How to Raise Your Credit Score by 100 Points Overnight

1. Pay Off Credit Card Debt

Your credit utilization ratio is a major factor used to determine your FICO credit score. Simply put, this is how much of your available credit card balance you’re using. To calculate your credit utilization ratio, you can divide your credit card debt by your total credit limits. For example, let’s you have two credit cards, each with a $2,000 limit. That means your total credit limit is $4,000. If you owe $500 on one card and $750 on the other, your total debt is $1,250. In this case, your credit utilization ratio would be 62.5% (1,250/4,000 = .625), which is considered high. 

The lower your credit utilization ratio, the higher your credit score. Aim to keep your ratio below 30%. A high credit utilization ratio, especially over 50%, will lower your credit score. 

Why It Works

Credit card companies report your credit balance and credit limit to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) each month. This often happens on the same day that you’re issued your monthly statement. As the credit bureaus get new information, they use it to calculate and update your credit score. Since the credit bureaus calculate your credit utilization ratio monthly, simply paying down or paying off your credit card debt is one of the fastest ways to improve your credit score. 

If you receive a bonus at work or a tax refund, use this one-time cash influx to pay off your credit card debt, if you can afford to do so. This will help reduce your credit utilization ratio and raise your FICO credit score. Also, you don’t have to wait until your statement is issued to make your payment. If you can pay it earlier, that’s often better. If you are able to pay off your balance before your monthly statement is issued, do it. That will help raise your FICO score quickly.

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Does paying off a loan help or hurt credit?

Paying off a loan frequently hurts credit because it impacts your credit history and your credit mix. If the loan that you have paid off is your oldest credit line, then the average age of your credit will become newer and your score will drop. If the loan that you pay off is your only loan, then your credit mix suffers.

3. Aim for 30% Credit Utilization or Less

Credit utilization refers to the portion of your credit limit that you use at any given time. After payment history, it’s the second most important factor in FICO Score calculations.

The simplest way to keep your credit utilization in check is to pay your credit card balances in full each month. If you can’t always do that, then a good rule of thumb is to keep your total outstanding balance at 30% or less of your total credit limit. From there, you can work on whittling that down to 10% or less, which is considered ideal for raising your credit score.

Use your credit card’s high balance alert feature so you can stop adding new charges if your credit utilization ratio is getting too high.

Another way to improve your credit utilization ratio: Ask for a credit limit increase. Raising your credit limit can help your credit utilization, as long as your balance doesn’t increase in tandem.

Most credit card companies allow you to request a credit limit increase online; you’ll just need to update your annual household income. It’s possible to be approved for a higher limit in less than a minute. You can also request a credit limit increase over the phone.

How to improve your credit score

Improving your credit score is a big step on the road to reaching some of life’s big milestones. But first, it helps to know what credit scores are and how they affect your life. Here are the basics:

Credit scores are three-digit numbers calculated by a variety of different companies. Your score is used by lenders, landlords, phone companies, insurance companies and other creditors to determine how risky it is to do business with you. It can determine whether you can rent an apartment, lease a car, get a cell phone plan, and any number of other things you need and want in life.

The most common score is FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation), but VantageScore is another popular scoring model. These scores are calculated by the three national credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. To determine your credit score, they look at a host of factors, particularly your bill-paying history and whether you deal with credit responsibly.

1. Understanding Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a number that reflects the information in your credit report. Lenders use this number to assess your creditworthiness – in other words, how likely you are to repay a loan on time. The higher your score, the more attractive you are to lenders and the better your chances of being approved for loans and credit cards with favorable terms.

What Affects Your Credit Score?

There are a number of different factors that go into your credit score, but the two most important are payment history and credit utilization. Payment history refers to your track record of paying back loans and other debts on time. Credit utilization is a measure of how much of your available credit you are using – the lower the better.

The best way to improve your credit score is to review your credit report. The score itself is not personal, every American falls within the same range. However, the credit report is your unique financial history.

