Whether you’ve made some credit mistakes or you’re a credit newbie, knowing how to improve your credit score fast can come in handy if you plan to borrow money in the near future.
That’s because the higher your credit score, the better your chances are when it comes to getting approved for credit. Plus, you’re more likely to receive a lower interest rate.
Establishing an excellent credit score can take months, if not years. But fortunately, there are a few things you can do now to make big strides toward your goal.
How to improve your credit score fast in 5 steps
There are several ways you can rebuild your credit, but only a few of them can make a big difference in just a few months. Here are the top five ways to put yourself on the fast track to a better credit score.
1. Become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card
When someone adds you as an authorized user on their credit card account, you inherit the entire history of that account. If the primary cardholder has a good payment history, you’ll reap the benefits as soon as the credit card company starts reporting the account on your credit report.
Since becoming an authorized user can make such a big difference, it’s essential that you choose someone who has great credit and will continue to use credit wisely. Getting added to a credit card account with a poor payment history can have an adverse effect on your credit score.
2. Create a positive payment history
A big part of learning how to improve your credit score fast includes knowing what goes into it. For example, the biggest factor in your FICO credit score is your payment history, which accounts for 35 percent of your score.
If you don’t have a payment history yet or you’ve missed some payments in the past, here’s what you need to do:
- Pay off any delinquent accounts you have. The longer they go unpaid, the more damage they cause to your credit.
- Start making your payments on time, every time.
- If you already have a credit card or loan, use that account.
If you don’t have a credit card or loan, however, consider a secured credit card.
- Secured cards require a deposit when you open the account. Your deposit is usually equal to the credit limit you request.
- You generally won’t get approved for a good unsecured credit card with bad or no credit.
- As you pay off the balance on time and in full each month for your secured credit card, you’ll generate a positive payment history, which will make it easier to get approved for a better card in the future.
Here are some other ways to establish a good payment history:
- Apply for a credit-builder loan with a company like Self Lender, which helps you establish credit history with a savings-secured installment loan.
- Sign up with a service like Rental Kharma, which reports your rent payments to the credit bureaus. Just make sure you pay your rent on time to keep that positive payment history going.
3. Stay away from your credit limit
The second-most important factor in your FICO credit score, making up 30 percent of your score, is how much you owe. One major element of that factor is your credit utilization ratio, which is calculated by dividing your credit card balance by its credit limit.
For example, if you have a $4,000 balance on a card with an $8,000 limit, your credit utilization ratio is 50 percent.
$4,000 / $8,000 = 50 percent
Many experts recommend keeping your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent. However, the lower you can get your ratio, the better. In fact, an Experian study showed that consumers with the best credit scores used only 8 percent of their available credit, on average.
Since your credit utilization ratio is calculated monthly, paying down a huge balance can make a big difference quickly.
As you continue to use credit cards to build a positive credit history, keep your balance low. Even a short-term spike can knock points off your credit score.
4. Find and address credit report errors
In some cases, it’s not your fault your credit is in poor shape. Creditors and the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — can make mistakes in their reporting. Get a free copy of your credit reports from the three credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you find anything that’s out of line — say, an unauthorized account or late payment reported in error — reach out to the creditor and credit bureau as soon as possible to start the process of getting it fixed.
In some cases, creditors and the credit bureaus require documentation for your claims. If you don’t have the time or know-how to do what they ask, consider using a credit repair company to do the legwork for you.
Once the error has been removed from your credit report, you should see a quick response in your credit score.
5. Get rid of a paid tax lien
If you owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) money, it can add what’s called a “tax lien” to your credit report. If left unpaid, it can stay on your credit report for 15 years. Once you pay off the debt, the negative item will remain on your credit report for seven years.
The good news is you can ask the IRS to remove the tax lien from your credit report once you’ve paid it off. As soon as it’s gone, it will no longer factor into your credit score, giving it a boost.
Just how fast are we talking here?
Although it’s important to know how to improve your credit score fast, there’s no overnight solution. It can take a few months for some of these tips to start making a difference, mainly because of the credit reporting process.
Lenders typically report account information to the credit bureaus once a month. And if you’re requesting to have errors removed, it can take a while for the credit bureaus and creditor in question to communicate.
That said, building credit (especially as a beginner) is generally a long-term game. So, anything that can move the needle significantly in a positive direction for your credit score in just a few months is worth taking the time to do.
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