How can I improve my credit score if I have little collections debt and no credit cards?

I got into some financial trouble a few years ago thanks to youthful irresponsibility and it has really wrecked havoc on my credit score. Right now my score is at 548 🙁

I paid off my credit card debt a few years ago and do not have any credit card accounts open at this time. I have also paid off almost all of the other collections debt that I owed (mostly parking tickets and hospital bills). I’ve got it down to about $ 700 which I will be paying within the next two months. I still have a student loan but I pay it on time via auto debit from my checking account every month.

I was told that you can improve your score by opening a credit card and using it for small expenses then paying it off on time each month. I applied for a couple of different cards but I have been denied for both of them because of my previous bad credit.

Now that I am financially stable I would like to buy a house in the next two or three years and really need to start getting my score up but I’m not really sure how to do that at this point. Any suggestions (that aren’t spam referrals to those scam credit improvement companies)?

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