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Hot Tip to Rebuild Your Credit Score? It’s Complicated.

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Many consumers are trying to find the best ways to boost their credit scores — fast. Maybe they hope to start a family soon, or maybe they want to take advantage of record-low interest rates.

Whatever the reason, many Credit.com readers are asking how to rebuild their credit, and how long it will take for their efforts to pay off.

“My credit score is around 550 and I am shooting for 650 with a secured card,” a reader using the screen name “CarSomm” said in response to a Credit.com story. “(H)ow long before I will see some results?”

Unfortunately for CarSomm and other readers, a credit score is based on various types of information in a credit report, so there’s no real way to know how quickly one action can build it, says Barry Paperno, Credit.com’s credit scoring expert. A credit score of 550 is quite low, and probably means that “CarSomm”‘s credit report contains more than one blemish.

“The short answer is it just depends on a lot of things,” Paperno says.

How many unpaid bills are there? How recent are they? Is the consumer still behind on payments on a car or home? All of these factors would affect how quickly a new line of credit can boost the overall score, says Paperno.

If there are quite a few unpaid collection accounts on a credit report, paying off just one or getting a secured card won’t help much. If one or more of the bills went into collection recently, say in the last year, that also could dampen the effect of good behavior now.

“With a low score like that, chances are it’s been months, not years,” Paperno says.

And if there’s a lingering problem that remains unsolved, such as chronically late payments on a credit card or home loan, it’s best to fix those problems before opening any new lines of credit.

Which also may help answer CarSomm’s second question: “I heard just getting this card gives you an automatic 20-25” additional points on your credit score. “Is that true?”

Will the change be automatic? No, Paperno says. Will it boost CarSomm’s score somewhat? Maybe. The upshot is that credit scoring is complicated, which makes it difficult to draw hard and fast rules about how the changes we make will affect our scores.

“There are many different factors here, and they all relate to each other,” Paperno says. “If you change one thing, it’s hard to know how it will affect everything else.”

[Credit Cards: Research and compare secured credit cards at Credit.com.]

Image: Mads Boedker, via Flickr

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