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How Long Does It Take To Improve Your Credit

There’s no quick answer to how long it takes to improve your credit. However, you can predict more or less depending on a couple of factors. So how can you build up credit fast and what are the steps you should consider? We've summarized all you need to know.

You can trust the integrity of our unbiased, independent editorial staff. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Our opinions are our own.

Table Of Content

Your credit score can influence not only your credit card rate, but also your available credit limit. This chart using Experian data shows the average credit card debt by credit score. It shows that those with an average to good credit score have the highest amount of credit card debt.

This highlights that those with excellent credit scores are more likely to have a lower credit utilization ratio, and therefore carry less credit card debt. It also suggests that those with poor credit scores are more likely to have lower credit card limits or use alternative forms of credit.

Average Credit Card Debt by Credit Score

Is There an Exact Answer?

In fact, it’s a blend of different things, like how much debt you have, your credit history and by how much you’re looking to change the score. Not to mention what you’re willing to do for that increase.

For those who have actually been putting in the effort, by taking care of those negative things like errors, late payments, and past due accounts, anyone would want to start seeing results fast.

If your only negative is that you have a lot of debt you could definitely see quick improvements by paying the debt. For those who have past due accounts or bankruptcy, however, it can take longer.

The unfortunate truth is you’re not going to get changes overnight. But you can start getting improvement in as little as a month, and that’s pretty good too. Of course, you’ll have to pay attention to what happened to your score in the first place. But this is a good starting point.

How Long It Will Take? Consider Those Factors

Any kind of improvement to your credit is good, whether it’s small or large. For those who don’t have too major of situations on their credit report, it’s actually possible for you to start seeing some changes in a few weeks. If you want a lot of change, however, it’s going to take longer. You may spend months or even years, depending on:

  • Where You Are Now: If you have no credit you can create it in as little as a month. If you have damaged credit, however … that takes longer. By using a secured credit card it’s possible for someone to improve their score in as little as a year. But that’s only if they can moderate their use of the card itself. Plus it’s going to depend on all of the details of the credit card you have.
  • Your History: Next up, there are some really bad things that could be on your report. Things like bankruptcy, debt collection or repossessions can take a really long time to recover from. They stay right there on your credit report for as long as seven years. Fortunately, they mean a little less each year until they’re fully removed.
  • What You’re Looking For: What type of score are you actually trying to get? With the range between 300 and 850 you could have any kind of goals. If you can get above 760 you’re considered good, but that can be hard to do. Someone with a ‘bad’ credit score getting to that level can take a lot of time. Set yourself reasonable goals to start with.
  • What You’re Willing to Do: How hard are you willing to work to get that great score? Are you willing to put in the time and effort? Are you willing to be more frugal? Are you willing to pay attention to the payments that need to be made? How about using cash instead of your credit card? All of these things will help improve your score.

When to Improve Your Credit Score?

There is never a bad time to improve your credit score. When you have a better score, you will be able to get access to large sums to borrow, often at better interest rates, and more favorable overall terms. However, it is particularly important to focus on improving your credit score when you are looking to borrow a significant sum of money.

Most commonly, you will see people who are looking to buy a house focusing on boosting their credit score. This is because a mortgage is usually going to be the largest amount of debt they will ever take on and even small differences in a credit score can result in significant variations in how much you have to repay over the course of the loan.

What Factors Affect Your Credit Score

When it comes to your credit score it comes from your credit report. Unfortunately, credit lenders don’t have to use only your credit score. They also use your job history, income, and types of credit.

When it comes to looking at your credit report, you should pay attention to the areas that weigh in most, like your payment history. Let’s take a look at what it all equals out to.

  • Payment History (35%) – Whether you pay your accounts on time or not is crucial. Your lender wants to make sure you can be trusted to pay them their money back. That means payment history determines your risk level.
  • Current Debt (30%) – This is where a lender will look at how much you owe on your current credit lines compared to what you have available. If you owe too much you are considered high risk. If you’re high risk it means you’re less likely to be approved.
  • Credit History (15%) – Here they’re looking at how long you’ve had credit. Having credit longer means you have a higher score in this section. But you need to make sure you’re using it responsibly.
  • Credit Mix (10%) – Do you have all credit cards or do you have a mix of credit cards and loans? Different retail accounts, mortgages, installment loans and more mean variety and that actually helps your score. You don’t need to have each one though.
  • New Credit (10%) – Finally, having a lot of new credit can look bad on your report. If you open a lot of new cards all at once it looks bad to lenders. It definitely makes you a higher risk candidate.

