There are many reasons why you would want to apply for a loan. Face it: you live in Singapore. You need money to do a host of things. You need to make payments for your pet’s registration, after which you will have to budget its monthly feeding and grooming. You need to schedule trips to Disneyland in the US with your best friend (whom you plan to propose to at the place in question). The latest smart house on the market is a must have. Your tuition fees are coming up, and there are books you need to buy. And there is only so much that your monthly or annual income can take care of. Well, time to get a loan.

You go to the bank and fill out an application form. The bank gets back to you, saying that you are not eligible for a loan. What, why? How?

Banks and other lending institutions look at your work history, annual/monthly income, credit score, and TDSR –Total Debt Servicing Ratio– before approving your loan application. When your application is rejected, quickly check to see which of these is the culprit. Most likely, it is your credit score.

The Credit Bureau Singapore (CBS) is the place to go to get your credit report, which will tell you just how much trouble you are in. CBS doesn’t just provide your report to banks and other lending organizations: it also keeps a blacklist. Defaulting on loans or getting debt management, or undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, will get you on that list. No bank is letting you get near them if you get on the CBS blacklist.

What do you do now? There is still hope for you. If you can’t get a loan due to intermittent employment or a bad credit score, you can redeem yourself by doing a couple of things. Read on to learn how you can get your act together to qualify for a loan.

1. Get A Job

Not just any kind of job: a secure job. Stable employment is what you are after here. Also, you should have held this job down for at least a year before the banks will take a second look at your loan application. In general, banks prefer to offer loans to Singaporeans with high annual incomes. Self-employed applicants go through a rigorous process before their applications are approved. Even at that, you have to be earning a certain amount annually.

Without steady employment, even loan sharks will baulk at lending you money.

And don’t think that you will hustle a side job and stay there long enough to get the loan and call it quits. That will not work. Things might even make things worse for you and your report.

2. Settle All Pending Payments

Late repayments on loans or credit card bills affect your credit score. Neglecting to clear all the balances due also affects your credit score. Refusing to pay up to the monthly minimum amount on your loans also affects your credit score. These are the major things that give you a low rating on your credit report. It doesn’t matter what all else you do: ignoring your loan repayments guarantees are poor credit score.

Before you apply for that car loan, make sure that you clear all existing loans and bills first. No matter how long it takes, do it. Settling your debts gives you a better credit report and a healthier TDSR standing: banks like it when they see that less than half your salary goes to paying credit card bills.

Every debt you owe must be repaid, including that library fine for late returns of those books you borrowed.

3. Go And Borrow Some Money – Then Pay It Back With Haste

This is a smart way to continue boosting that credit score after you have cleared all your debts. Get a very small loan –make it a personal loan or a payday loan- and promptly pay it back. This will give your credit score a healthier sheen, and impress the banks.

Do note that this loan has to be a small one, payable in the next month or at least three months. A payday loan is perfect: repay it on your next payday. Over and done with. If you take a loan big enough to make down payment on a house in Brooks Signature, then you must be sure of what you are doing.

4. Use Your Credit Card

Though a slower way of improving your credit, it is worth a shot. Use your credit card, or cards, to buy stuff and even pay your utilities. The goal here is to make tiny expenditures, like paying for groceries. Using up a large portion of credit negatively impacts your credit score, so maintain a large proportion while spending just a little.

5. No New Credit Card Activity

This means that you should neither cancel credit cards nor apply for new ones. While it is advisable to cancel credit cards that you aren’t using, now is not the time. Your credit score is affected by either action, so hold off on them for now.

6. Exercise Patience

Doing all of the things listed above will help you to clear your negative credit report. However, it is still going to take a while. A long while. Like 5 years long, based on what got you on the blacklist in the first place. The least could be two to three years because CBS needs at least 12 months of good behaviour (on your part) to believe that your score has changed for the better. Anything can happen in those two, three, five years. Singapore could be a dystopian, futuristic society by then. At least you have more time to make yourself more loan-friendly.

For these life hacks to work, you need discipline. You can start practising on curbing and budgeting your expenditure. Keep a savings account. Set up an emergency fund. And live far below your means. A good credit score will get you that loan: a vacation in the Maldives will not.