He Spent 90 Seconds on This Tool. 6 Months Later, His Credit Jumped by 120 Points

Jerry and Vivienne Morgan stand in front of their home in New Port Richey, Fla. on March 14, 2018. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder
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In 2008, the housing bubble burst. The three-bedroom home in New Port Richey, Florida, where Jerry Morgan and his wife, Vivienne, had lived for 10 years plunged into the foreclosure process.

Then Vivienne lost her job.

“No one plans on being in that situation,” says Jerry, now 52. “We just kind of kept going and stayed focused and looked forward to tomorrow. What else are you going to do?”

About a year later, Vivienne secured a new job, but she had to clamber her way back up the ranks of a new company. The couple remained in their home but struggled to make the mortgage payments.

The situation persisted for years. Then, in 2014, the couple was finally approved for a mortgage modification, which Jerry says negated almost half the principal and lowered their interest rates.

But the couple took another hit shortly thereafter when Jerry was repositioned within his company and took an income cut.

By 2017, the family’s financial situation started to look up again. So in September, Jerry decided to address another issue: his credit score.

“Frankly, with the experiences we have gone through, I was embarrassed to even check my score,” he says.

It hovered around 500. For context, a credit score below 650 is deemed “bad” by many credit reporting agencies.

Since September 2017, Jerry has kept tabs on his credit for free by signing up with Credit Sesame. Following recommendations from the service, he’s raised his score 120 points in six months.

How This Man Hiked His Credit Score 120 Points in 6 Months

Jerry has been following recommendations from the Credit Sesame app since September 2017. He’s made moves to increase his score and get it back on track. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Before coming across Credit Sesame, Jerry hadn’t bothered to check his credit score in, well, quite a while. He says finally getting his finances on stable ground encouraged him to take a peek at this three-digit number.

He read about Credit Sesame through The Penny Hoarder and decided to give it a go.

He signed up for a free account and, surprisingly, didn’t feel immediately overwhelmed. Sure, his credit score was in the low 500s, but he was able to see a clear breakdown of what influenced his score and how he could improve it, thanks to his personalized credit report card.

The credit report card graded each of Jerry’s credit factors A through F, just like in school. He received grades for:

  • Payment history, which includes negative marks and/or late payments.
  • Credit usage (your credit utilization rate).
  • Credit age.
  • Account mix.
  • Credit inquiries.

If, for example, he’d had an F in credit usage, he could click “View Details” to read an explanation of credit usage and get actionable advice.

Before using Credit Sesame, Jerry never considered his credit utilization rate. “You don’t normally think about that,” he says.

The platform gave him advice on how to lower this rate. One suggestion was to open another credit card. That might seem counterintuitive, but he was actually able to transfer some of his higher balances onto that new card and level out the ratio, which, in return, helped his score.

Jerry also bought a new car in the fall of 2017. With a new auto loan tucked into his credit report, his score again increased. As long as he stays on time with his payments, his score will continue to benefit from the additional account.

By taking Credit Sesame’s tailored advice — and securing that mortgage modification — Jerry has been able to increase his credit score 120 points in just six months.

Watching His Credit Score Scale up and up

Jerry and Vivienne spend the morning relaxing at home in New Port Richey, Fla., Feb. 24, 2018. Jerry doesn’t have a final goal in mind for his credit score; he just plans to keep working to improve his financial wellbeing. Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Jerry doesn’t have a final credit score goal in mind; he just plans to keep working to improve his financial wellbeing.

Plus, he feels more financially savvy because he understands what actually makes up his credit score — it’s not just a three-digit number that affects his consumer power.

If you’re curious, it takes about 90 seconds to sign up for Credit Sesame — no credit card required. Within minutes, you’ll gain access to your own credit report card as well as customized recommendations on how to improve your score.

So far, the service has helped Jerry improve his finances after 10 years of difficulties.

“My score now stands at 620, which it still has a ways to go, but it’s headed in a much better direction,” he says. “We will be continuing to follow Credit Sesame’s suggestions.”

Like Morgan, 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days. Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also uses Credit Sesame to keep tabs on her credit score and to take proactive steps in increasing it.