How Quickly Does Your Credit Score Update?

A lot of people wonder how often their credit score will get updated. The calculation of a credit score comes on the back of complicated data analysis that is then compiled into a credit report with one of the three national credit bureaus. Your credit reports will be updated to reflect debt repayments you have made, total outstanding debt changes, credit card balance changes, and so on.

Every creditor will report to a bureau at their own pace, but it will usually be every 30 days to 45 days. With each new report, there will potentially be adjustments to your credit report that will then result in credit score changes. Therefore, with the different bureaus processing the reports at different speeds, your credit score might change on a daily or weekly basis. There is no exact timeline as to when the changes will occur.

How to Monitor Your Credit Score

The most important thing is to monitor your score. You can do it yourself with CreditKarma or CreditSesame. Just keep in mind that these aren’t FICO scores. Instead, Credit Karma uses TransUnion and Equifax daily and Credit Sesame uses Experian monthly. Any kind of changes can be seen quickly on your results pages. And these are totally free services.

If you have certain types of credit cards you may also be able to get a free score, but the FICO one this time.

Discover, Barclaycard and First National Bank of Omaha each give you a free FICO score every month. Even Capital One has a service, through CreditWise, that offers free scores. All you have to do is talk with your credit card issuer to see if they have anything.

Building Credit Up Quickly

Think of your credit as an investment, and not a short-term one. This is one you’ll need to sit on for quite some time. But if you continue to make payments on time you’ll start to improve even faster. Just bringing your cards to current could mean improvements every 30 days, though they’ll be small ones.

Other things you can do to bring your score up fast are paying off or at least paying down some of your large balances and getting an increase on your limit. If you can do it before your statement closes out for the month it can make a dramatic difference. You’ll be able to get your credit utilization down further (maybe even below 30%) and that makes a huge difference. Even better, you may be able to get creditors or collectors to delete accounts when you make the payment.

Finally, make sure any false information on your card is removed.

Free copies of your full report are always available from the three credit bureaus. All you have to do is go to their websites or AnnualCreditReport.com to find out how to request them.

This chart created with Experian data shows that those with an average to good credit score have an average credit utilization ratio of the optimum 33%. This ratio drops significantly for those with very good and excellent scores.

At the other end of the scale, the chart shows that those with poor credit scores typically have a very high credit utilization ratio, with an average of 73%. This will be a massive factor in lending decisions for those in this group.

Average Credit Utilization Ratio by Score

Can I Remove Settled Debts From Credit Report?

It can be difficult to get a settled debt removed from your credit history. Any form of outstanding debt is able to negatively impact your credit score, even if it does not exist any longer. Going through debt negotiations can be a tricky manner as you are trying to come to an agreement in a lot of cases with a creditor about how much of debt you should pay and how much should be forgiven.

You likely will have already missed plenty of repayments at this stage, which is constantly eating into your credit score. You need to make sure that once you have come to a settlement that the creditor will then report that your account has been fully paid up.

Best Ways to Build Credit For The Long Run

When you have any kind of change to your credit or you do anything with credit it affects your credit score. That means you need to pay careful attention.

Pay On Time

On-time payments are going to be one of the best things you can do. After all, your payment history is responsible for a whopping 35% of your score. Within just six months it can be a huge factor in what happens. Plus it can improve the overall health of your report if you start making it a regular thing.

Get Some Diversity

Having more than just plain old credit cards is going to be a good sign that you’re a responsible person. Of course, you have to make sure you’re paying them off. If you do then lenders think you’re actually lower risk. This type of diversity and payment history shows you’re a more responsible person, and you can juggle more accounts.

If you’ve never had a credit card before but you’ve had loans opening a card could be a good idea. It could give you more variety and improve your score overall.

Secured Cards

People who don’t yet have credit or who have had some problems with credit in the past may not be able to get a credit card. If that’s the case a secured card might be a great option.

