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A good credit score is the key to unlocking many doors in personal finance. You’ll need a good credit score to access the best credit card accounts, get an affordable car loan, and become a homeowner. Unfortunately, 30.9% of Americans have a subprime credit score.1
While you can always recover from having bad credit, it’s usually not a short road. Here’s how long you can expect it to take to improve your credit score by 100 points or more, plus everything you need to know to pull it off.
How Long Does It Take To Improve Your Credit Score 100 Points?
The length of time it takes to improve your credit score by 100 points varies significantly between individuals, but you can usually expect it to take about a year. Ultimately, it depends on your current credit profile and what you do to improve it.
Unfortunately, even if you have all the variables, a consumer can’t calculate the exact amount of time it’ll take to improve their score by any specific number of points.
The proprietary formulas lenders use to calculate your credit score are complex, and you can’t access them yourself. However, you can determine whether you’re likely to be on the faster or slower end of the spectrum by considering your circumstances.
Here are some of the most significant factors:
- Initial point on the credit spectrum: It’s easiest to increase your credit score if you start with no credit score. If you have a long history of bad credit behavior, it’ll take longer to overcome that deficit. Counterintuitively, a good credit score can take even more time to increase.
- Which factors previously hurt your score: Some credit scoring factors take longer to improve than others. For example, you can reduce a high credit card balance overnight, but you can only improve your payment history a month at a time.
- Your credit repair strategy: Your ability to plan and execute an effective credit repair strategy directly affects the time it takes to improve your score. If you make mistakes along the way, you can set back your progress significantly.
Let’s use these ideas in a practical example. Say you have a bad credit score because you’ve missed several auto loan payments over the last five years. To fix that, you take out a new credit card and resolve to make all your payments on time.
In this case, it’s probably going to take you longer than average to improve your credit score by 100 points. First, you have a history of bad credit, so the problem is more than just a thin credit file.
Second, your primary limiting factor is your payment history, and you can only report timely payments one month at a time.
Finally, your credit repair strategy isn’t as effective as it could be. Good behavior with one credit account can only improve your score so much.
How Fast Can a Credit Score Go Up?
Once again, there’s no universal answer to the question of how quickly it takes for a credit score to go up. It depends on your circumstances. Fortunately, your score generally goes up faster the lower your starting position.
For example, if you have a poor credit score of 550, it may take you only a year of timely payments and paying down your debts to get your score up to 650. However, if you’re starting at 700, it’ll probably take much longer to get an 800 credit score.
For context, the most popular consumer credit scores today, FICO Score and VantageScore, range from 350 to 850, and the average credit score in the United States was 716 in 2021.
If you’re looking to learn more about credit scores and how yours measures up, read our 20 most relevant Credit Score Statistics.
The five primary factors that affect your FICO credit score are:
- Payment history (35%): Whether your payments were made on-time, late, or missed (not made at all). Payment history includes how late your payments were if they were late, for example 30 days late, 60 days late, or 90+ days late.
- Amounts owed (30%): Your outstanding debt and its ratio to your total available credit limit.
- Length of credit history (15%): The age of your credit accounts.
- Credit mix (10%): The number and diversity of your credit accounts.
- New credit activity (10%): The number of hard inquiries on your credit report within the last year and how many of your credit accounts are new.
To increase your score as quickly as possible, focus on the areas with the highest impact and the ones holding your credit score back the most.
How To Improve Your Credit Score
Whatever your current credit score is, there’s nothing you can do to change the past. The only way you can shorten the length of time it’ll take to improve your credit score is by refining your credit repair strategy.
Here are some of the best steps you can take to raise your score as much and as quickly as possible.
One of the best ways to increase your credit score efficiently and safely is with a credit builder loan from CreditStrong. They combine an installment loan with a savings account, so you can raise your score and save money. Here’s how it works.
First, you apply with no credit check and no hard credit pull. That means you can open an account even if you have bad credit and you won’t add a hard inquiry to your credit report to get an account. You can open a CreditStrong account in minutes.
With a CreditStrong credit builder loan, your loan proceeds are deposited in a locked savings account to secure the loan, and your only responsibility is to make your payments on time. Your payments are reported to each major credit bureau: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. When you complete your loan or close your account you get the principal from your loan payments back, less any fees, e.g. a late payment fee if you made a late payment, which you shouldn’t do because the point of the account is to build a positive payment history.
With timely payments, you may see a rapid improvement in your credit score. The average CreditStrong customer sees a 25-point increase to their FICO Score 8 within three months, a 40-point increase in nine months, and almost 70 points after their first year!
