BLUEFIELD, WV (WVVA) -- Nearly 80% of Americans have bad credit - leaving just 22.3% with credit scores at or above a "very good" 781. Overall, West Virginians fall into the 'Fair' range with scores between 580-669.
But how do you raise your score?
That was the topic of conversation at the Bluefield Economic Development Authority's 'Lunch and Learn' Tuesday.
The best advice for rebuilding credit is to manage it responsibly over time. If you haven't done that, you'll need to repair your credit history before you see your credit score improve -- and we have tips to help that.
1. Check your credit report for errors.
Mistakes in data entry happen every day, with good reason.
"There's all kinds of people all over the country with the same name, or similar name," said Harold Patterson, Business Coach at the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC). "Numers get mixed up, data gets mixed up; so make sure there are no credit errors [and] that they haven't confused you with somebody else."
Also look out for signs of identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
2. Pay your bills on time
Even pay them early.
"If your bill's due on the 15th, pay it on the 10th," Patterson said. "Most credit bureaus report at the end of the month, so if you pay it before then, it'll show up on your credit report."
Things like rent, utility bills, cell phone bills, and medical payments only show up on your report when you don't pay them.
3. Reduce your debt
Credit card companies prefer you to keep your balance at about 30% of your credit limit.
"If you go over that 30%, get it back down as fast as possible," Patterson said. "If you're running upwards of 50%, try to increase your limit or decrease your debt by paying it off or refinancing it into an installment loan."
For more information on credit repair services, click here.