5 Fast Ways to Raise Your Credit Score From 'Poor' to 'Good'
by Lyle Daly | Published on Aug. 14, 2021
You may be able to fix a poor credit score in three months, and sometimes even sooner.
Consumers with short or problematic credit histories may end up in the "poor" credit range. If a low credit score is holding you back, it's natural to want to correct it as soon as possible.
How fast you can raise your credit score depends on what's affecting it in the first place, but in many cases, you can see results much sooner than you might think. Try the following methods to go from poor credit to good credit in a short time.
1. Fix errors on your credit report
If you're not sure why you have a low credit score, it could be credit report errors. Credit reports aren't always 100% accurate, which is why it's so important to review yours. You can get your credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com. You're normally entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the consumer credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit bureaus are offering free weekly reports through April 2022.
After reviewing your report, dispute any errors online with the credit bureau that issued the report. Removing a mistake from your credit file can make a huge difference in your credit score. In a recent example, one Ascent writer raised her FICO® Score by 112 points by fixing a credit report error.
2. Pay down credit card balances
High balances do a number on your credit score. Once per month, credit card issuers report your current balances. The credit bureaus use this data to calculate your credit utilization ratio, which is the percentage of available credit you're using. If you have $5,000 in balances compared to $10,000 in credit limits, your credit utilization is 50%.
A ratio of 30% or more is generally considered high utilization. The more of your credit you're using, the more it negatively impacts your credit score. This is one of the biggest credit scoring criteria.
Since balances are reported monthly, you can improve credit utilization quickly. If you have money saved that you can use to pay down your credit cards, it won't take long for your credit score to go up.
3. Request a credit limit increase
Reducing your balances is just one way to lower your credit utilization. Another good option is to increase your credit limit.
Credit card issuers usually let you request a credit limit increase over the phone and online. If you've had a card for at least six months and you've always paid on time, the card issuer may agree to give you a higher credit limit. It also helps if your income has increased since you applied for the card.
Let's use the previous example of having $5,000 in credit card balances and $10,000 in credit limits. You ask for increases on all your cards, and bump your combined credit limits up to $15,000. That takes your credit utilization from 50% to 33.3%, improving your credit score. You'd see even greater results if you also paid down your balances.
4. Become an authorized user
Being an authorized user on another person's credit card is a popular way to build credit. The cardholder gives you permission to use the account, and you receive an authorized user card. If they're worried about the risk, they often can add you without actually giving you a card.
This helps your score because many credit card companies report card activity to both the cardholder's and the authorized user's credit files. Imagine that a family member or friend with good credit habits adds you as an authorized user on their card. They always pay the card on time and never let the balance get too high. That positive activity could go on your credit file. It's especially beneficial if the only thing holding you back from a good score is your limited credit history.
5. Apply for a credit-builder loan
A credit-builder loan is a unique loan type used for raising your credit score. The main benefit is that it allows you to improve the biggest factor in your credit -- your payment history. If you get a credit-builder loan and pay on time, your credit score should increase. Credit-builder loans can also help by adding to your credit mix. When you have credit cards and loans, that's better for your credit score than just having one or the other.
Credit-builder loans charge interest, so they're not the cheapest option. But they're usually easy to get approved for and are a good way to start building your payment history.
Reaching a high credit score doesn't always need to take years. If any of the strategies above work for you, they could deliver much faster results.
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