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Can I raise my credit score by 100 points?
If your credit score is already relatively high, there’s no significant benefit to raising it that much. You can usually enjoy all the benefits of good credit (like the lowest possible interest rates and highest credit limits) with a credit score of 760 or higher. 1
On the other hand, if you have a relatively bad credit score (either because you’re just starting out or because something caused your credit to drop), raising your score by 100 points is well worth doing.
5 quick fixes for a bad credit score (3 to 6 months)
If you want to know how to build credit fast, try the following credit score hacks.
1. Dispute any errors you find on your credit reports
Before you do anything else, check for and dispute errors on your credit report.
A 2013 study found that one in five Americans had an error on at least one of their credit reports, and another study found that 0.93% of consumers had at least one error worth 25 points or more. 2 3 Extremely damaging items can be worth even more; for instance, removing a repossession from your credit report could earn you over 100 points.
It’s important to check your reports from all three of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), which you can do at AnnualCreditReport.com. Even small errors are worth disputing; getting a hard inquiry off your credit report, for instance, could add up to 5 points to your credit score. 4
2. Lower your credit utilization rate
Your credit utilization rate is the proportion of your available credit that you’re using.
Try to keep your ratio below 30% if you possibly can, but in general, the lower it is, the better. Under 10% is ideal. 7
Pay attention to your total and individual credit utilization rates
Many credit scoring models factor in the credit utilization rate for each separate credit account as well as your total utilization rate. This means that it’s a bad idea to overuse one card, especially if it has a low credit limit. 5
Reducing the credit utilization rate on all of your credit accounts will probably benefit your score. There are several ways to do this, but your best bet is to simply use less credit or pay off your bills before the statement date, which is generally when your creditor will report your balance to the credit bureaus. 8
3. Pay off any overdue accounts
If you want to improve your credit score, you need to deal with any negative items that are on your credit reports. You also need to stop new ones from appearing.
Late payments damage your payment history—the most important factor that contributes to your credit score—so you should deal with them as quickly as possible. Once you do, your score will start to recover.
How to deal with late payments and collection accounts
Creditors report late payments once they’re at least 30 days overdue. 9 After that point, they’ll appear on your credit report and start to damage your score. If they go into delinquency or default and get passed to debt collectors, your score could drop by up to 125 points. 10
If this has already happened, address it as quickly as possible. Newer credit scoring models (from FICO 9 and VantageScore 3.0 onwards) completely ignore collection accounts you’ve paid off in full—doing so will dramatically improve your score in those models.
Even if your lender doesn’t use the newer models (they haven’t been widely adopted yet), it’s usually still worth paying your outstanding debts because lenders look more favorably on paid than unpaid collection accounts.
Once negative items like late payments are on your credit report, they’ll stay there for up to 7 years. 11 However, you might be able to remove late payments much sooner by negotiating pay-for-delete or sending a goodwill letter. If you’re successful, it will give your credit score an immediate boost.
4. Look at debt relief options
If you’ve accumulated debt and are struggling to pay it off, you have several options, including:
- Debt consolidation loans: A debt-consolidation loan is a loan you take out to pay off multiple debts with high interest rates so that you only have to make a single, smaller monthly payment.
- Debt settlement: This is when your creditor or collector forgives some of your debt and lets you pay off less money than you actually owe. In the case of credit card debt, this is also known as credit card debt forgiveness.
There are also other forms of debt relief available. Each has its pros and cons that you should carefully consider before deciding whether it’s right for you.
5. Have a family member add you to their cards as an authorized user
If you’re an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, it means you’re allowed to use it. It also means that the primary card holder’s account history will be added to your credit report.
If they have good credit, then being added to their account will improve your credit score by lowering your credit utilization rate and strengthening your payment history. 12
6 long-term strategies to boost your credit
To see real, lasting improvement in your credit score, you need a long-term outlook. If you commit to the following debt-management strategies, you’ll be able to build good credit and maintain a high score.
1. Pay your bills on time
Plan your budget carefully so that you know you’ll have enough money to pay your bills on time every month. You can also use autopay or set reminders to avoid missing payments.