A credit report breaks down the following by weighted importance:

  • Payment History (30%)
    • Paying your credit card, student loan bills, etc. on time? 
  • Credit Utilization (30%)
    • The ratio between credit available to you and how much of it you use
  • Credit Age (15%)
    • How long have credit lines been opened? Mortgage, credit cards, etc. 
  • Account Mix (10%)
    • Variety of credit lines
  • Credit Inquiries (10%)
    • Too many hard inquiries don’t look good, i.e., applying for a bunch of credit cards at once

Where you get your credit report matters, which is why I strongly recommend Experian. You’re not only getting it directly from the source (Experian is one of the three credit reporting companies in America), but it’s free when you create an account!

We’ll discuss credit reports more in-depth later on, but for now, let’s move on to some other things you can do to raise your credit score.

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The Bottom Line

While Kevin’s story is amazing, it isn’t all that unique. In the real world, secured credit cards are a valuable tool that can be used to build your credit when you otherwise couldn’t. And for someone like Kevin that doesn’t have any credit history, raising your credit score 100 points isn’t far-fetched.

Whether you like it or not, your credit score is important.

If you ever hope to take out a mortgage, borrow money for a car as Kevin did, or borrow funds to start a new business, you’ll need a good or decent credit score to qualify for the best rates.

While imperfect, secured credit cards offer the opportunity to improve your credit and your life.

If you are ready to improve your credit and think a secured card could help, don’t delay. Research your options and sign up today.

How can you fix your credit yourself over time?

The tips above might help you boost your credit score over a few months, but how long it takes to improve your credit score depends on where it lies on that 300-850 range. Here are some tips to get you into the "good" to "exceptional" range over the longer term:

Paying your bills on time

A sure-fire way of paying bills on time is by setting recurring payments on "auto pay" in your online banking account. Credit card companies, loan providers, and utilities can usually offer you automatic payment options that will deduct the amount due automatically from your checking account.

Reducing the amount of debt you owe

One good step is to start a debt reduction plan to clear up your finances—and set you on the path to a better score. Start by paying off your high interest rate cards: put all your effort into paying off a higher rate card, while maintaining payments on all other cards on auto pay. Once you’ve paid off the balance, don’t cancel your card! Keep it open, even if you don’t use it, so you can boost your credit utilization.

Start a new credit history

One strategy some people use to improve their payment history is to take out a credit card that is easier to qualify for, like a gas station or store card, and consistently pay off the balance each month. The good behavior can slowly put you in a better financial position. But be careful this strategy doesn’t backfire on you: you don’t want to take out new cards if you think you will be tempted to rack up more debt.

Don’t take out too many cards

Sometimes it seems like a good move to open a new credit card with a merchant to get a discount on an item. But try not to go overboard and take advantage of many discount offers over a short period of time. Each new card comes with a "hard inquiry" on your credit report by the merchant, which can have a negative impact on your credit score.

Don’t close your cards

Once you’ve paid off a card, it can be really satisfying to cut it up! But don’t close your account. Keeping your credit card account open but unused helps give you a long, established credit history, and can improve your overall credit utilization ratio. (You can always put it in a drawer if you don’t want to use it). Although sticking the credit card in a drawer has it benefits (including maintaining a favorable credit utilization ratio and low balance) you may also be able to request a credit card freeze. You may be familiar with a credit card freeze since it used whenever you report your credit card lost or stolen. In this case, you may use a credit card freeze if you want the card open in your name but don’t want or need to use the credit card for purchases.

Diversify your credit mix

Many credit-scoring models like to see you using a diversified mix of credit, so it might make sense to consider taking out a personal loan, rather than relying on credit cards alone.

2. Pay Down Debt Strategically

OK, let’s build on what you just learned about utilization ratios.

In the above example, you have balances on more than one card. Note that Card A has a 42% ratio, which is high, and Card B has a wonderfully low 10% ratio.

