Whether you’re trying to buy a home or apply for a new job, loan, or credit card, your credit score impacts many areas of your life. Your FICO credit score will range from 300 to 850, and the higher your score is, the better.
But what if your score is lower than you would like due to previous financial mistakes you made? Unfortunately, there’s no way to fix your credit overnight. But by making good financial choices, it is possible to quickly improve your credit score.
Interested in learning more? Keep reading or check out Crediful’s Ultimate Guide to Credit Repair.
12 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score
With a bit of time and effort, you can dramatically raise your credit score and improve your financial situation. Here are twelve easy ways to boost your credit score.
1. Monitor Your Credit Report
If your credit score is lower than you would like, it could be because inaccurate items are dragging it down. According to the FTC, 5% of consumers have at least one error on their credit report.
You’re entitled to receive one free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau each year. So, before you do anything else, contact the three major credit bureaus and ask for a copy of your credit report. You can do this at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Once you have all three credit reports, review them carefully and dispute any credit report errors that you find. You’ll have to file a separate dispute with each credit bureau reporting the error.
You should also keep an eye out for outdated collections items that haven’t been removed from your credit report. Legally, these items can only stay on your credit report for seven years. So if it’s been longer than that, you can request to have these items removed.
Your credit utilization ratio is the amount of credit you’ve spent compared to your total credit limit. For example, let’s say you have one credit card and your available credit limit is $1,000. If you’ve already spent $800, your credit utilization ratio for that card is 80%.
This matters because your FICO score is calculated using these five categories:
- Payment history: 35%
- Amounts owed: 30%
- Length of credit history: 15%
- New credit: 10%
- Credit mix: 10%
One-third of your FICO score is determined by the amount you currently owe. So if you’ve taken out multiple credit cards and all of them are maxed out, this is going to hurt your credit scores.
A high credit utilization ratio tells lenders that you’re at a greater risk for default. One of the best ways to quickly raise your credit scores is by paying down your credit card balances to lower your credit utilization ratio.
3. Become an Authorized User
Individuals trying to repair their credit often find themselves in a difficult situation. You need to borrow money to improve your credit score, but no one wants to lend you money if your credit score is too low.
There is a way around this, and it’s called becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. You get to take advantage of that person’s excellent credit while you repair your FICO score. This is a great credit score hack that allows you to improve your credit almost instantly.
As an authorized user, the primary account holder adds you to their credit account and your credit file is updated to include all data from the past and future. This can immediately improve your credit rating by providing months or years of payment history.
4. Increase Your Credit Limits
One strategy for improving your credit utilization ratio is to ask your credit card company for a credit limit increase. Increasing your $1,000 credit card limit to $2,000 is an easy way to immediately lower your credit utilization rate. You may find that your credit card issuer routinely increases your credit limit without you even needing to ask.
However, this strategy only works if you don’t spend additional money. Increasing your credit limits only to max out your credit cards again won’t help you in the long run.
5. Pay Down Installment Loans
An installment loan is a type of loan where a fixed amount is borrowed and repaid in regular, fixed payments over a set period of time. Common installment loans include auto loans, student loans, and personal loans.
Paying down these balances can help you build up a positive payment history, which is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. By making regular, on-time payments, you can demonstrate to lenders that you are a reliable borrower. This can help to boost your credit score and make it easier for you to qualify for other loans and credit cards in the future.
Consider prioritizing student loan debt as it’s very difficult to have student loans discharged in bankruptcy court. Furthermore, most negative credit accounts fall off your credit report in 7 years. However, if you have a Federal Perkins Loan, it will remain on your credit report until it is repaid.
6. Don’t Close Old Credit Cards
If you’re in the process of paying down credit card debt, you may be tempted to close out your cards once they’re paid off. After all, once you pay off your credit card balance and close the account, you can’t spend any more money on it.
But you should always think twice before closing out old credit cards because this can hurt your credit. Even if you never use that card, just leaving it open could help you improve your FICO scores.
The only time it makes sense to consider closing credit cards you don’t use is if the credit card is costing you money in annual fees. Otherwise, leave credit card accounts open and just don’t use them.
7. Make Sure You Pay Your Bills on Time
If you want to have a good credit score, you need to make sure you pay all of your bills on time. Most of your efforts will be wasted if you routinely miss payments or pay your bills late.
Paying your bills late makes you look unreliable and like a risky investment for lenders. And this doesn’t just apply to your installment loans or credit cards. If you routinely pay your utilities or your phone bill late, this will hurt your credit scores.
Setting up automatic payments on your credit accounts will ensure that you never have missed payments.
8. Have Various Types of Credit Accounts
Having a diverse mix of credit accounts shows that you can manage credit responsibly, and credit mix makes up 10% of your FICO score. There are two types of credit accounts: revolving and installment.
Ideally, you would have several of both types. Installment credit includes mortgages, student loans, auto loans, and personal loans. While revolving credit accounts include credit cards and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs.)
9. Get a Credit Builder Loan
Credit builder loans are outstanding for people who want to build credit or don’t have much installment credit reported on their credit report.
With a credit builder loan, you basically lend money to yourself. Then, you make monthly payments into an interest-bearing certificate of deposit (CD). The lender reports your on-time payments to the three credit bureaus. After the loan is paid off, you get your money back with interest and minus fees.
10. Get a Secured Credit Card
With a secured credit card, you make a security deposit, usually around $500. The deposit becomes your credit limit, and you use it to make charges. Then you pay it off, and your payment history is reported to the credit bureaus. It’s an excellent way to build credit and add revolving credit to your credit report.
11. Transfer Balances to a New Card
If you have a credit score of 650 or higher, you may be eligible for a balance transfer card. This type of card can offer you a 0% interest rate for 12+ months, providing an opportunity for you to pay off your balances more quickly.
Additionally, this card will give you access to more available credit, thus lowering your credit utilization ratio. It is important to remember not to use the original card from which you transferred the balance, as this will defeat the purpose of lowering your credit utilization ratio. Finally, keep in mind that most balance transfer cards will charge a fee of 3-5% of the amount transferred.
12. Write a Goodwill Letter
If you have a late or missed payment hurting your credit score, a goodwill letter could be the solution. This letter is a request to the relevant lender or credit card issuer to have the negative mark removed from your credit report. There’s no guarantee that they will grant your request, but it is worth a try since it has no negative consequences.
How long does it take to raise your credit score?
Ultimately, the length of time it takes to raise your credit score depends on why your credit score is so low in the first place. If you have poor credit because you have a limited credit history, you could raise your credit score very quickly.
However, if your credit score is low because you defaulted on a loan or have excessive debt, this is going to take a lot longer to work out. The best place to start is by assessing where you’re currently at.
If your high credit utilization is the problem, then you may want to start by focusing on paying down your current balances. If you’re trying to build credit, you may want to try becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account.
Finally, if you can’t seem to remove items from your credit report, regardless of what you do, you may want to consider speaking with a credit repair company. These are professionals who know the best strategies for tackling debt repair.
This route will cost you some money but depending on your situation, it may be worth your while. If you’re interested in pursuing this, check out our #1 rated company here.