Your credit score can impact everything from whether you are approved or rejected for loans, to the interest rates that you’re charged, to your rental applications, and even to your job applications.
Building good credit takes time, but fortunately, there are several things you can do to get a quick boost, sometimes even in 30 days or less. If you’re anticipating a big purchase, a move, or even a job search, you may want to take action and try to improve your credit score quickly.
If you’re looking for details that will help you to understand credit scores and how they work, please see How is My Credit Score Calculated. If you’re looking to improve your score, read on for practical tips that will help you to improve your credit score fast.
Keep in mind that long-term improvement of your credit score should be the goal. If you consistently have an excellent score, you’ll never need to worry about applying for credit or other things that could be challenging with a below average score.
These tips are intended to help you get fast results, but be sure to continue to manage your credit wisely and keep paying your bills on time to maintain a solid score going forward.
How to Improve Your Credit Score Fast
Step 1: Know Your Score
First, you need to know your current credit score. This will serve as the baseline and you’ll be able to track your progress. If you don’t know what your score was before you started implementing the things we’ll cover in this article, you won’t know if your score actually improved or by how much.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to get your current score is to sign up for a free account with Credit Sesame. You’ll get your current credit score for free, as well as a free credit report card and free credit monitoring.
Using Credit Sesame won’t hurt your credit score and you’ll be able to easily keep track your progress for free.
Step 2: Check for Errors or Inaccuracies on Your Credit Report
One of the fastest ways to improve your score is to get any errors or inaccuracies removed from your credit report. In order to do this, you’ll need to get a copy of your full report, preferably from all three of the leading credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
AnnualCreditReport.com is authorized by the federal government to provide consumers with a copy of their credit report at no cost. You can get your report from each of the three bureaus once every 12 months. You can get all three at once, or request them one-at-a-time.
Through AnnualCreditReport.com you will get a copy of the full report, but you won’t get the scores. With Credit Sesame you’ll get the score but not the full report, so it’s a good idea to take advantage of both of these free resources.
Once you have a copy of your report, read through it carefully to be sure that everything is accurate. If you notice any accounts that are not yours or errors, immediately contact the credit bureau. The report from each bureau will include contact information for reporting errors or filing a dispute. The types of errors that you should be looking for include:
- Accounts that are inaccurately being reported as opened or closed
- Payments that are inaccurately marked as being late
- Balances that are being reported as higher than they actually are
- Accounts (especially collections accounts) that are not being recorded as paid off
If the same error appears on the reports from multiple bureaus, you’ll need to file a dispute with each bureau that is showing this inaccuracy. For more details on this process, please read How to Get a Copy of Your Credit Report and Fix Any Errors.
Step 3: Pay Your Bills on Time
The most significant factor in determining your credit score is your payment history. You may not be able to do anything about late payments from the past, but you can control what happens going forward. Commit to paying every bill on time.
If you have any bills that are currently overdue, pay them immediately. Your credit score will show the number of times that your bills have been 30 days late, 60 days late, and 90 days late. Of course, each one gets progressively worse for your credit score, so don’t let your bills or payments get to this point.
You can set up automatic payments for many of your bills, although you will need to be sure that you carry enough money in your checking account to cover bills that may be automatically paid.
Another option is to set up a payment reminder. You may be able to set up email or text message reminders that will notify you of upcoming due dates so you don’t miss a payment. You can also use the free app Personal Capital for the same purpose. Personal Capital will remind you of upcoming due dates for your credit cards, mortgage, and other loans. The accounts will need to be linked to Personal Capital, but it’s easy to set up and then will work to keep your organized.
Step 4: Get Credit for Paying Your Cell Phone and Utility Bills
Experian Boost is a fairly new program that allows you to improve your credit score thanks to your payments of monthly bills for things like your mobile phone bill and your utility bills. While this can be helpful for anyone, it is especially helpful for someone with a limited credit history or anyone who is trying to improve their credit score.