Remember that even if you aren’t able to pay your bills on time, as long as you pay them off within 30 days of the due date, your credit score won’t be affected, although there may be other consequences (such as late fees).
2. Be strategic about your payments when you’re coming up short
As far as your credit score is concerned, the credit bureaus view a $25 overdue debt the same way they would view a $2,000 overdue debt. This means that if you only have enough money to pay off two small debts or one large debt, you should pay off the two smaller ones first.
You should also avoid making partial payments. Those won’t help you—your creditor will still report them as missing payments.
Also, be aware that not all debts are created equal. There are two types of credit: installment loans (e.g., mortgages, student loans, home equity loans, and car loans) and revolving credit (e.g., credit cards and home equity lines of credit). 13
Revolving credit accounts typically carry more weight than installment loans when it comes to your credit score. If you have the opportunity to put extra money towards your debts, it’s best to pay down your revolving accounts. However, you should still make the minimum monthly payments for all of your accounts to avoid incurring penalties.
3. Consider taking out a credit-builder loan
A credit-builder loan is a type of loan that’s specifically designed to help you improve your credit score. It’s different from a traditional loan in that you don’t receive the money upfront. Instead, your lender keeps the money until you’ve fully repaid the loan. 14
A credit-builder loan helps your credit because your lender will report your payments to the credit bureaus. This contributes to both your payment history and your credit mix, improving your credit score.
4. Get a secured credit card
If your credit score is low due to a poor payment history, you might be able to gain 100 points (or more) by consistently making on-time payments on a credit card. However, if your score is too low, most creditors will be unwilling to offer you a credit card in the first place.
Fortunately, even if you have a bad credit score, you’ll still be able to get a secured credit card by paying a refundable deposit that your lender will use as collateral. Because of this extra security, lenders can relax their requirements so that borrowers with limited, poor, or damaged credit are eligible.
When you choose a secured credit card, make sure that the lender will report your credit activity to all three major credit bureaus. This will give you the opportunity to improve your credit score by building a solid payment history (as long as you’re careful to always pay your bills on time). 15
5. Don’t close old accounts
You should avoid closing credit cards that you’re not using—as long as you can resist the temptation to overuse them just because they’re there.
Unused credit lowers your credit utilization rate, and old cards bring up the average age of your credit accounts, both of which benefit your credit score. (Closing an account doesn’t mean it will stop contributing to your credit age immediately, but it will eventually fall off your credit report, at which point it won’t contribute anymore.)
6. Get credit for paying rent and utility bills on time
In general, the credit bureaus only hear about your rent and utility bill payments when you miss them. However, if there are bills that you usually pay on time, you can capitalize on these with one of the following methods.
- Experian Boost: This free service allows you to improve your credit with Experian (although not with the other two credit bureaus) when you make certain types of payments, including utility bills and even subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu.
- Rent and bill reporting services: There are other third-party services to help you report your utility payments and even your rent payments to one or more of the credit bureaus. These services usually cost money.
- Paying bills with credit cards: Paying for your utilities with a credit card is an indirect way of getting your monthly bills to boost your credit score, as long as you don’t miss any payments.
How long will it take me to improve my credit score by 100 points?
The time it will take to improve your credit score depends on several factors, including the issues that lowered your score in the first place.
Some of these issues, such as a high credit utilization rate, can be fixed almost immediately. Others, such as negative marks from late payments, will remain on your credit report for up to seven years, no matter what you do (unless they were reported in error, in which case you can dispute them immediately). 16
How often is my credit score updated?
The time that it will take to improve your credit score is also affected by how frequently it’s updated.
Your credit score is updated any time a data-furnishing company (like your creditor) provides new information to the credit bureaus. This means that your score could take a while to improve after you take measures to raise it (like paying your debts) if your creditors don’t report it immediately.
Usually, creditors report your statement balance to the credit bureaus on a monthly basis. However, this can vary between companies. 17
How can I check my credit score?
You can find out your credit score in several ways: 18
- Request your free credit reports with each bureau from AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Check your credit card statement or loan statement.
- Purchase your FICO score directly at myFICO.com.
- Sign up for credit-monitoring services with Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.
- Talk to a government-approved credit counselor.