13 Simple Ways to Boost Your Credit

 March 11, 2022
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how to improve your credit score

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Your credit score can make or break your application for a loan, credit card or, in some cases, an apartment. Having a strong credit score makes it easier to borrow new loans or lines of credit, as well as get approved for better rates and terms. That’s why it’s worth taking steps to boost your credit, whether you’re looking to make a small improvement or start from scratch.

Read on to learn the steps you can take to improve your credit score. But first, a quick overview of how credit scores are calculated:

13 ways to boost your credit

Whether you have bad credit, no credit or decent credit that could be better, here are some ways you can give your credit score a boost.

1. Get a secured credit card

If you’re starting from square one, it can be tricky to find credit options that are accessible and affordable. With little to no credit history, you’ll have a hard time getting new loans or lines of credit: In other words, you need credit to build credit.

That’s where a secured credit card comes into play. When you open a secured card, you put up a cash deposit as collateral — usually, this deposit will be equal to your credit limit.

It’s easier to qualify for a secured credit card, especially if you keep your balance low and make payments on time. When you use credit responsibly, it should only be a matter of time before you see your credit score rise.

2. Become an authorized user

Another way to qualify for credit in your name is to get a shared account — and the easiest way to do that is to get added as an authorized credit card user on someone else’s account.

Ask someone you trust to add you to their credit card account, and it’ll be included on your credit reports. As long as the account is in good standing, it should reflect well on your creditworthiness and help increase your score.

Make sure the original cardholder is responsible with their debts, as any overborrowing or missed payments will hurt both your credit scores.

3. Review your credit reports

Credit reporting errors are more common than you might think. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, complaints about credit reporting increased by 129% from 2019 to 2020.

It’s worthwhile to get copies of your credit reports and review the information on them to catch and dispute credit report errors. Plus, your credit reports often will include insights into factors that affect your credit.

4. Monitor your credit with free tools

Your free credit reports are helpful, but they don’t include your actual credit score.

Luckily, there are several free credit monitoring tools to help you track your credit score from month to month. Your bank or credit union might offer free credit scores as a benefit of your credit card or bank account.

You can also use a service like LendingTree to check up on your score, track your progress and receive strategies on how to build credit.

5. Pay down debt balances

Paying your debt ahead of schedule is another borrowing behavior that can positively affect your credit score. If you can afford it, consider making a second (small) monthly payment of whatever extra you can contribute.

Paying down credit card balances, in particular, can help you lower your credit utilization ratio — the percentage of available credit you use — which is a key metric in how credit bureaus calculate your score. Working to prepay loans or other forms of debt also can help when you’re learning how to improve your credit score.

6. Request a credit limit increase

On top of paying down credit card balances, you can ask your credit card issuer to raise your credit limit.

Your credit limit is the total amount you can borrow through the card. The higher it is, the lower any balance you carry will be in comparison.

That makes it easier to keep your credit utilization ratio low — and maintaining a low credit utilization (less than 30% is generally recommended) will keep your credit score trending upward.

Try to check in with your credit card balances throughout the month. If they’ve gotten too high, pay them down before the issuer reports your high credit utilization to the credit bureaus.

7. Always pay bills on time

You can have decent credit without doing everything right all the time. But it’s nearly impossible to maintain good credit with derogatory marks on your credit report from late payments or delinquent accounts.

That’s why it’s important to pay your bills on time each month. Setting up automatic payments can help you stay on top of all your accounts and due dates.

8. Address any debt in collections

Having delinquent debt sent to collections is a surefire way to drag down your credit score. Some agencies might even bring you to court to recoup the money you owe.

If you can settle the debt, you might be able to get the collections agency to stop reporting the debt to the credit bureaus. Plus, if you have inaccurate collections accounts on your credit report, you might be able to get them removed.

If you can pay off your debt in collections, your credit score will likely improve.

9. Mix up your credit

Your credit mix makes up 10% of your FICO credit score. If you only hold one type of credit, adding another type could improve your score — as long as you pay your bills on time. If you haven’t opened a credit card yet, for example, you could apply for one.

