While we cannot guarantee that you will see a 100 point increase in your credit score, we can only estimate results based on our experience guiding our clients through this very process. Everyone’s credit file is different and as such, your results may vary. We hope this list helps you gain a better understanding of credit and helps you to achieve your financial goals.
We hope you enjoy our how to raise your credit score guide. Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. If you decide to purchase services from one of our affiliates our company will receive financial compensation. These prices of these services have not been increased to compensate The Credit Agents. Also, we only recommend services that we have reviewed thoroughly and are of the utmost quality.
Credit. It can be intimidating to try to understand. With so many variables at play, it’s no wonder so many people don’t even bother to deal with it. But, believe it or not, you have the ability to improve your score by 100 points or more all on your own. We’re going to show you how to increase your credit score fast.
In 2018, 34.8% of people with a credit score had a subprime score (between 580 and 669). That’s 78.9 million Americans!
Now let’s get started on improving your credit. We’re going to touch on how to raise your credit score by 100 points or more:
Complete a thorough review of your credit report. You are legally allowed a free copy of your report from each bureau once a year. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to download your copy. This is the first step in how to raise your credit score guide.
Look for inaccuracies in balances, payment history, questionable collections, and any possible fraudulent accounts. If you do have any fraudulent items, you might be asked to file a police report along with your dispute. Always make copies of your letters and send them via regular US mail (we do not recommend disputing items online).
- Make sure all of your information is reporting accurately. Even the smallest mistake can alter your scores. Check the spelling of your name, your address, account history, payment history, balance reporting, every detail.
- Dispute any errors, inaccurate, and/or unverified information with the bureaus and creditors.
- Maintain a folder with all correspondence that you receive from your disputes and remember to reply to those correspondences within 30 days as needed.
- Sign up for credit monitoring service and keep an eye out for changes. Credit Karma is acceptable if you’re on a budget. But if you can spare to invest in a quality credit monitoring service, then we recommend that you sign up for one. Identity IQ is one we highly recommend after thorough research and review.
Credit score vs credit report
Remember, checking your credit score isn’t the same thing as going over your credit report. Your credit score is based on an algorithm that measures your risk to lenders. It’s for one point in time and uses the information in your credit report. The process is done by FICO, VantageScore or other banks. Your FICO score is based on five factors in your credit report. These factors and their percentage are:
- Payment history—35%
- Amounts owed—30%
- Length of credit history—15%
- New credit—10%
- The mix of credit—10%
Your credit report is the cumulative history you have with credit since your first account was opened. There are three bureaus who maintain reports, so you actually have three separate credit reports. Creditors aren’t required to report events to all three, so you’ll see differences between each report.
One of the main reasons you should check your credit report is that it’s often the first place you’ll find suspicious activity. If you’re a victim of identity theft, anything done with your social security number will show up on your report. But it might take months for you to find out another way. Your credit report can also contain errors, and these can cost you in terms of credit score points. This isn’t something to oversee when pondering how to raise your credit score.
If you find anything inaccurate, whether it’s an address or an amount owed on an account, you should report it. When you get your credit report, it comes with instructions for reporting errors back to the bureau. They’re required to investigate your claim and respond within 30 days, so you’d have to wait 45 days at most for a response.
If there’s an error on a current account of yours, you also have the option of going to that creditor and asking them to update the information. Choosing that route can save you time since the three bureaus will contact your creditor to change the information anyways. All vital information to consider in our how to raise your credit score guide.
Start building credit
Building a positive credit history is crucial in improving your profile. If you don’t have any credit cards, then this is a great place to start.
Thoroughly research different secured cards and apply for the best one that meets your needs. We recommend starting with a minimum of $300 in secured credit if possible.
- Always keep your balances under 30% of the limit and maintain a low balance. Don’t fall into the myth that paying your cards in full each month will benefit your scores. One of the lenders’ best-kept secrets is that they prefer to see some type of balance history from month to month.
- Use your secured card for gas, your Netflix subscription, or occasionally for lunch. The idea is to use it for small transactions that you can easily manage while keeping the balance under 30% of your limit.
- Use auto-pay to pay the minimum every month and your scores should continue to improve with healthy, responsible activity.
How To Raise Your Credit Score And What To Avoid
Beware of “pre-approved” deals that you get in the mail. Sometimes these can be from legitimate companies, but other times they might be scams. If you know you have bad credit, these kinds of offers can make things worse. Many cards are known to come with hefty fees designed to keep you in debt. Remember, the company is trying to make money off of you.
