The unfortunate truth about raising your credit score: There is no quick fix.
Hitting the reset button sounds tempting — especially when faced with a less than stellar credit score; but starting over with a blank slate will only set you back further.
Now that a forewarning is out of the way, on to the good stuff: Actionable tips to raise your credit score swiftly and without financial risk. You can expect most of these tips to affect your credit score in about 30 to 60 days, the typical time that’s considered speedy.
How to increase your credit score
- Request a copy of your credit report and look for errors
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission found that one in five consumers carried an error on their credit report. If you find an error, dispute it. Removing negative marks made in error will help you return to your correct score.
- Write a negotiation letter to your credit bureau
If a negotiation letter doesn’t work, contact the company reporting a late payment to ask if it will campaign for the removal. If a payment was incorrectly reported (see No. 1), or if you simply forgot a bill when you’re usually 100% on the ball, you may be able to get the late payment removed.
- Stop using your credit cards You can lower your credit utilization rate in two conventional ways: Lower your spending and increase your credit. Your credit score is largely determined by the amount of debt (credit card and loan balances) compared with your credit limits. Spending around one-third of your credit limit is the recommended credit line, but crossing that debt-to-credit threshold won’t help your score. Alternatively, you can request an increase in your credit or open a new card as a way of increasing your credit-to-spending ratio, but this is a risky move if your spending doesn’t slow down. Be wary of raising limits if it wouldn’t be financially feasible to pay back any and all spending.
- Don’t apply for multiple forms of credit in a short time Each time you request a new form of credit, including car and home loans, etc, you’ll likely face a credit inquiry. Too many inquiries within a short time and the credit bureaus may ding your credit. Keep this in mind as you request credit increases or open up new accounts. Both actions may result in one too many credit pulls and consequently, a decrease in your credit score.
- Settle late payments — then automate your payment schedule Timely bill pay is gut-wrenching when you’re financially strapped, but proactively settling bills will make future payments easier. Credit bureaus count a late payment starting from the first day of your last late payment, so the sooner you can square the bill, the better. This is particularly true if you can pay off past-due debts before they reach the 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day thresholds. It’s scary to confront the financial challenge, but it’s doable. Once you’ve settled any late payments, make future payments even simpler by automating. Automation avoids accidental missed payments and takes the mental clutter of scheduling multiple payments off your mind.
- Building credit builds long-lasting habits Approaching the daunting task of increasing your credit score with the long-term-training mindset helps you build long-lasting habits that strengthen your financial foundation.