There are a couple of downsides to this approach, however. Applying for a new loan or line of credit typically involves submitting to a hard credit check, which can temporarily ding your score.

What’s more, it’s probably not a good idea to borrow money you don’t need solely for the sake of improving your credit. But if you can make use of the new account — and it won’t cost you too much in interest and fees — then diversifying your credit mix could help improve your score.

10. Take out a credit-builder loan

Credit builder loans are designed to help you improve credit. These loans often come in a small amount (around $500 to $3,000) and usually charge interest and fees.

The amount you borrow is usually locked in a savings account while you pay it off in monthly installments. Again, the primary purpose of these loans is to help you build a history of positive payments on your credit report, not to cover expenses.

11. Maintain your older accounts

The length of your credit history makes up 15% of your FICO Score. The older your accounts, the more they can help your score (assuming they are in good standing). That’s why it’s typically not a good idea to close old accounts, like an old credit card, even if you’ve switched to using a different one.

As long as you’re not paying an annual fee, it doesn’t hurt to keep an old card around for the sake of maintaining your credit score. If you are paying an annual fee, you could ask the credit card issuer to downgrade to a free version of the card.

Note that you might need to make a payment every once in a while with the card so that the issuer doesn’t close your account.

12. Use a rental reporting service

If you’re a renter, your on-time rent payments could help your score. While rent payments don’t typically impact your credit, you could use a third-party rent reporting service, like Rental Kharma or RentTrack, to send your information to the credit bureaus. There’s also a service called Experian Boost that can report your on-time utility, phone or streaming service payments.

Note that these services will likely cost a fee, which may or may not be worth it.

13. Negotiate or refinance to lower rates on your debt

If you’re dealing with high interest rates on your loans or credit cards, it could be worth seeing if you can lower them. Some companies are open to negotiating a lower rate if you call and ask about it.

Plus, you might be able to refinance a high-interest loan and replace it with a lower-rate one. (Check out our student loan refinancing guide for more information.) Having a lower rate could help you pay off your balance faster, which in turn could improve your credit score.

How credit scores are calculated

Credit scores are based on a combination of factors, and there are several types of scores. Two of the most common are VantageScores and FICO Scores. Since lenders tend to rely on FICO Scores, it’s worth understanding how FICO Scores work.

These scores range from 300 to 850 and are based on the following:

  • 35% payment history: Whether you’re making on-time payments on your debts.
  • 30% amounts owed: The total debt that you owe. Owing a large loan doesn’t necessarily equate to a low score, but having a high credit utilization ratio — using a large amount of the credit that’s available to you — can drag down your score.
  • 15% length of credit history: The age of your accounts. A well-established credit history can help your score.
  • 10% new credit: Opening lots of new accounts at once can hurt your score, as doing so can lead to lots of hard inquiries on your credit report.
  • 10% credit mix: The different types of credit you have, such as credit cards and an installment loan. It’s generally good for your score to have a mix of credit, as it suggests to lenders that you can manage a variety of accounts.

Avoid these mistakes when boosting your credit

While the steps discussed above can help improve your credit, there are also mistakes you want to avoid that could drag down your score. Here are a few pitfalls to stay away from:

  • Don’t apply for a bunch of new credit at once. Even though credit mix makes up part of your scores, you don’t want to accumulate a bunch of hard inquiries, which will ding your score. Plus, if lenders see a flurry of new activity, they might think you’re a risky candidate for additional credit.
  • Don’t forget about interest and fees when taking on new credit. If you’re borrowing a credit builder loan to boost credit, for instance, make sure the improvement in your scores will be worth the cost of the loan.
  • Don’t carry a balance from month to month on your credit card if you can help it. It’s a myth that carrying a balance will help your score — it’s better to pay off your balance in full every month instead, so you can avoid paying interest.
  • Don’t cancel your old credit cards. As discussed above, the age of your accounts factors into your score. Unless you absolutely need to cancel your cards to avoid the temptation of overspending, you’ll be better off keeping old accounts open to maintain your credit history.

Good credit is like an insurance policy

Your first financial line of defense against emergencies should be an emergency fund. Having cash on hand to cover urgent expenses can help you avoid debt.

