Everyone wants to raise their credit score overnight, but, unfortunately, that just isn’t possible. Credit scores aren’t updated instantaneously; it usually takes about a month for any changes to take effect. Further, the equations and metrics used to determine credit scores are proprietary. We may have an idea of what factors into your credit score, and roughly to what extent, but the math is far from straightforward or exact. Ultimately, there is no definite or clear-cut system to boost your credit score in a predictable amount of time.
Don’t worry, there are still a few ways you can quickly and organically increase your credit score. It may not happen immediately, but these strategies can help speed up the process. After all, 100 or 200 points may be the difference between getting approved for a loan or new credit card. Try to stick to these credit card best practices if you want to increase your credit score quickly.
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Set Up Auto Pay and Payment Reminders
Making late credit card payments — or missing them altogether — is one of the easiest ways to damage your credit score. Depending on your personal credit history and what your score currently is, one missed payment can cause your credit score to decrease by 100 points. Your payment history makes up the largest portion of your FICO credit score, so it is an absolute necessity to make your minimum payments on time, each and every month, to improve your credit score.
You can use technology to your advantage here. Calendar reminders on your phone or computer can help you remember to actually make your payments. If you know you’ll have the funds to cover it, you should also consider setting up automatic monthly payments on your credit card. This will ensure that you never miss a payment and is a great way to start to raising your credit score.
Increase Access to Credit
Your credit utilization ratio is another important factor used to determine your credit score. If all of your sources of credit are maxed out, your credit utilization cannot be any higher. This makes you seem like a high risk borrower who doesn’t have the financial stability to pay off your debts.
Increasing your access to credit is a simple way to lower your credit utilization ratio as you work to pay off your debt. This will cause your utilization to decrease relative to the credit you have available. Consider applying for a secured credit card, asking someone with better credit to add you as an authorized user to one of their accounts, or asking your creditor to raise the limit on your card. These are all relatively safe ways to add a small boost to your credit score, as long as you continue to make your minimum monthly payments on time.
Erroneous credit card purchases or transactions are more common than you might think, which is why you should thoroughly look over your statements each month. Common errors include incorrect charges, accidental double charges, or credit card fraud. If you do notice any errors or suspicious charges on your statements, don’t hesitate to call your creditor and dispute the charges as soon as possible.
Fixing these errors can provide a relatively quick boost to your credit score, but you also need to be careful. You shouldn’t try to purposefully cover up your own credit mistakes, and you can’t erase or undo any missed payments at this point. Accidents do happen and you may unintentionally report an error, but don’t abuse this practice. If your creditor believes your credit disputes are dishonest, it could be a violation of your card agreement and lead to closure of your account altogether.
Deal with Delinquency
If you fall behind on your credit card payments, you are considered to be “delinquent.” Typically, delinquency is separated into different levels based on how many days have passed since the missed due date. You’re technically delinquent the day after you miss your payment, but the longer you go without paying, the more severe the consequences will be. For example, being 90 days delinquent is worse than being 30 days delinquent.
Ignoring and avoiding this problem will not make it go away — in fact, it will just make the situation worse. If you’ve become delinquent, you can get out of it, but you have to deal with it head-on.
Negotiate Late Payments
If you did not miss your payment, but you were late with it, you might be able to negotiate it with your creditor. Communicate directly with them; if it’s your first late payment, or the first one in years, they may be understanding of your situation. You can also try to write a goodwill letter to explain why you were late. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get it removed from your credit report entirely.
Get on a Payment Plan
Discuss the possibility of getting on a payment plan with your creditor so you can repay your loans and get out of delinquency. This can demonstrate that you’re taking positive steps to get rid of your credit card debt and be more financially responsible.
Try to Deal With Creditors, Not Collections
If at all possible, try to deal with your creditors directly and avoid going through a collections agency. If you’re so behind on your payments that your creditor has referred your account to collections, you’re likely deep in delinquency and will have a difficult time dealing with the collectors. But if you’re able to pay the original lender, you might be able to remove your account from collections and even get it taken off of your credit report.
Get Written Proof of Everything
Get everything in writing. Documented proof of payments, agreements, settlements, or other important information might be advantageous for you while attempting to fix your credit. This can protect you from creditors or collectors who might try to take advantage of you in the future. If they claim that you never paid a payment, but you know you did, you can use this documentation to prove them wrong. In the future, you may even be able to use these documents to get negative items removed from your credit report once you’ve taken care of them.
Ask to Use Alternative Credit Scores
Finally, you can ask lenders to use a nontraditional credit score when evaluating whether or not you qualify for a loan or credit card. Your FICO score is the traditional or standard scores that lenders use to assess you as a borrower. There are other ways to measure your credit score, and these alternatives might be more forgiving than a standard FICO score. The UltraFICO score, for instance, is designed to benefit those who have no credit history or are attempting to rebuild their credit.
Using an alternative credit score is a band-aid fix. It’s more inclusive of the positive steps you’ve taken towards financial responsibility and can help prove that you aren’t a high-risk borrower. Remember, this doesn’t actually raise your credit score; it’s simply another tool you can use to achieve your goals.
Again, there is no way to raise your credit score by 100 or 200 points overnight. It takes time and effort to boost your score and see those positive changes. But by continually taking steps to improve your credit score by making your payments on time and chipping away at your debt, you can create a solid and stable financial future.
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