Since the FICO score also looks at each card’s ratio, you can bump up your score by paying down the card with the higher balance. In the example above, pay down the balance on Card A to about $1,500 and your new ratio for Card A is 25% (1,500/6,000 = .25). Much better!

1. Pay All Your Bills On Time

On-time payment history is the most important factor when building credit. Your payment history, which is one factor that makes up your FICO score, accounts for 35% of your FICO credit score. This means you should always aim to pay your bills on or before the due date.

Setting up automatic payments is the easiest way to pay bills on time. You’ll connect your bank account to the provider, who will automatically charge your account on or before the due date. Creating automatic payments means you won’t have to worry about missing a payment, as long as you have enough money in your bank account to cover the bill.

If you choose to not use autopay and realize you’ve missed a payment, contact the lender or bill provider and rectify it as soon as possible. Only late payments over 30 days are reported to the credit bureaus. The later the payment, the more it will impact your score.

5. Mix It Up

A few years back, I realized I didn’t have much of a mix of credit. I have credit cards with low utilization ratios and a mortgage, but I hadn’t paid off an installment loan for a couple of decades.

I wanted to raise my score a nudge, so I decided to get a car loan at a very low rate. I spent a year paying it off just to get a mix in my credit. At first, my score went down a little, but after about six months, my score started increasing. Your credit mix is only 10% of your FICO score, but sometimes that little bit can bump you up from good credit to excellent credit.

5 categories that make up your credit score
5 categories that make up your credit score

I wasn’t planning on applying for credit within the next six months, so my approach was fine. But if you’re refinancing your mortgage (or planning something else really big) and you want a quick boost, don’t use this strategy. This is a good one for a long-term approach.

4. Pay Off Any Existing Debt

To reduce your credit utilization ratio quickly and improve your score, use the debt avalanche or debt snowball method to pay down existing debt:

  • With the debt avalanche method, you focus on paying off your highest-interest debt first, followed by the debt with the next highest interest rate, and so on. However, be sure to make the minimum payments on any other cards in the process to avoid any penalties.
  • The debt snowball method, on the other hand, focuses on paying off your smallest balances first while still meeting the minimum payment requirements for your other cards. This method is meant to help build momentum as you get a sense of achievement from paying off one card after another.

The bottom line about building credit fast

When you’re working to fix your credit, it takes good behavior over time. However, lowering your utilization rate by paying down existing debt, getting a new credit card or requesting a credit line increase on an existing card can provide the quickest credit score boost.

Any late payments and debts sent to collection should be handled promptly — otherwise, they’ll just cause more pain once they hit your credit reports. It’s also wise to review your credit reports on a regular basis. in order to spot errors that might be dragging down your credit score.

Knowing what actions to take that can help improve your credit score and being a responsible borrower can boost your chances of increasing your credit score by 100 points or even more.

Add utility and phone payments to your credit report

Typically, payments such as utility and cellphone bills won’t be reported to the credit bureaus, unless you default on them. However, Experian offers a free online tool called Experian Boost, aimed at helping those with low credit scores or thin credit files build credit history. With it, you may be able to get credit for paying your utilities and phone bill — even your Netflix subscription — on time.

Note that using Experian Boost will improve your credit score generated from Experian data. However, if a lender is looking at your score generated from Equifax or TransUnion data, the additional sources of payment history won’t be taken into account.

There are also services that allow rent payments to be reported to one or more of the credit bureaus, but they may charge a fee. For example, RentReporters feeds your rental history to TransUnion and Equifax; however, there’s a $94.95 setup fee and a $9.95 monthly fee.

How much will this action impact your credit score?

The average consumer saw their FICO Score 8 increase by 12 points using Experian Boost, according to Experian.

When it comes to getting your rent reported, some RentReporters customers have seen their credit scores improve by 35 to 50 points in as few as 10 days, according to the company.