But a good credit score also can act as a lifeline in a time of hardship or financial crisis. If you’ve exhausted your cash and need emergency loans to stay afloat, a positive credit history will grant you access to credit at reasonable interest rates when you need it most.

Avoiding and limiting debt is important, especially in times of financial distress. But knowing you have a good credit score can be an extra layer of financial security. That’s why you should always be mindful of your credit score and be working to improve it.

At the end of the day, find a system that works for you and use it to build good credit (and learn more in this quick credit-raising guide). It takes a while to boost credit, but if you keep taking the right steps, you’ll see a real improvement in your score.

If you owe student loans, check out our report on how your education debt impacts your credit score.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2022!
LenderAPR RangeLoan Amount 
7.99% – 23.43%1$5,000 - $100,000

Visit SoFi

4.37% – 35.99%$1,000 - $50,000

Visit Upstart

7.46% – 35.97%*$1,000 - $50,000

Visit Upgrade

99.00% – 199.00%2$500 - $4,000

Visit OppLoans

7.99% – 29.99%3$5,000 - $40,000

Visit Happy Money

7.99% – 20.88%4$5,000 - $50,000

Visit Citizens

7.99% – 35.99%5$2,000 - $36,500

Visit LendingPoint

8.30% – 36.00%6$1,000 - $40,000

Visit LendingClub

9.95% – 35.99%7$2,000 - $35,000

Visit Avant

1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 7.99% APR to 23.43% APR APR reflect the 0.25% autopay discount and a 0.25% direct deposit discount. SoFi rate ranges are current as of 8/22/22 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, income, and other factors. See APR examples and terms. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

2 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Opploans.

Opploans Disclosures

Direct Deposit required for payroll.

Opploans currently operates in these states: . *Approval may take longer if additional verification documents are requested. Not all loan requests are approved. Approval and loan terms vary based on credit determination and state law. Applications processed and approved before 7:30 p.m. ET Monday-Friday are typically funded the next business day.

  1. To qualify, a borrower must (i) be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; (ii) reside in a state where OppLoans operates; (iii) have direct deposit; (iv) meet income requirements; (v) be 18 years of age (19 in Alabama); and, (vi) meet verification standards.
  2. NV Residents: The use of high-interest loans services should be used for short-term financial needs only and not as a long-term financial solution. Customers with credit difficulties should seek credit counseling before entering into any loan transaction.

  3. OppLoans performs no credit checks through the three major credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Applicants’ credit scores are provided by Clarity Services, Inc., a credit reporting agency.

  4. Based on customer service ratings on Google and Facebook. Testimonials reflect the individual’s opinion and may not be illustrative of all individual experiences with OppLoans. Check loan reviews.

  5. Rates and terms vary by state.

3 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for Happy Money.

Happy Money Disclosures

  1. All loans are subject to credit review and approval. Your actual rate depends upon credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history. Currently loans are not offered in: MA, MS, NE, NV, OH, and WV.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Rates and offer subject to change. All accounts, loans and services subject to individual approval.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

5 Important Disclosures for LendingPoint.

LendingPoint Disclosures

Applications submitted on this website may be funded by one of several lenders, including: FinWise Bank, a Utah-chartered bank, Member FDIC; Coastal Community Bank, Member FDIC; Midland States Bank, Member FDIC; and LendingPoint, a licensed lender in certain states. Loan approval is not guaranteed. Actual loan offers and loan amounts, terms and annual percentage rates (“APR”) may vary based upon LendingPoint’s proprietary scoring and underwriting system’s review of your credit, financial condition, other factors, and supporting documents or information you provide. Origination or other fees from 0% to 7% may apply depending upon your state of residence. Upon final underwriting approval to fund a loan, said funds are often sent via ACH the next non-holiday business day. Loans are offered from $2,000 to $36,500, at rates ranging from 7.99% to 35.99% APR, with terms from 24 to 72 months. Minimum loan amounts apply in Georgia, $3,500; Colorado, $3,001; and Hawaii, $1,500. For a well-qualified customer, a $10,000 loan for a period of 48 months with an APR of 24.34% and origination fee of 7% will have a payment of $327.89 per month. (Actual terms and rate depend on credit history, income, and other factors.) The $15,575.04 total amount due under the loan terms provided as an example in this disclaimer includes the origination fee financed in addition to the loan amount. Customers may have the option to deduct the origination fee from the disbursed loan amount if desired. If the origination fee is added to the financed amount, interest is charged on the full principal amount. The total amount due is the total amount of the loan you will have paid after you have made all payments as scheduled.

