How to increase your credit score

In a Nutshell

If you’re trying to find a fast way to increase your credit scores, you should know that there’s no single tactic that will magically improve your scores in a hurry. But there are steps you can take that might help boost your standings in a relatively short amount of time — though it all depends on your specific situation. We’ll show you what works and what doesn’t.
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Are you trying to raise your credit scores fast?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula that’ll raise your credit scores overnight. But there are a few ways you might be able to improve your credit over time if you manage your credit well.

The truth about raising your credit scores fast

While a lucky few may be in a situation where they can raise their credit scores quickly, the bottom line for most of us is that building credit takes time and discipline, especially if you’re trying to rebuild bad credit. That’s because your credit scores are complex and made up of several interconnected factors.

So trust us: While some credit repair agencies may promise to raise your credit scores fast, there’s no secret that will help boost your credit scores quickly.

But if you start developing healthy habits now, you can build credit over time all by yourself.

Tips that can help raise your credit scores

Because credit is so complex, building credit takes time. Depending on your individual situation, there may be ways to raise your scores quickly — like paying down all your debt in a very short span of time.

But if you’re starting out with bad credit, even a drastic measure like that may not have the immediate effect you’re looking for. No matter what, the most impactful thing you can do for your credit is to create some consistent habits.

Here are some tips at a glance that can help you raise your credit scores over time. Click through or scroll down to learn more about each.

  1. Check your credit reports on a regular basis to track your progress
  2. Sign up for free credit monitoring
  3. Figure out how much money you owe
  4. Set up autopay, so you never forget to make a credit card payment
  5. Pay twice a month
  6. Negotiate a lower interest rate
  7. Ask for a credit limit increase
  8. Diversity your credit mix
  9. Become an authorized user on someone else’s account
  10. Get a credit builder loan
  11. Get a secured credit card

1. Check your credit reports on a regular basis to track your progress

No matter where you turn for your credit check-in — your bank, Credit Karma or one of the major consumer credit bureaus — it’s important to keep an eye on your credit.

And if you find any mistakes or inaccuracies, we can help you file a dispute. If your dispute is approved by the credit bureaus, you may see the error corrected as soon as within 30 days, which can help raise your credit scores.

2. Sign up for free credit monitoring

Whether it’s with Credit Karma or someone else, keeping a close eye on your credit is essential. Signing up for credit monitoring can help alert you to important changes in your credit, so that you can check for suspicious activity.

Fraudulent activity can weigh down what could be an otherwise good credit score, so it’s important to dispute any details you identify as inaccurate. If the credit bureau rules in your favor, the fraudulent activity will be removed from your credit report, which can help raise your credit scores.

3. Figure out how much money you owe

Gather all your bills and come up with a plan to pay them off. The snowball method focuses on paying off the lowest balances first, while the avalanche method focuses on paying off the balances with the highest interest rates first.

If you have too many credit cards to keep track of, you could also consolidate your credit card debt into one balance transfer card to make it easier to manage your monthly payments.

All three strategies could help you pay off your credit card debt more quickly, lower your credit utilization ratio and raise your credit scores. So, choose the plan that works best for you, and stick with it.

4. Set up autopay, so you never forget to make a credit card payment

This could help you develop a consistent payment history over time. It might not help you raise your credit scores fast, but it could protect your scores from declining fast, which will likely happen if you miss a payment.

5. Pay twice a month

Instead of making one big payment at the end of the month, try splitting it up into smaller payments every two weeks. This could help you sneak in a few extra payments each year and save money on interest charges.

And the extra payments can help pay down your principal balance faster, lowering your account balances and credit utilization ratio, which can raise your scores.

6. Negotiate a lower interest rate

A lower rate can help you pay off your balance faster, because more of your payment can be applied to your principal balance than interest. Lower balances can mean a lower credit utilization ratio (and a lift in your scores). Learn more about how to lower your credit card interest rate.

7. Ask for a credit limit increase

A higher credit limit is another way to help reduce your credit utilization ratio, which can help raise your credit scores. Keep in mind though that some credit issuers do a hard credit check when you request a credit limit increase, and that can cause your credit to dip. Read up on how to ask for a credit limit increase.

8. Diversify your credit mix

Your credit mix refers to the various types of accounts included in your credit reports. While it probably won’t make or break your credit scores, lenders typically like to see a mix of revolving credit accounts (i.e., credit cards) and installment loans, like mortgages, auto loans and student loans.

The more you diversify the money you borrow, the better. Of course, it’s not a good idea to take out a loan you don’t need just for the sake of adding some extra color to your credit mix.

9. Become an authorized user on someone else’s account

If you’re new to credit and can’t qualify for your own credit card, becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account can be a great way to get started.

