A poor credit score can have a huge impact not only on your finances, but on your entire life. Your credit score can affect your ability to make any major financial decisions, such as opening your own business or renting an apartment. Though it isn’t the end of the world, bad credit can be very frustrating to deal with, and you may find yourself looking for ways to improve your credit score.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t change your credit score overnight, and you shouldn’t trust anyone who claims otherwise. Using your credit cards responsibly and making payments month-over-month is the best way to raise your credit score, but there are a few things you can do to speed up the process. Here are a few ways you can build credit quickly.
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1. Dispute Errors and Clean Up Your Credit Report
First off, you should dispute any errors on your credit report. You have the legal right to an accurate credit report, and can challenge any information that you don’t agree with, thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Carefully review your reports to ensure your personal information, account statuses, and charges to your card are correct. If something is wrong, do not hesitate to reach out to the correct credit bureau — either Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion — and follow up with them until the issue is resolved.
This is perhaps the most dramatic, fastest way to boost your credit score, but keep in mind that this only works if there are any legitimate mistakes. If you are the cause of your poor credit, you will have to work harder to and it will take more time to boost your score. At the very least, most negative items, including late payments and charge-offs, will be removed from your credit report after seven years.
2. Negotiate Debts and Negative Items
Next, try to negotiate any debts or negative items on your credit report. Depending on your situation, you may be able to prevent these issues, such as a late or missed payment, from showing up on your report in the first place. The worst thing they can say is no, but if your creditors are willing to negotiate with you, it can make a huge difference in rebuilding your credit.
Start by talking directly to your lenders and creditors. See if you can get on a payment plan, defer any late fees, or at least avoid having your account turned over to a collections agency. This may not directly raise your credit score, but it definitely stops the situation from getting any worse. In addition, negotiating these negative items will help you get your credit situation under control and set you up for success as you work to improve your score.
3. Pay Off Your Debt
It may sound obvious, but you should also try to pay off your debts. This is the second quickest way to boost your credit, as the amount of debt you owe is the most important factor used to determine your score, after your payment history. You should aim to keep your revolving debt under 30 percent, and do your best to eliminate all other debts, if possible.
There are a few different strategies you can use to pay off your debt. The popular snowball method involves paying off your smallest loans first and largest ones last, regardless of interest rate. Conversely, the avalanche method involves paying back loans with the highest interest rates first and the ones with lower interest last. You can also try doing a balance transfer, in which you move the debt from one card to another with a lower interest rate. No one strategy is better than another; you have to determine which one will work best for you and your financial situation.
In the same vein, do not increase your debt. If you’re trying to improve your credit, you need to reduce your credit utilization ratio; you do need to use your credit cards to build credit, but if you use too much credit, lenders will view you as a risky borrower who is unable to repay their loans. To bring that utilization ratio at a healthy level, you can’t keep spending as usual. Once your debts are paid off, you can start using your cards to continue raising your credit score.
4. Start Making Payments On Time
To have any chance at improving your credit, you have to make credit card payments on time. Again, this may sound obvious, but it can’t be overemphasized: you must make the minimum payment on each card, on time, every single month. Even one late or missed payment can have a negative impact on your credit for years to come.
As mentioned above, your payment history is the number one factor used to determine your credit score. Punctual payments show lenders that you are financially responsible and a low-risk borrower. Regular, on time payments are important both in the short- and long-term for improving credit and financial stability. If you only do one thing to build your credit, making your payments should be it.
5. Open a New Account
Finally, consider opening a new account or applying for a new credit card. Though it may sound counterintuitive, the general idea is to increase your available credit, which will reduce your utilization ratio and give your score a boost. When done responsibly, this can also give you a clean slate to starting building a positive payment history. There are several ways you can go about this, including:
Request a Higher Credit Limit
Get in touch with your creditors and request a higher limit on your credit card. Their willingness to increase your credit limit will depend on your payment history and delinquency status. If you aren’t delinquent and have only been late on a payment or two, your request is much more likely to be granted.
You still need to be careful, though, as your lenders may do a hard inquiry on your credit report. If there are too many hard inquiries on your report in a short span of time, it can further damage and lower your score. Be careful, serious, and deliberate when requesting a higher credit limit.
A higher limit is also not an invitation to spend more money and take on more credit card debt. Remember, you’re trying to reduce your credit utilization ratio to improve your credit score. If you start spending more, your ratio will either stay the same or increase. Similar to a hard inquiry, this may hurt more than it helps if you aren’t careful.
Become an Authorized User
Another option is to become an authorized user on someone else’s account or credit card. Essentially, you can take advantage of someone else’s good credit to help improve your own. This isn’t necessarily a “quick” way to boost your credit, as it can take a month or longer to show up on your report, but it is a smart way to do so.
You shouldn’t become (or take on) an authorized user lightly. If either party linked to the account is financially irresponsible or makes a mistake, both of you will be affected. You can hurt each other’s credit if you take the situation for granted or abuse somebody else’s goodwill. Choose your partner wisely and be cautious and safe with your spending to rebuild your credit.
Get a Secured Credit Card
You can also try getting a secured credit card to build up your credit. This is significantly less riskier than either requesting a higher credit limit or becoming an authorized user, as you must put down a limited deposit and can only borrow against that amount. Secured credit cards prevent you from becoming entrenched in debt and help you develop responsible spending habits.
You do have to manage a secured card on your own, but the good news is that it cannot hurt your credit. At worst, a secured credit card is neutral. At best, it’s a low-risk way to build your credit. It does take time to increase your score using a secured credit card, and the amount of time it takes to see an improvement depends on your current financial situation. Eventually, though it will help your credit if you use it responsibly.
You may not be able to increase your credit score immediately, but you can take active, productive steps to building it up. You can even try combining several of these strategies for the biggest, quickest impact. Do your best to be patient while you take these steps and remember that credit improvement is well worth the wait.
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