It’s a common question around these parts: How do I fix my credit? And, while credit scores do have a lot of nuances, the answer is actually pretty straightforward: Pay all your bills by their due dates, keep your debt levels low, add a mix of accounts as you can afford it and voila! — your credit score should rise steadily over time.
Still, for people plagued with bad credit or someone looking to get the absolute best rates on a new loan, waiting it out can seem like an unattractive option — and so the question gets a little more pointed: How do I fix my credit fast?
Truth be told, there are no guarantees when it comes to getting a quick credit boost. Exact point increases will vary depending on your full credit profile and, even if you’re teetering toward top tier credit, your score’s beholden to a lender’s schedule when it comes to reporting new information to the major credit bureaus. Most creditors provide updates to the big three bureaus every month — meaning, yes, you can boost your credit in 30 days, but any shorter timeframe is admittedly a long shot. Still, there are few steps you can take to try to raise your credit score in the short-term. Here’s a breakdown of three of your best options.
1. Pay Down Your Credit Card Balances
Credit utilization — how much debt you’re carrying vs. your total available credit — is a huge part of credit scores, second only to payment history. But while you can’t just erase a missed payment from your credit file (most negative information takes seven years to age off of your credit reports), you can pretty readily boost your utilization rate by wiping out big credit card debts.
Experts generally recommend keeping the amount of debt you owe collectively and on individual cards below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your credit limit(s). So if you’re close to maxing out one card and/or you’re carrying big balances on all of them, paying those debts down can result in a fast boost. Just be sure to pay charges off by your statement’s billing date as opposed to their actual due date because that’s when most creditors will update account information with the credit bureaus. And, of course, refrain from making any new purchases once the debt’s been eradicated.
2. Ask for a Credit Limit Increase
Essentially, a different solution to the same problem — you may be able to improve your utilization rate by getting an issuer to give you a higher limit on one of your existing cards. Just be sure not to use up that extra credit, otherwise this move can have the opposite effect. And be prepared to see an initial ding to your score — creditors sometimes pull your credit when you ask for a limit increase and that could generate a hard inquiry on your credit reports and cost you a few points. You might easily make up those points and then some, however, if the credit limit increase is large enough.
3. Get an Error Removed
Errors on credit reports are more common than you may think, so it’s important not to simply take a bad score at face value — particularly because getting an error removed can be one of the faster ways to fix your credit. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the bureaus investigate and remove items deemed to be errors within 30 days of a dispute being filed. That’s why it’s a good idea to pull your credit reports — you can do so for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com — and routinely review them for any inaccuracies that may be unduly weighing your credit down. Be sure to dispute any errors you find with the credit bureau in question (you go here to learn how). You can also view two of your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com as you monitor your progress toward building better credit.