Article originally published September 1st, 2016. Updated October 29th, 2018.
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 ten of your best options.
1. Pay Down Your Credit Card Balances
Credit utilization ratio— 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.
4. Clean up and Polish Your Credit Report
Once you receive a copy of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus- Experian, Equifax, and Transunion, you can take a closer look at each item that is on there.
You have already read about getting an error removed, and this is a good step to take, but don’t stop there. Look for accounts you have on your credit profile that show late or missing payments and verify the accuracy of each item. If you see something that is wrong, send your dispute so that the problem can be investigated.
5. Attempt to Pay Twice Monthly
Yes, you may be paying your balances each month, and you are paying them on time, but you need to keep in mind that your creditors are reporting your balances to the credit bureaus only once per month.
If you have a credit card, for example, that you are constantly maxing out and reaching your limit on throughout the month, the statement you receive will show the balance. You make the payment, but since it was reported only once that month, it is basically showing that you are using 100% of the available balance on that credit card.
If you send in payments twice a month, however, you are essentially breaking up your payments, and you are effectively keeping your overall credit card balances much lower than if you continue to only pay once per month.
6. Open a New Credit Account
If you want a nice boost to your credit and you want to help improve your credit utilization ratio, you can consider opening a new credit account. This is especially helpful if you find that your current credit utilization ratio is much too high.
Opening the new account adds to the available credit you have and will show that with the new balance, you are using less. However, this is not a good option if you are already juggling multiple accounts. You may end up hurting your credit instead of helping it if you try to stretch your credit too thin.
7. Open up Negotiations
Have you taken a closer look at the current debt you owe? Have you considered negotiating the debt you have in collections to rebuild your credit? Many collection agencies will be willing to negotiate because they really won’t be losing any money on the debt if you are able to settle for less because they most likely bought the debt account for a minimal price.
It never hurts to open a negotiation to try and settle the debt you have for a smaller and more manageable amount on your credit accounts. If you find that you are unsure about this process, or if you don’t know if it is something you should do, you can always seek the help of a credit counselor to help educate you on the process and offer suggestions as to what you can do otherwise.
8. Become an Authorized User
Another fast way to boost your credit could be to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit account. For this to be a viable and recommended option, you will need to find someone you trust, such as a close friend or relative, that is financially responsible and is willing to do this for you to help improve your credit rating.
As an authorized user on someone else’s account, their account will still show up on your credit report, and their payment history, credit utilization ratio, and credit card balances will become part of your credit history and may award you with a good credit score. Not all credit card companies report authorized users however, so you will want to make sure that if you do become an authorized user, that the account information will show up on your credit reports.
9. Make On Time Monthly Payments
In addition to paying on your accounts twice a month, you should also make sure to make your payments on time every month. Your payment history makes up approximately 35% of your FICO score.
If you find it hard to remember your due dates, consider placing your accounts on auto pay with reminders so it reminds you that the payment is coming due and it will then automatically make the payment for you.
10. Mix Up Your Credit Choices
Finally, make sure you are mixing up your credit choices instead of focusing on using just your credit cards, for example. Using different types of credit can boost your score fast – even though it wouldn’t be a significant boost.
If you need an appliance, instead of using your credit card, you should consider a small personal loan instead. It shows that you can effectively and responsibly utilize different types of credit.
Fastest Way to Boost Credit After a Bankruptcy
One of the biggest hits to your credit is a bankruptcy and people are often anxious and ready to begin boosting their credit following their bankruptcy. In theory, someone looking for credit after a bankruptcy may actually appear to be less of a risk because they are not able to qualify for Chapter 7 for another eight years.
Following your bankruptcy, it is recommended that you make all your payments on time, learn how to manage your money efficiently, and find ways to reestablish your credit without trying to borrow money too soon and this could prove to be the fastest way to build credit.
You should also keep a very close eye on your credit reports and credit scores from the major credit bureaus and look for any errors or inaccuracies including any mistakes with your address, employment, or personal contact information.
The best way to start improving credit following a bankruptcy is to open a secured credit card account and make your first deposit into the account.
Although these ten strategies are a good start to finding the fastest way to boost your credit, you need to remember that it still may take several months for the credit reporting agencies to report the improvements on your credit report.
While they may be “fast” methods, they are certainly not miracle credit cures, so you need to have a fair amount of patience when it comes to seeing the positive effects on your credit report.
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.