We’ve all made mistakes, and that includes mistakes with credit. But while some elements of fixing your credit score require time and patience, there are other things you can do that can make a difference more quickly.
How to increase your credit score in 30 days
The second-biggest factor in your credit score is how much you owe. It makes up 30% of your FICO credit score. A big part of that number is your credit utilization rate, which is calculated by dividing your credit card balances by your credit limits.
For example, if you have a card with a $5,000 and a $10,000 limit, your credit utilization rate for that card is 50%. Because credit card companies report balance information every month, any changes that occur are reflected immediately the following month.
Experts recommend keeping your credit utilization rate below 30%, but it’s best to go as low as possible — as long as it’s not 0%, which signals that you’re not using credit at all.
It’s impossible to know exactly how many points you can recover by doing this. Your FICO score is made up of your full credit history, and everyone’s credit profile is different. But if you manage to pay down a balance from a 75% credit utilization rate to a 10% rate, that could make a big difference fast.
Other ways to increase your credit score fairly quickly
Paying down your balances can be the most effective way to increase your score quickly, but there are other ways to do so that you should consider.
Ask to become an authorized user
Credit card companies allow account holders to add authorized users to their account. For example, if you want your wife or kids to have a card tied to your account, you can request that. As a result, the credit card companies report the account history for those authorized user accounts.
This means that you can get the benefit of the full history of someone’s credit card just by getting added to their account. “Ask family and friends until you find someone with the ideal credit card,” says Joshua Crum, owner at Rebuild Repair Credit. “It should have a long, positive history with a low credit utilization rate.”
Crum also points out that you don’t even need to use the card to get the benefits of the account.
Get a secured credit card
The most important factor in your credit score is your payment history. And while you can’t go back in time and get rid of late payments, you can start making on-time payments right now.
One good way to do that is to get a secured credit card. Unlike traditional credit cards, secured cards require you to put down a deposit, usually equal to the credit limit you want. You can then use the card as you would a normal credit card.
Note: A secured card is not like a prepaid debit card. You don’t load money onto it, use it up, and reload it. The deposit stays with the credit card issuer to protect itself in case you default, and you get it back when you close the account.
“Put as much as you can afford down on a secured credit card,” says Crum. “The more, the better, as this will be your credit limit. Use this card responsibly, keeping your balance low and every payment on time and well above the minimum.”
Doing these things may take longer than paying down your balances on other cards, but they go a long way in establishing a good payment history, which is crucial to rebuilding your credit.
Fix errors in your credit report
In some cases, your bad credit score may not be entirely your fault. Identity theft and creditor or credit bureau errors can hurt your credit if you’re not careful. Get a free copy of your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com and review it for possible errors or accounts you don’t recognize.
If you find errors in your credit report, ask the credit bureaus to remove them. You can do this yourself or hire credit specialists to help you. It may take a little time for them to sort things out, but once they do, you should see the errors or fraudulent accounts fall off by the next reporting cycle, says Crum.
Maintain realistic expectations
While there are a few things you can do that will quickly make a difference in your credit score, a full fix and return to excellent credit status does take time.
“For a typical lightly damaged credit file, expect around a year to complete a full rebuild and repair,” says Crum. He notes, however, that some cases can be resolved sooner or take longer than that. “There are too many variables to give an exact estimate.”
The important thing is that you look at all of the negative things that are impacting your credit score and work toward finding solutions.
Be sure to use a credit monitoring service throughout this whole process to keep an eye on your score and see how your actions affect it. The sooner you start working to improve your credit, the sooner you’ll reach your goal.
FAQ on Fixing Your Credit Score
How can I raise my credit score by 100 points?
One of the best ways to earn a great credit score is to always pay your bills on time. Missing one bill can lower your credit score by as much as 100 points. To begin your credit card recovery journey, make sure you pay all of your late payments and don’t miss another bill payment.
Does Credit Karma hurt your score?
Having a Credit Karma account will not directly lower your credit scores. They request your credit report information on your behalf from TransUnion and Equifax. This is known as a soft inquiry, which won’t impact your scores.
Will lowering my credit utilization raise my score?
Yes, you may increase the credit utilization ratio on that specific credit card, but the overall impact could be slightly better for your credit scores. You can lower the individual utilization ratios on some accounts by combining all your credit card debt together.
How long does it take to build credit from 0?
According to Experian, one of the major credit bureaus, it takes between three and six months of regular credit activity for your file to become thick enough that a credit score can be calculated. How thick your file becomes depends on how many loans you get during this time. And, how often you use credit. One of the fastest ways to build credit is to get a credit card.
How can I remove hard inquiries?
One way is to go directly to the creditor by sending them a certified letter in the mail. In your letter, be sure to point out which inquiry (or inquiries) were not authorized, and then request that those inquiries be removed. You could also contact the 3 big credit bureaus where the unauthorized inquiry has shown up.
Ben Luthi is a personal finance writer and a credit cards expert who loves helping consumers and business owners make better financial decisions. His work has been featured in Time, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, CNBC, Success Magazine, USA Today, The Huffington Post and many more.