Growing up, Danitha Jones didn’t realize there wasn’t enough money to go around. It was only later, as a college student, when she assumed the role as caretaker to her grandparents that she learned that her family used to finance holiday gifts with credit cards. Ever since then, she’s been determined to break free from the cycle of being “trapped” by high credit card balances and interest.
Now, at 35 years old, Jones’ 2024 goals are to eliminate her credit card balances and to improve her credit score, so she can be in “a better place financially.” This comes after a couple of trips she took this year, and while those experiences were fun, they came with expenses. Trips aside, subscription and streaming services also add up quickly, along with the temptation to tap her favorite app for a quick, convenient bite to eat. “There was a time when I was [ordering] breakfast, lunch, and dinner a few times a week. I calculated it and it was a good [chunk] out of my budget every month,” she says in disbelief.
She has a few credit cards tucked away in her wallet, but the balances aren’t entirely out of control. “I’m not a big spender. And I’m not one to buy name brands,” says the Brooklyn-based product marketing manager. Outside her computer and a camera she purchased to support her photographer gigs, her handbag "is the most extravagant thing” she owns.
To chip away at credit card debt, Jones uses the “snowball method,” which involves paying off the smallest bill first. Once that’s paid off, the money she was putting toward that payment now gets applied to the next smallest bill, and so on.
While that method may work for Jones, it may not work for others. But there are some tried-and-true tactics that’ll help build up your credit score — and it's first and foremost important to understand *why* it matters. A good score (aim for 700 and above) plays a huge role in achieving almost any financial milestone, whether it be purchasing your first car or buying a home. And the more you understand how credit works, the easier it will be to improve it. With that said, together with Chase, we’ve outlined five ways to help boost your credit score.
Know your history
Credit cards, even if unused, can impact your credit score and history. Take inventory of the credit cards you have in your wallet and those you may have forgotten. Check your credit score and review your history with Chase Credit Journey, which is free for everyone (even if you’re not a Chase customer) and is an excellent tool to help you build, manage, and protect your credit and identity.
At the start of your financial journey? The first step may be to open a checking account. Chase Secure BankingSM doesn't require a minimum deposit to open and there are no overdraft fees, which means you only spend what you have (and won't be penalized for it). It also comes with early direct deposit to help you get your money up to two days in advance and tools to help you budget, pay bills, deposit checks electronically, and monitor your credit score.
Track your expenses
Between utility bills, grocery shopping, rent payments, and more, there are a lot of expenses to keep track of on a regular basis. To maintain and improve your financial journey, track your expenses, so you know where your money is going every month. A Monthly Budget Worksheet is especially helpful — it not only outlines bills (like rent and utilities), but also factors in savings and flexible expenses, like buying concert tickets or planning a vacation with friends.
Another option is the 50/30/20 budgeting method: Each month, 50% of income would go toward mandatory expenses, like housing, groceries, and commuting; 30% would be allocated for ‘wants,' like dining out, shopping, or traveling; the final 20% would be dedicated to building savings or paying down debt.
Pay your bills on time
A major factor in improving your credit score is regularly paying bills on time. Even just one late payment can impact your credit score. Consistency is key here — it shows financial responsibility to lenders and creditors. Help avoid missing payments by using tools to automate your bill payments and create budgets to help you stay on track with recurring expenses. If automated options aren’t available, add reminders to your calendar.
Maintain a low balance
Just because your card has a limit, doesn’t mean you have to hit it. Both the credit card balance and credit card limit impact your credit score. On that note, if you have a card you're not using and is in good standing (so long as there aren't any monthly or annual fees), consider keeping the account open — a long track record of financial responsibility could help.
Monitor your score
Keeping an eye on your credit report on a regular basis can help you improve your score and protect your finances from potential fraud. You can check your score without impacting it with tools like Chase Credit Journey, which provides 24/7 monitoring and alerts to notify customers of unusual activity.