3. Check your credit report for errors

One way to quickly increase your credit score is to review your credit report for any errors that could be negatively impacting you. Your score may increase if you are able to dispute them and have them removed. 

About 25% of Americans have an error on their credit reports, so it's important to take the time to review. Some common errors to look out for include fraudulent or duplicated accounts, as well as misreported payments.

"Most of the clients we meet with have not reviewed their report within the past year, and are often surprised by what we find to discuss with them," says Thomas Nitzsche, a financial educator at MMI. 

You can get a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) on a weekly basis by going to AnnualCreditReport.com now through April 2021.

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 (more on that below).

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.

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.

How Long Does It Take to Rebuild a Credit Score?

There’s no set timeline for rebuilding your credit. How long it takes to increase your credit scores depends on what’s hurting your credit and the steps you’re taking to rebuild it.

For instance, if your score takes a hit after a single missed payment, it might not take too long to rebuild it by bringing your account current and continuing to make on-time payments. However, if you miss payments on multiple accounts and you fall over 90 days behind before catching up, it will likely take longer to recover. This effect can be even more exaggerated if your late payments result in repossession or foreclosure.

In either case, the impact of negative marks will diminish over time. Most negative marks will also fall off your credit reports after seven years and stop impacting your scores at that point if not sooner. Chapter 7 bankruptcies can stay for up to 10 years, however.

In addition to letting time help you rebuild your scores, you can follow the steps above to proactively add positive information to your credit reports.

You may also hear about credit repair companies that offer to repair or “fix” your credit—for a price. It might seem tempting, but credit repair companies can’t do anything that you can’t do on your own for free. Similarly, you should be wary of so-called debt settlement companies that may encourage you to stop making payments in an attempt to try to “settle” the debt for less than you owe. Their plan can result in major credit score harm and may not even ultimately work to reduce your debt obligation.

3. Become an Authorized User

A third way to raise your FICO credit score in under 30 days is by becoming an authorized user. If you have a trusted friend or a family member that has excellent credit, and they’re willing to help you out, ask if they’ll add you as an authorized user on one of their credit card accounts. As an authorized user, you can use the credit account but you’re not legally or financially responsible for the credit card debt or monthly payments. This comes with pros and cons, so think about these before you act. 

The benefits of being an authorized user include:

  • You can build your credit history faster. By being an authorized user, you piggyback off of the primary account holder’s good credit history. The timely payments, length of credit history, and hopefully low credit utilization ratio of that credit card account will be reflected in your credit reports and help you build your credit.

  • You may have access to a credit card. While you don’t have to have or use a credit card to benefit from being an authorized user, the primary account holder may agree to let you have a card and make charges. If you have bad credit, you may only qualify for a secured credit card, and putting up the security deposit can be difficult at times. Being an authorized user allows you to have access to a credit card in case of an emergency.

  • You can get experience with budgeting and managing money. Being an authorized user allows you to budget and manage money in small steps before you open your own lines of credit.

The downsides of being an authorized user include:

  • It can backfire and negatively impact your credit score. If the primary account holder has several late or missed payments or has a high credit utilization rate on their account, then you as an authorized user will also have that on your credit file. This can decrease your credit score and defeat the purpose of being added as an authorized user. That said, you can ask to be removed as an authorized user if the primary account holder is messing things up.

  • An authorized user can be removed from a line of credit whenever, for whatever reason. If this happens, the credit history that you were piggybacking off of will no longer be on your credit report. 

  • It can cause fragmented or fractured relationships. Beyond personal finance and credit repair, there is a personal element of being an authorized user. Arguments are often compounded by money issues. If you abuse your authorized user status or get into an argument with the primary account holder, it can have a negative effect on your relationship. 

Check Your Credit Score for Free

Knowing where you stand and watching your progress can be important. With Experian, you can check your FICO® Score for free. Your account gives you a breakdown of which factors are impacting your score the most, so you can take a focused approach to improving your score. Your credit score will also automatically be tracked and updated each month.

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