How to Raise Your Credit Scores Fast
Reading time: 6 minutes
- Improving your credit scores generally takes time and patience, but there are strategies to consider if you're aiming to increase your credit scores quickly.
- Check your credit reports for incorrect information that may be dragging you down.
- The length of time it will take to improve your credit scores depends on your unique financial situation, but you may see a change as soon as 30 to 45 days after you have taken steps to positively impact your credit reports.
A poor credit history can be a big financial roadblock, but there are strategies available to help you improve your situation. In many cases, improving your credit scores takes time and patience. However, there are steps you can take if you're aiming to increase your credit scores quickly.
How are your credit scores calculated?
Your credit scores are based on the information included in your credit reports. Different lenders may use different credit score models for these calculations; however, most scoring models consider the following factors:
- Payment history, which is a record of how you repay borrowed funds.
- Credit utilization ratio, which represents the amount of revolving credit you're using divided by the total revolving credit available to you. Lenders typically like to see a credit utilization ratio of 30% or below.
- Hard inquiries, which help lenders track how often a borrower has requested a new credit account. Too many hard inquiries could suggest that you're attempting to borrow more than you can reasonably pay back.
- Length of credit history, which is determined by how long your various credit accounts have been open. Generally, the older your accounts are, the better.
- Credit mix, which refers to the different kinds of credit you have, including revolving credit, such as credit cards, and installment loans, such as mortgages and student loans.
What is a realistic timeline for improving your credit scores?
Changes to your credit scores rarely happen overnight — even if you're taking action to make improvements quickly. Your credit scores typically update once per month, but it's possible they may update more frequently depending on your unique financial situation.
It's up to your individual lenders to decide when (and if) they will report any new information to the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Lenders that choose to report information will typically do so monthly, but the time of month can vary from lender to lender.
If you have a particular time frame in which you're hoping to improve your credit scores, such as during a mortgage application, you might also consider what's known as a “rapid rescore.” During the rapid rescore process, individuals work with a lender or broker to recalculate their credit scores and may even run special reports to help strategize which habits might result in a credit score increase.
Rapid rescoring typically takes three to five business days to complete and is generally most helpful when someone is actively evaluating your credit scores, such as when you apply for a loan. Under most other circumstances, it's better to wait for your credit scores to update on their own.
What actions you can take to boost your credit scores?
Review your credit reports for errors and dispute any inaccuracies. The first and most important thing you can do is to review your credit reports for incorrect information that may be dragging you down. If you find a mistake — an account that isn't yours, for example — you can dispute it with the relevant CRA. If the error was particularly harmful, you may see a large jump in your scores once the dispute is resolved.
Keep paying your bills on time. In many credit scoring formulas, your payment history has the greatest effect on your overall credit scores. So, it's critical to make payments on time. Even if you can't afford to pay your balance in full every month, try to pay the minimum — your credit scores will thank you. If you're prone to forgetfulness, you might consider setting up an autopay option. Some lenders may even give you a break on your interest rate for enabling autopay on your loan. And if you miss a payment, reach out to your lender immediately to negotiate a repayment plan or ask for late payment forgiveness.
Improve your credit mix. Take a look at what kinds of credit accounts you have and classify each as either installment credit (a fixed amount you borrow and pay back in installments, such as a mortgage) or revolving credit (a credit line you can access at any time and pay back as you use it, such as a credit card).
If you only have auto and student loans, which are both forms of installment credit, your credit mix is lacking in diversity, which can have a negative impact on your credit scores in some credit scoring models. To diversify your credit mix and potentially improve your scores, you might consider opening an affordable credit card with good interest rates. On the other hand, if you only have credit cards, you might seek out a pre-qualification offer for a small personal loan, with the goal of diversifying your credit mix. In either case, you can identify products made especially for borrowers with a poor or limited credit history, such as a credit-builder loan or a secured credit card.
Just remember: New requests for credit are likely to result in a hard inquiry on your credit reports. Too many hard inquiries too close together could negatively impact your credit scores, so be careful about how frequently you open new accounts.
Improve credit utilization. Lowering your credit utilization ratio will often boost your credit scores, especially if your starting point is above the ideal 30% mark. There are several ways to accomplish this. You can:
- Pay your bills more frequently. Keeping your credit balance as low as possible at all times is an excellent way to reduce credit utilization, which means you'll need to pay your bills more frequently than once a month at the end of the billing cycle. You can strategize the timing of any extra payments by contacting your bank or credit card company to find out when they send your information to the nationwide CRAs — and then paying your bill just before they report.
- Pay down your debt but keep old credit accounts open. Paying off your full balance is good for your financial profile and your credit scores, but don't close that account just yet. Although eliminating existing debt will decrease the amount of credit you're currently using, closing the account entirely will lower your total available credit, which can increase your credit utilization ratio. To avoid this scenario, keep old accounts open and active with occasional small charges.
- Request an increase to your credit limit. Raising your credit limit on an existing account increases the amount of credit available to you and can decrease your credit utilization ratio. You can ask a current lender for a credit limit increase, especially if your income has increased since you last applied for a credit card, or you can open an entirely new credit account. If you're approved, your primary concern should still be repayment. Never charge anything you can't afford to pay back on time.
How soon can you see improvement?
The length of time it will take to improve your credit scores depends on your unique financial situation.
At the earliest, you may see a change between 30 and 45 days after you have taken steps to positively impact your credit reports. This is how long it generally takes lenders to notify the nationwide CRAs of information relating to your accounts. In other cases, it may take a few months more for any positive measures to make a cumulative impact. And if you are waiting for negative information to fall off your credit reports, it may take up to a year or more to see a major change.
Remember: High credit scores are a result of good financial habits maintained over a long period of time. So, while certain behaviors may help in the short term there's no single, magic solution to build a positive credit history quickly. Aim to establish and maintain good credit habits and have patience with the process so that you can build a positive credit history in the long term as well.