If they know you have a hard time paying back your credit, they have the incentive to charge interest rates and fees to make a buck. Also, be cautious of any credit card deal that offers “automatic credit increases.” These could involve fees and even require a second fee to pay the first fee.
There are some good alternatives out there, though. The Capital One Secured Mastercard is one of them. With this card, you put down either $49, $99, or $200 based on your credit score. You’ll get a $200 credit limit. You can then raise that down the road if you’ve made your payments on time. This can be as soon as 6 months. If you raise your credit limit but keep your usage at the same level, you raise your credit utilization instantly.
Now, if your credit is pretty damaged, you might not qualify for Capital One’s card. But that’s ok. The OpenSky Secured Visa Card application does not check your credit score. There’s a $35 annual fee, but there are no signup or service fees. You can deposit $200 to $3000, and that will become your credit limit. You’ll get all of that money back when you close your account. OpenSky reports your payments to the three credit bureaus every month, so this is a great option for someone looking to build credit with a damaged credit score.
Pay down balances. If you currently have credit cards and are using more than 30% of your limit then you want to follow this portion of this guide. Pay down high balances that put you over the 30% rule. Stay under 30% and maintain a low balance as mentioned previously. This factor alone is the second biggest impact on your score: your debt level influences 30% of your score.
There are two things to think about here: credit utilization and debt-to-income ratio.
Credit utilization is the amount of debt you have compared to the amount of credit you have available. This is the next step in our how to raise your credit score guide. If you have a $2000 credit limit and are using $1000 of it, your credit utilization is 50%. And that’s not good. Credit utilization over 30% will negatively affect your score, so it’s important you stay under that threshold.
But you also shouldn’t close out your cards if you’re trying to raise your score. If the credit card doesn’t have very bad fees, you should try to keep it open. Let’s say your $2000 limit is a total of two cards, each for $1000. And you’ve used $500 on each card. If you pay the balance off on one, you’re now left with $500 in credit card debt and $2000 in total credit.
That gives you a credit utilization of 25%, which is good. But if you were to close the card you paid off, you’d be back to 50%. That’s because closing a card lowers the overall credit you have available to $1000.
Now that we’ve talked about credit utilization, let’s talk about the debt-to-income ratio.
So how much debt is too much? There are two ways to calculate your debt ratio. These are called debt overload or total debt. Both of these take your monthly income and monthly payments on debt into account. This is an important part of our how to raise your credit score guide.
In debt overload, you only take into account paying “bad debt,” like credit card payments or auto loan payments. Let’s say you make $4,000 per month. You also pay $500/month on credit card payments and $500/month on a car loan. In this scenario, you’re paying $1000 total or 25% of your income.
This is a high debt overload. A good number would be if you pay 10% or less of your income towards bad debt. Now let’s look at the total debt picture. The total debt calculation adds debts like mortgages, student loans, and child support. For this scenario, you still make $4000/month but pay $600 towards bad debt. Now you also pay $600 towards a mortgage.
Add those together and you’re paying $1200 in total debt. $1200/$4000 gives us a 33% debt-to-income ratio, and that’s actually pretty good. Your credit score would be negatively affected by a ratio of 36% or higher. Remember, the debt-to-income ratio takes your monthly payments into account, not how much debt you have on your cards or in loans. Here are some tips on managing your balances:
- Pay down balances incrementally over time rather than all at once. Paying off a card in one payment won’t give your score the same boost as payments over time (at least 4 months).
- Don’t close unused credit cards—your credit utilization will be healthier
- Avoid more than 10% bad debt to income ratio
- Avoid more than 36% total debt to income ratio
Refrain from running your credit.
Every hard inquiry affects your score. The fewer inquiries you have, the better. When you apply for credit frequently, you’re telling potential lenders and/or employers that you may be in financial distress and they may review your profile as a higher risk.
Does a soft inquiry affect my score?
A credit inquiry will only affect your score if it happens because you request new credit, and that’s called a hard inquiry. A soft inquiry won’t affect your score. One example of a soft inquiry is going online to check our own score. Your report is pulled, but that check doesn’t factor into your score. Another kind is when employers pull your background check. You’ll see a note of that on your full credit report, but your score isn’t affected. Soft credit checks don’t give your whole history to creditors. They just provide a summary of your history.
A creditor might pull a soft inquiry on your report to give you a pre-approved offer. Your approval isn’t needed for a business or creditor to perform a soft check on your account, but since they don’t affect your score, you don’t have to be worried about getting too many of them.
