A portion of your score is based on how consistently you make your payments for the various products on file. With every credit card you own, every payment made stays on file for as long as 6 years, meaning accumulating consistent late payments can be a long term-anchor on your score.
Your credit utilization is a sum of all the outstanding balances on your credit cards divided by the sum of all your credit limits across all of your accounts. Typically the less credit you have in use at a given the time, the better it is for your score.
Every time your apply for a new credit card, apply to be pre-approved for a mortgage, or even sign up for a new cellphone plan, you'll typically have a hard inquiry on your credit score which will have an immediate negative impact on your score. However, your score will typically recover from each inquiry within 2-3 months.
Regardless of how disciplined you are with your credit usage, time arguably is one of the most significant component to anyone's credit score. The longer you can demonstrate a consistent history of making payments on time.
At the end of the day, practicing good credit hygiene by paying your bills on time and in full will help you incrementally improve your credit score over time. You can check out Borrowell and Credit Karma, two fantastic companies that give you access to your credit score and reports on a monthly basis to track your progress.
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