Wouldn’t it be great if you could just wave a magic wand and instantly earn a stellar credit score, the type that has banks and others drooling to lend you money? Sadly, life just isn’t that easy. To get the sort of score that has real benefits (ie. saves you lots of money on your mortgage and car payments) requires a clean track record of paying off your debts on time. One of the best ways to build or rebuild credit is to apply for and responsibly use a secured credit card. But like all financial products, not all secured cards are equal. Click here for a list of credit building cards and secured cards to find one that not only helps you build or rebuild your credit but also treats you well along the way.

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Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

Don’t run up that balance
If you recently went on a spending spree, now is the time to take a sober look at your credit card accounts and get to work paying them down. Thirty percent of the popular and widely-used FICO credit scores are determined by an analysis of how much you owe on those accounts. Ideal is a so-called credit utilization of just ten percent, which means that your balance is ten percent or less of the total credit available to you.

Always be on time
Even more important than maintaining a modest credit utilization is simply paying your bills on time. Fully 35 percent of a FICO score is determined by your history of making timely payments on your bills.

Get out the magnifying glass
Nobody is perfect, including the companies that compile the credit reports that are used to calculate credit scores. Take advantage of your right to view a free copy of your credit report and take the many hours required to sift through it to find mistakes that might be harming your score. If you do find mistakes – like accounts that aren’t yours or charges you never made – dispute those errors with the credit reporting companies.

Minimize applying for new standard/prime credit cards
Another red flag for credit reporting companies is when people apply for more credit. If you already have pretty good credit and credit cards that you can use, avoid generating any unnessecary credit score dings by holding off applying for any new credit cards.

Now, if your score is currently very low, or if you are trying to build a fresh new score, the tips are a bit different.

Tips for Building Low / New Credit Scores

Apply for store and department store credit cards
These are typically easier to get than standard credit cards and do not require as high a credit score for approval. They can offer perks and discounts at your favorite stores and they will report to the credit bureaus.

Apply for a secured credit card
These cards are also easier to get, although there are typically fees associated with secured credit cards. But, they can help to establish or build up a low credit score. And when you start using these cards, always pay on time. Above you will find a link to some of the top secured credit card offers (it is the big banner ad at the top). If you are in the market for one, check them out. They are great for building or rebuilding credit, especially if you keep your balance low and pay it off monthly.

Whether you are in the market for the best mortgage rate you can find or trying to rebuild your credit, knowing your credit score and what is on your credit report is a very healthy exercise that will help improve your overall financial fitness.

Check out our Secured Credit Cards Reviews section for more credit building and secured cards reviews.