According to FICO, nearly 43.4 million people now have a credit score of 599 or below. That's not great for those who want to increase access to credit an decrease the cost of borrowing.

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One of the biggest factors in credit scoring models is called "credit utilization." That means the amount of your account balances versus the total amount of credit available to you. it's expressed as a percentage. So, if you have balances of $6,000 and credit limits of $10,000, your utilization is 60%. Experts say an optimum credit utilization ratio is 30% or less. So, you could increase your credit score over time by paying your balances down to less than 30% of your total credit limits. Or, you could try a quick and dirty solution.

By increasing your credit limits another $8,000, you can get your utilization down to 30% ($6,000 divided by $18,000). How do you get your limits raised? By being a good customer. Even if your overall credit rating isn't great, you have hopefully a good relationship with at least one of your creditors.

Good customer status can be achieved by paying on time, by never going over the limit, and by using the card. Carrying a balance is okay because that's how credit card companies make their money (of course, once your debt is under control you can stop that because money to them is money from you!). Call all your credit card companies and ask for higher credit limits. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. Don't bother with those that don't report credit limits (like secured credit cards, for instance, and charge cards).

Finally, avoid closing accounts once they are paid off -- that unused balance improves your utilization ratio, and closing out an older account could make it appear that you have less experience with credit than you do (account age is another factor that contributes to your credit score).