minimum payment required by the due date).
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While these tips are what can make the biggest impact in a short amount of time, they won't magically discharge your credit woes overnight, experts say.
Once the errors are corrected, you've reduced your debt or made other necessary adjustments, the improvements should only take a month or so to be reflected in your credit score. However, start to finish, Cunningham recommends beginning the process about three months before you'd like to apply for a loan or refinance your mortgage.
But the good news, she says, is that the lower your credit score, the faster you will see improvement.