6 Important Disclosures for LendingClub.

LendingClub Disclosures

  1. Checking your loan rate generates a soft credit inquiry on your credit report, which is visible only to you. A hard credit inquiry, which is visible to you and others, and which may affect your credit score, only appears on your credit report if and when a loan is issued to you. Your loan APR will depend upon your credit score and other key financing characteristics, including but not limited to the amount financed, loan term length, and your credit usage and history. A representative example of payment terms for a Personal Loan is as follows: a borrower receives a loan of $16,980 for a term of 36 months, with an interest rate of 13.49% and a 6.00% origination fee of $1,019, for an APR of 17.89%. In this example, the borrower will receive $15,961 and will make 36 monthly payments of $576. Loan amounts range from $1,000 to $40,000 and loan term lengths range from 24 months to 60 months. Some amounts, rates, and term lengths may be unavailable in certain states. For Personal Loans, APR ranges from 8.30% to 36.00% and origination fee ranges from 3.00% to 6.00% of the loan amount. APRs and origination fees are determined at the time of application. Lowest APR is available to borrowers with excellent credit. Advertised rates and fees are valid as of July 11, 2022 and are subject to change without notice. Loans are made by LendingClub Bank, N.A., Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender (“LendingClub Bank”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of LendingClub Corporation, NMLS ID 167439. LendingClub Bank is not an affiliate of LendingTree, LLC which is an unrelated third party (“third party”). LendingClub Bank is not responsible for any products and services provided by this third party and may receive compensation if you visit the third party’s websites or use any of its products or services. Credit eligibility is not guaranteed. Loans are subject to credit approval and may be subject to sufficient investor commitment before they can be funded or issued. Certain information that LendingClub Bank subsequently obtains as part of the application process (including but not limited to information in your consumer report, your income, the loan amount that your request, the purpose of your loan, and qualifying debt) will be considered and could affect your ability to obtain a loan. Loan closing is contingent on accepting all required agreements and disclosures at Lendingclub.com. “LendingClub” is a trademark of LendingClub Bank.

7 Important Disclosures for Avant.

Avant Disclosures

*If approved, the actual loan terms that a customer qualifies for may vary based on credit determination, state law, and other factors. Minimum loan amounts vary by state.

**Example: A $5,700 loan with an administration fee of 4.75% and an amount financed of $5,429.25, repayable in 36 monthly installments, would have an APR of 29.95% and monthly payments of $230.33.

Based on the responses from 7,302 customers in a survey of 140,258 newly funded customers, conducted from August 1, 2018 – August 1, 2019, 95.11% of customers stated that they were either extremely satisfied or satisfied with Avant. 4/5 Customers would recommend us. Avant branded credit products are issued by WebBank, member FDIC.

* Important Disclosures for Upgrade Bank.

Upgrade Bank Disclosures

Personal loans made through Upgrade feature Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) of 7.46%-35.97%. All personal loans have a 1.85% to 8.99% origination fee, which is deducted from the loan proceeds. Lowest rates require Autopay and paying off a portion of existing debt directly. Loans feature repayment terms of 24 to 84 months. For example, if you receive a $10,000 loan with a 36-month term and a 17.59% APR (which includes a 13.94% yearly interest rate and a 5% one-time origination fee), you would receive $9,500 in your account and would have a required monthly payment of $341.48. Over the life of the loan, your payments would total $12,293.46. The APR on your loan may be higher or lower and your loan offers may not have multiple term lengths available. Actual rate depends on credit score, credit usage history, loan term, and other factors. Late payments or subsequent charges and fees may increase the cost of your fixed rate loan. There is no fee or penalty for repaying a loan early.