It doesn’t take much to ruin a good credit score. If your score is down in the dumps and needs a boost so you can apply for a credit card or loan, you’re in luck. There are a few things you can do to improve your credit score fast. Because of the timing of credit updates, it can take up to 60 days to see results. You may see changes in your credit score quicker than that.
To get started, you’ll need a copy of your credit report so you know what you need to work on. You can get a credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com once a year for free. Or, if you’ve already ordered your free annual credit report in the past 12 months, check out CreditKarma.com and CreditSesame.com to access your credit reporting information for free.
Dispute negative errors from your credit report.
Having negative information removed from your credit report can improve your credit score almost instantly. As soon as the item is removed in your credit report, it will reflect in your credit score, often resulting in an increase.
You have the right to dispute inaccurate and incomplete information on your credit report. It’s as simple as writing to the credit bureaus letting them know there’s an error on your credit report and asking them to remove the error. Once the credit bureau receives your dispute, they’ll investigate with the business that provided the information then update your credit report based on the investigation. It’s important to note that any unresolved open disputes can hinder you in obtaining mortgage or loan financing.
Not only should you dispute errors from your credit report, you should also dispute anything that’s over the credit reporting time limit. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows most negative information to remain on your credit report for only seven years. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain for 10 years and unpaid tax liens can remain indefinitely. If you have old, negative items on your credit report, dispute them with the credit bureaus to have them removed.
Negotiate past due accounts with your creditors.
Credit report disputes are intended to remove errors from your credit report. You may not be successful disputing legitimate negative information from your credit report. However, you might be able to work with the creditor to remove this information as an act of goodwill.
Say you’re behind on a credit card payment by a month or two, but you have the money to catch up on your account. Before making a payment, contact the credit card issuer to ask whether they would be willing to remove the negative items from your credit report once you catch up on your account. Some creditors will make a one-time adjustment on your behalf.
Catch up on your payment even if your creditor doesn’t agree to remove the negative items. Bringing your account current and making all your future payments on time will increase your credit score, especially as the late payments get older and you pay on time going forward.
Become an authorized user.
An authorized user on a credit card has the ability to make purchases on the credit card, but isn’t contractually required to make any payments on the account. Being an authorized user on someone’s credit card account also places the account history on your credit report, which means the account is factored into your credit score.
You can raise your credit score fast by being made an authorized user on an account with a long, positive credit history. Ask a friend or relative if they’d be willing to make you an authorized user on one of their accounts. Ideally, it should be an account that’s been opened for several years, with a low balance, high credit limit, and no late payments ever.
Pay down high credit card balances.
Using your credit cards regularly keeps them active and ensures they’re counted in your credit score. Using them too much, however, can hurt your credit score. Credit utilization is the second biggest factor in calculating your credit score. It measures the ratio between your credit card balances and your credit limit. The higher your credit utilization ratio – meaning the higher your credit card balance is – the more it hurts your credit score.
Fortunately, you can see improvement from paying down a high credit card balance within just a few weeks, sometimes sooner depending on when your credit card issuer reports your balance to the credit bureaus. Pay your high credit card balances down to less than 30% of the credit limit. If you can pay it below 10% of the credit limit, that’s even better. On a credit card with a limit of $1,000, for example, you should pay your balance below $300 to improve your credit score quickly. Once you’ve paid down your balance, keep it low so the balance will reflect on your credit report and then in your credit score.
Get a credit limit increase.
Remember your credit utilization is the ratio between your credit limit and your credit card balance. Paying down your credit card balances is one way to improve your credit score quickly. Getting a bigger credit limit is another. Some credit card issuers raise your credit limit automatically as you use your account responsibly. If it’s been several months since your last credit limit increase, you can contact your credit card issuer to request one. You might even be able to do this from your online account.
When you request a credit limit increase, the credit card issuer will consider your account history, your income and debts, and your credit history. If your request is approved, your credit card issuer will let you know right away. Otherwise, your credit card issuer will send a letter in the mail informing you of the reason your credit limit increase request was denied.
If your credit card issuer raises your credit limit, your credit score is likely to increase once the new credit shows up on your credit report. Be sure you continue to keep your credit card balance below 30% of your credit limit, even after you receive an increase.
What Not to Do
While you’re working to build your credit score as quickly as possible, you should also make sure you don’t sabotage your progress by making mistakes. Here are a few things you should avoid.
Don’t open too many credit cards. Each time you apply for credit, it dings your credit score a little. Plus, opening too many credits in a short period of time can lower your average credit age, a factor that makes up 15% of your credit score.
Don’t close accounts. Closing accounts never improves your credit score, even when there’s negative information on the account. Sometimes, closing an account can hurt your credit score, particularly if it still has a balance.
Don’t miss any payments. Payment history is the most important factor in your credit score. Make sure you pay everything on time, even bills that aren’t normally included in your credit score.
While you may not see overnight changes to your credit score, as long as you stick to these steps, you’ll see your credit score rise little by little over the next few months, even weeks.