It’s a free program. All you need to do is sign up here and connect it to the accounts that you use to pay your bills (bank account, credit card) so Experian can see your payment history.
It takes just a few minutes to set up and you can quickly see how it impacts your score. If for some reason it lowers your score, you can simply turn it off and your score will go back to what it was prior to Experian Boost.
The only downside is, this will only impact your score with Experian. Still, it’s an easy (and free) way to potentially improve your score very quickly with one of the three leading bureaus.
→ Related reading: 9 Signs You May Be Living Above Your Means
Step 5: Lower Your Credit Utilization Ratio
Another major factor that impacts your score is your credit utilization ratio, which shows what percentage of available credit you are using. For example, if you have credit cards with a total credit limit of $10,000 and you currently have a combined balance of $2,000 on those credit cards, you would have 20% utilization.
An ideal ratio is 30% or less, meaning that you have at least 70% of your credit limit available to you. If your credit card accounts are maxed out or if your utilization ratio is high, it will negatively impact your score.
The reasoning here is that someone who has their available credit maxed out is more likely to be late with a payment or miss a payment. A low credit utilization ratio shows that you can effectively manage your available credit.
With that in mind, there are a few ways this can impact your strategy to increase your score:
- You should pay down revolving accounts like credit cards and keep the balances as low as possible.
- You should not close credit card accounts that have high credit limits because it can reduce your available credit and increase your utilization ratio.
- You may want to ask creditors for an increase to your credit limit, which will improve your utilization ratio (as long as you don’t incur more debt)
Step 6: Don’t Close Old Credit Card Accounts
If you have an old credit card that you don’t really use anymore, you may think it makes the most sense to simply close that account. However, you may want to simply leave that account open for a few different reasons:
- The age of your accounts can impact your score, and having older accounts with a good payment history is something that you want to have on your credit report.
- If the old credit cards have a lot of available credit that you’re not using, closing them will hurt your utilization ratio.
Older, established accounts can be very good to have on your report because it shows stability. As long as your older accounts are not costing you anything in fees, it’s generally better to leave them open as opposed to closing them.
Step 7: Address Any Accounts in Collections
Accounts that have been turned over to collections can significantly hurt your score. If you have any collection accounts on your report, do whatever you can to resolve them. Ideally, they should be completely paid off. If that’s not possible, you should at least be paying on them regularly so that you’re making progress toward getting them paid off. You may be able to negotiate a lower payoff that would allow you to get it paid off.
If you have paid off a collections account and it is still showing up on your report as though it has not been paid, be sure to contact the credit bureau and file a dispute. Provide evidence showing that the account has been paid off.
Bonus: Get Added as an Authorized User
Getting yourself added to someone else’s credit card account as an authorized user can help to increase your own score, but this is an approach that needs to be used with a lot of caution. I’m listing it here as a bonus rather than one of the main steps because it’s something that you may or may not want to do.
As an authorized user, the account will impact your credit score just like the other tradelines on your report. If the account has a good payment history, and bills are continually paid on time, it can help you. If there is a lot of available credit on the account, it can help to improve your credit utilization ratio.
However, there are several things that you need to be aware of:
- Being an authorized user can also damage your credit score if payments are late, so be sure that you’re only added to an account of someone that you trust.
- If you are an authorizes signer and the account owner is making payments late, you can file a dispute with the bureaus and explain the situation. You can also call the issuer and have yourself removed from the account.
- There are companies that will allow you to pay to be added as an authorized user to a stranger’s account. This isn’t illegal, but it will violate the terms of most credit card companies and it’s an ethical gray area.
Although this approach should be used with caution, it can be a great way to improve your score quickly thanks to improving your credit utilization ratio.
Although it can take some time and patience to maximize your credit score, these steps can help you to quickly improve your score if you are in need of fast results. If you’re looking to improve your score, head back to the first step and sign up for a free account with Credit Sesame to get your credit score and credit report card right away.