We've all seen ads from companies that want to help you improve your credit score or to repair your credit. And there are scammers who use this type of ploy to collect your personal and financial information.

Why would you want to improve your credit score? A good credit score can make a difference in your financial life.

Why would you want to improve your credit score? A good credit score can make a difference in your financial life. For example, it determines whether you receive a good interest rate for a mortgage or auto loan or a good rate for homeowners, renters, and auto insurance.

Your credit score is determined from the information in your credit file so that's what many of these products focus on. Advertising statements such as "free" and "no credit card needed" imply that the product won't cost you dollars, but you will be paying with your data and personal information. Here are some examples.

  • Experian Boost adds your phone and utility bills to your Experian credit file. The idea is that by adding these positive payments to your credit file, your credit score will increase. To get Boost, you will have to order your free credit score from them.

  • TransUnion CreditCompass shows you steps you can take over time to reach your credit score goal. To get CreditCompass you must subscribe to TransUnion's credit monitoring service which costs $24.95 per month.

  • UltraFICO Score allows consumers to have their checking, savings, or money market accounts included in their credit score. It is still in the pilot phase and not available to everyone.

  • Credit repair companies may help you investigate errors in your credit reports though some promise to improve your credit score by removing negative information from your credit report. Negative information that's accurate and timely can't be removed from your report.

If you are considering using any of these types of products, do your research and decide how much personal information you are willing to share.

Instead of signing up for this type of product, you can do it yourself. Read on to learn more about credit scores and the steps you can take to improve yours.

What Makes Up a Credit Score?

There are many different credit scoring systems. Most lenders use a version of the FICO score, from Fair Isaac. The FICO score is based on these five key factors. Other scoring models may use a different mix of these factors.

  1. Payment history is 35% of your score. That means if you consistently pay bills late, it can have a negative impact on your score.

  2. Amounts owed is 30% of your score. Also called credit utilization, this looks at the total amount of your credit and how much you owe.

  3. Length of credit history is 15% of your score. This looks at how long you've had each account.

  4. New credit is 10% of your score. This looks at how frequently you have applied for credit and opened new accounts.

  5. Credit mix is 10% of your score. This looks at the types of credit you have such as credit cards, car loans and mortgages.

What You Can Do

You have more than one credit score because your various credit files have different information. There's no quick fix for improving your credit scores. Only time and these tips can help.

  • Pay your bills on time or early.

  • Reduce your debt. Pay down high balances first. Once you've paid it down, keep it down. Note that you do not have to carry a balance on your credit cards to increase your credit score.

  • If you close a credit card account you may negatively impact your credit utilization. An inactive account may not be reported either. Keep an account active by using it for a monthly subscription or other recurring expense.

  • Only apply for credit that you need.

  • Regularly review your credit reports. You can receive one free report every 12 months from the credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. For example, by spreading your requests from these three credit reporting agencies over a year (request a different one every 4 months) you can review your reports 3 times a year. If you find errors in your credit report, follow the steps in this FTC article to get the errors corrected.

For More Information

For more detailed information about credit scores, credit reports, and fixing your credit reports check out these articles from the FTC.