Now let’s talk about a hard inquiry. These do need your permission. Mostly, a hard check is done when you apply for new credit, a mortgage, or an auto loan. But there are times when a hard check is done outside of lending. For example, signing a contract with a credit card company might trigger a hard check. Your permission is still needed in this situation.
Since hard inquiries affect your score, you should review your credit report every so often to check for unauthorized hard inquiries. If you find one, you can petition to have it removed, which is how to raise your credit score.
Just like income-to-debt ratios, credit inquiries also come in good and bad types. The good type of credit inquiry includes auto loan checks, mortgage inquiries, and student loan inquiries. It’s typical to seek multiple lenders in these situations, and multiple checks within a short period of time will usually be treated as one hard inquiry.
But if you apply for multiple credit cards or personal loans in a short time, each one will decrease your score. Not only that but the presence of multiple inquiries for this kind of credit signals to lenders that you might be in financial distress. If you don’t get approved for a new card, stop applying for at least three months.
Banks will be more likely to give you another offer if you’ve waited at least three months since your last application. Do it sooner than this, and you’re providing a reason for them to deny you.
How much does a hard inquiry affect my score?
One hard inquiry can usually decrease your credit score by about five to ten points. Recent inquiries account for 10% of your FICO score. “Recent” means any that have occurred in the last two years, but inquiries that are over six months old will start to affect your score less.
Lenders don’t like to see more than six inquiries in a two year period. So if you’re planning on applying for a mortgage or other loan, it’s best to wait until you’ve had less than six inquiries in the last 24 months. The good thing is that you can plan on inquiries falling off your account after 24 months.
Maintain a good payment history going forward.
It’s extremely important to pay your bills on time. This affects 35% of your score! Pay on time, all of the time. Your credit scores can be significantly impacted by just one late payment reported to your credit file. One of our favorite free apps to manage your bills and set budgets is Mint (we also do not receive compensation for recommending their app).
A budget can help tremendously when managing your payments. It’s not easy to keep everything in your head all the time. A budget lays it all out so you can see the status of your accounts at a glance. Mint even integrates with your bank account and will track various spending categories like groceries, gas, credit cards, and eating out.
Since subscriptions and auto-pay bills are common, it’s easy to forget about a certain payment and suddenly not have enough to cover your credit card bill. That’s why a budgeting app can be so helpful.
How much does a late payment affect my credit score?
Many factors go into determining how much your score can be affected. For someone who’s never missed a payment and has a high credit score, a 30-day delinquency can lower their score by as much as 100 points. But it would be different for someone with a score of 620 and a history with two or three late payments. In that scenario, their score would only go down by around 40-70 points.
Wherever you’re at, making payments on time is important. A late payment can cost you in late fees and higher interest rates. If you let payments sit too long in delinquency, your account might be charged off, or it could be sent to collections. That would create a further negative impact on your score.
Late fees can add insult to injury when you can’t make a payment. Also, depending on the kind of loan or credit you have, your interest rate can go up resulting in a higher total balance. The penalty interest rate on credit cards can be as high as 29.99%, and that can add hundreds or even thousands to your outstanding balance.
If you have a payment you know you’re not going to be able to pay, try to set up a payment plan with your creditor. You’ll avoid the hit on your report (as long as you can make the payments you arrange).
What kind of late payments affect my credit score?
Knowing what does and does not affect your score can be confusing. As far as payments go, payments like rent, utilities, cell phone bills, and insurance don’t normally affect your credit score. They would only affect your score if you’ve had a payment late enough to be sent to collection. At that point, it would ding your credit more than just a late payment on a loan would.
The point of your credit score is to let lenders know how trustworthy you are when it comes to repaying credit or loans. The kinds of payments that matter on your report are ones towards mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, credit cards, and student loans. Student loan payments are able to change based on your income, but that’s not the case with credit cards or loans.
Whenever you start a new line of credit, run through the highest-interest scenario in your mind and see if you’ll be able to afford the payments. Once you get off track with monthly payment, it can be hard to get back on without some effort and budgeting.
With some time, dedication, and persistence you can turn your scores around and better your financial health. We highly recommend dedicating at least six months’ worth of effort to maximize your results. This may not be an easy process and you may not always receive the response from your disputes that you wanted. Don’t get discouraged. Persevere through the dispute process while practicing healthy credit-building habits and you’ll be closer to better credit it no time.
If our How To Raise Your Credit Score guide was helpful, please feel free to share it with your family and friends. We wish you the best of luck!
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