But it’s a double-edged sword: If the person who owns the account has healthy credit, it can help you establish a positive credit history over the long run.

On the other hand, if they miss payments or carry high credit card balances, that could also reflect poorly on you. That’s why it’s important to pick someone you trust who has a longer credit history and higher credit scores than you do, and who overall has a positive credit history.

10. Get a credit-builder loan

A credit-builder loan is a loan specifically designed to help people build credit. When you take out the loan, the lender deposits the amount you’ve “borrowed” into a bank account. Then, as you make payments on the loan, the lender reports the payments to the credit bureaus — which helps you build a positive payment history. If you’re looking to build your credit with this type of loan, check out Credit Karma’s credit-builder plan.

11. Get a secured credit card

Secured credit cards are great tools for building credit. They generally have less-stringent requirements for applicants — but the main downside? You’ll have to pay a security deposit upfront that’s typically equal to the credit line you’ll have with the card. You may be able to choose how much you put down, but a lower security deposit could mean your credit utilization ratio is higher when you use the card.

Consider looking for a secured credit card that allows you to “graduate” to an unsecured card after you’ve had it for a period of time. If you get a secured card with the aim of building credit, focus on paying your bills in full and on time each month to build a positive payment history and avoid racking up interest.

5 factors that affect your credit scores

As we mentioned above, there are several factors that go into determining your credit scores.

  1. Payment history makes up the biggest chunk of your credit scores. That’s why it’s so important to make on-time payments each month if at all possible. Late payments can haunt your credit history for up to seven years.
  2. Credit usage, or credit utilization, is another important factor. This measures how much of your available credit you tap into at any given time. Experts recommend you keep this to less than 30%.
  3. The length of your credit history has some impact on your credit, though not much. This factors in the ages of your oldest and newest credit card accounts, as well as the average age of all your accounts. The older your credit, the better, because it shows lenders you have more experience managing credit.
  4. Your credit mix has a small impact on your credit. This looks at the types of credit you borrow. Lenders want to see that you can balance revolving accounts like credit cards with installment accounts like mortgages, student loans, auto loans and personal loans.
  5. Your recent credit also has a small impact on your credit. This tracks the applications you file for things like new credit cards and personal loans with hard inquiries. The fewer, the better.

Pitfalls to avoid when working on your credit scores

When it comes to building credit, it’s easy to get overly focused on ways to raise your credit scores fast. The truth is that building credit takes time. So take a step back and make sure your strategy doesn’t do more harm than good.

Here are a few “don’ts” to keep in mind.

  • Don’t apply for a bunch of new credit cards just because you want to increase your credit utilization. Even though this might help lower your credit utilization ratio, it could also make you look like a risky borrower thanks to the new hard inquiries on your reports.
  • For the same reason, don’t take out a loan just to improve your credit mix. Only apply for a new loan if you actually need it.
  • Don’t carry a balance on your credit card just so you can build credit. Carrying a balance can lead to unnecessary interest charges, and it might actually hold your scores down by increasing your credit utilization ratio.
  • Don’t cancel your credit card after you pay it off — unless you have a good reason to do so. Closing your credit card will hurt your length of credit history, so it’s better to leave it open, even if you’re not using it anymore. Of course, if having a card tempts you to spend more, or it comes with an expensive annual fee, you might want to rethink this conventional wisdom.

What’s next?

There are a lot of credit repair companies out there that promise to raise your credit scores fast. Be wary. Rebuilding your credit scores takes time, and you can help improve your credit by yourself.

There are a few steps you might be able to take to increase your credit scores relatively quickly, like paying off credit cards with high balances and disputing errors.

But for the most part, it takes time and patience to build credit.

Frequently asked questions about improving your credit

How can I raise my credit score in 30 days?

There’s no single tried-and-true method for raising your credit within a specific time frame. Depending on your situation, some of the steps outlined in this article, like monitoring your credit, setting up autopay, diversifying your credit mix or becoming an authorized user, can help increase your credit score over time. Taking certain steps may help improve your credit in 30 days, but seeing meaningful change often takes longer than that.

What is a good credit score?

Credit score ranges vary by credit-scoring model. A couple of commonly referenced scoring models are VantageScore and FICO. VantageScore 3.0® includes a “Good” rating for credit scores ranging from 661 to 780. FICO® 8 and 9 credit scores ranging from 670 to 739 fall under “Good,” and scores ranging from 740 to 799 are “Very good.” Learn more about credit score ranges.

What factors impact credit score?

Different credit-scoring models weigh each factor differently, but generally the biggest factors that affect your credit are your payment history and credit utilization ratio. Other factors that affect your credit include the length of your credit history, your credit mix and any recent credit activity on your report.

About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Karma. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.