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Put simply, your credit score can open up doors or create roadblocks. So, what do you if you’re on a tight timeline and need to raise your score?
Turning a mediocre score into an attractive one can take a serious effort. In other words, there really aren't quick fixes. Some want to believe that a combination of financial restraint and an aggressive debt-payment plan can add 100 points to their score, in as little as 30 days.
While it’s possible, it’s not very likely. Credit scores aren’t made overnight. After all, they’re a product of good financial behavior. But if you’re willing to take the first step, you can make your score go in the right direction.
What Is a Good Credit Score?
To understand what constitutes a good credit score, it helps to understand the mechanics. The nation’s three large credit rating agencies collect personal-finance data from numerous sources and crunch those numbers to produce a number, called a FICO score. This figure is on a scale of 300 to 850.
Any score above 750 sends a message to lenders that you’re an excellent risk and you can borrow money without getting penalized with higher interest rates. Numbers between 650 and 750 are considered middle of the road and that’s reflected in the offer you’ll get. Borrowers with scores below 650 might have a harder time getting a loan or one at a reasonable rate.
Wherever you fall on this spectrum, the first step in improving your score is learning what needs to be improved and taking steps to address the issues. Doing so will result in more robust results. Can you expect a 100-point change in a month? That’s unlikely but at the same time, it’s not out of the question. It should be mentioned that if you have a poor score to start with, it’s more likely you can raise it faster than if you had one on the higher end of the range.
How to Increase Your Credit Score Quickly
That said, the quickest way to raise your credit score is by spotting an error in your credit report. If incorrect information somehow was entered in your credit report or you were the victim of fraud, you can dispute the debt. If this is the case, it’s best to alert one of the credit bureaus as soon as possible and furnish the right information or evidence that this incident occurred.
Once this is squared away, a 100-point jump in a month might happen. Large errors are rare, and only about 5% of consumers have one that could change their status. Regardless it’s important to monitor your score.
Another tactic: Get someone with a high credit score to add you to their existing account. Their stature will be considered in the formula for determining your score. If you can make it happen, you could expect a significant jump in your credit score.
Another proven way to boost your score is to make payments every two weeks instead of once a month. The increased frequency helps reduce your credit utilization, which is a critical ingredient in your score.
Similarly, ask your card company to raise your credit limit. If you go from a $1,000 a month to $3,000, this is another way to bolster the credit utilization aspect of your score again, because you have more wiggle room.
If you are applying for a second or third credit card, be sure to only submit one application a month. Applying for multiple cards at once will result in multiple credit inquiries that will ding your credit score.
Long-Term Strategies for Raising Your Credit Score
Your credit score is really about playing the long game. It takes time and strategy to raise your score. If yours is in the good to excellent range, you probably already have a healthy relationship with money and don’t need to change your habits. However, if you’re stuck in the 600s or below, here are some things you can do to help improve your credit score and financial health at the same time:
- Don’t miss payment deadlines. Your payment history is the biggest determining factor as it relates to your credit score. If you missed a payment, call your credit card issuers as soon as you can to get in front of the issue. If you act quickly, you can ask the creditor not to report the delinquency. Normally, credit card issuers report delinquencies to the credit-rating bureaus once a month, so you might be able to avoid any penalties. The longer your accounts remain delinquent, the more negative impact on your score. This is why paying on time makes a difference.
- Monitor how much of your credit line you’re using on each card. The industry standard is that consumers should use less than 30% of the available credit on each of their cards or less than $300 on a card with a $1,000 limit. This is called credit utilization. Anything over the 30% utilization mark is detrimental to your score. That is true even if you make timely payments.
- Borrow to pay off high-interest credit card debt. You might ask a family member for a loan. However, you might find it difficult to get a personal loan from a bank if your credit score is low.
- Don’t close any credit cards even if you’re not using them. That’s because this action reduces your overall available credit, which increases your credit utilization. At the same time, don’t open new accounts. Each time you apply for credit or a loan this results in your credit being pulled. Queries made in the past two years can lower your credit score, which is of course counterproductive.
- Make micropayments. Chipping away at what you owe even before you receive a monthly bill will lower your credit utilization. This hack is especially useful if you buy a costly item or take a vacation that you charged to your cards.
For most people, increasing a credit score substantially in a month’s time is going to a tall order. Still, if you pay your bills on time, double down on consumer debt, don’t run up large balances on your cards, and maintain a mix of both consumer and secured borrowing, you could realistically see results within months. You could also be closer to getting qualified for a home loan.