CreditStrong really works if you make on-time payments.
Look for Any Discrepancies on Your Credit Report and Dispute Them
Your credit report holds the raw data lenders use to generate your credit score. If it has any incorrect information, they may calculate a lower credit score for you than you deserve.
For example, look for any old debts that you’ve already paid off, payments that were mistakenly reported as late, or accounts that you never opened. These discrepancies are uncommon, but they’re a serious issue and may indicate identity theft.
You can always get a free annual copy of your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Make sure you take a look at each bureau’s report. Lenders don’t necessarily share information with each credit reporting agency, so there may be differences between them.
If you find issues that you need to change, write a dispute letter to the credit bureau whose report shows the incorrect information. It should include the following:
- Which items you wish to dispute
- Why you believe the information is incorrect
- Evidence to support your claims
- A direct request that the bureau change the information
Even if the mistakes in your credit report aren’t damaging your score, it’s worth taking the time to fix them. Inaccuracies in something like your address or name may cause the bureaus to misattribute your activity.
Pay Your Bills on Time
Your payment history is worth 35% of your credit score, which makes it as impactful as the age of your credit accounts, your credit mix, and your new credit inquiries combined.
As a result, whatever else you do, you must pay your bills on time and in full if you want to improve your score. If you don’t, nothing else you do will be able to make up for the damage your late payments cause.
You only have to make your credit card minimum payments to protect your score, but there’s less wiggle room with installment loans.
In both cases, your lender may not report you until you’ve been late for 30 days, but you shouldn’t abuse the privilege. Some will report you for a late payment sooner, perhaps even immediately.
It’s a good idea to set up an auto-payment with your bank to ensure you don’t miss a payment by accident. Build up an emergency fund worth a few months of expenses to protect yourself from potential overdraft fees.
Lower Your Credit Utilization Rate
After your payment history, the amount you owe is the most significant factor affecting your credit score. One of the primary ways lenders assess whether you have a healthy debt level is by calculating your credit utilization ratio.
Your utilization rate equals your total revolving credit balance (credit card balance) divided by your total available borrowing limit. For example, if you have $500 in credit card debt on a secured card with a $1,000 credit limit, you’d have a credit utilization ratio of 50%.
If your credit utilization is higher than 30% you can rapidly improve your credit score by lowering it to below 30% and ideally below 10%.
Generally, it’s best for your credit to maintain a utilization ratio of 1% to 10%. That shows lenders that you’re using your credit consistently, but you know how to keep your balances well under control.
If you have a 0% ratio, lenders may think you’re not using your credit accounts. That’s better than having a high credit utilization rate, but it might not be quite as good for your score.
Limit Hard Inquiries
A hard inquiry occurs when a lender or credit card issuer checks your credit to consider granting you a new credit account. They’re only worth 10% of your credit score, but every last point counts when you’re trying to improve as fast as possible.
Fortunately, hard inquiries stop affecting your credit score after a year, and they age off of your credit report entirely after two years. There’s no specific number you have to stay below, but fewer is always better. Staying within two or three is a good benchmark.
For context, FICO has found that people with six or more inquiries on their credit report can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with none.
Fortunately, you might not incur a hard inquiry every time you apply for a new credit account. Some accounts, like a credit builder loan, don’t require one.
Alternatively, you may be able to qualify for an interest rate shopping exclusion if you keep all your inquiries within two weeks. In that case, they’d all count as one.
However, that only works when shopping for an installment loan like a mortgage, personal loan, or student loan. Every application you submit to a credit card company is another hard inquiry.
Hard inquiries stand in contrast to soft credit inquiries, which refer to any time someone checks your credit score for anything other than a credit account application. These don’t show up on your credit report or hurt your score.
For example, a landlord might initiate a soft inquiry when you apply for their apartment. Likewise, checking your own credit score through a service like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame is always a soft inquiry.
Don’t Cancel Credit Cards Needlessly
Last but not least, try not to cancel your credit cards, especially the earliest ones. The age of your credit accounts is worth 15% of your score, and older is always better.
FICO considers the average age of all your accounts, the age of your oldest account, and the age of your newest one, so you should keep your credit cards open indefinitely whenever possible.
If you want to avoid an annual fee or get the deposit on a secured credit card account back, think carefully before resorting to canceling the account.
As you work to improve your credit score, keep in mind that it’s a test of endurance and discipline. There are no shortcuts, but as long as you stay patient and work the process, you’ll get where you want to be.
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