Getting a secured card requires you to put in a deposit for your limit. If you want a specific credit limit you have to put that much money in the account. Then you give the bank the information about where that money is stored. That way they can take it if for any reason you don’t pay your card. If you’re lucky you might be able to get interest from the account.

For those who don’t have good credit, it can help banks to reduce their risk. That makes them more likely to give you credit.

If you get a secured card it’s meant to help you rebuild your credit over time. That way, you can later get an unsecured credit card.

Transfer Your Balance

If you can get a new card with a 0% balance you can transfer old debt to a new card. You’ll get a small hit to your credit score from opening a new card. On the other hand, increasing your available credit (but not taking on new debt) gives you a boost as well.

Keeping your old account and keeping a new account without adding debt reduces your utilization rate. That means that your score can actually start to go up.

That utilization rate, or balance-to-limit ratio, compares how much you owe to how much is available. What the credit score pays attention to is how much you use on each card and how much you use overall. If you can keep all of these ratios low it shows that you’re a responsible card owner. That benefits your score a lot.

You may think that when you pay off a card you should close the account. Actually, that can be a problem. Your age of credit history is a big part of your score and keeping old accounts keeps that around. The only thing you need to do is make sure you don’t add to your debt again. And watch for fees that might be associated.

Things That Hurt Your Score

You want to be a smart consumer and that means knowing how to protect your credit. It means knowing when you should and shouldn’t use credit and how you can avoid the debt trap.

Let’s look at some of the worst things you could do.

  • Pay Late – Making your payments late gets reported to the bureaus and that lowers your score.
  • Max Out Your Cards – This makes you look like a big risk. And it makes you look like you aren’t responsible. That’s going to cause your score to start dropping, fast, especially if you’re above 50% utilization.
  • Lots of Cards – One or two credit cards might help you build up a score, but too many will make you look like a risk. And they make you look less responsible.
  • Cosigning For Someone Who’s Not a Good Risk – If you know someone who isn’t a good risk and you sign for them you could end up on the hook for bad decisions they make.
  • Canceling Accounts – When you close an account it changes your age of credit history and makes it look like you don’t have experience. Lack of experience translates to being a bigger risk, as far as your score is concerned. 
  • Not Paying Attention – If you don’t look at your credit report you could be in big trouble. You could end up with mistakes on any of those credit reports and you won’t even know it. Those mistakes could end up costing you a job, a house or any kind of credit you want.

FAQs

The best way to avoid debt is to create a budget and stick to it. You are unlikely to maintain complete control of your finances unless you are aware of where your money is going each month. So, if you want to stay out of debt, you should make a budget.

Fortunately, this is a simple task. All you have to do is figure out your average monthly income and then subtract your expenses. You can then classify your expenses as either essential or discretionary. Once you've allocated money for each category of spending, you'll realize you only have $200 per month for clothing, $400 for food, and so on.

The majority of experts agree that paying someone to repair your credit is a waste of time and money. It's also worth noting that a credit repair company will not be able to repair your credit.

This is due to the fact that they do not have special access to the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) that would allow them to change information in your favor.

Furthermore, credit bureaus will not delete credit information simply because you used a credit repair service. Anything a credit repair company can do for you is as effective as what you can do on your own.

Although paying off your last debt may feel liberating, it will not necessarily improve your credit score. Worse, it may actually lower your score, which may seem counterintuitive.

Paying off your credit card helps reduce credit utilization because your balance accounts for a small percentage of your total credit limit.
However, if you close the recently paid-off account, you will lose the account's credit limit, and your other balances will now account for a larger percentage of the total.

Rebuilding your credit requires drastic changes in your lifestyle. This entails adjusting your spending (often by cutting back) and becoming familiar with credit agency requirements.

As a result, you will have a clear understanding of what they expect of you in order to rebuild your credit.
You'll need to carefully evaluate your expenses, create a budget, and pay down debt — all while working to improve your credit score.

The primary advantage of using the debt avalanche method is that you pay off the highest-interest debt first. High interest rates can cause your minimum payments to be extremely high, causing you to pay significantly more than your actual balance.

Using the debt avalanche method, you will make larger payments toward the highest interest debt in order to avoid accruing as many additional fees. Even if you don't see results right away, this method will save you more money in the long run.

Debt relief is a catch-all term for a variety of strategies used to make debt more manageable. The specifics of the relief can vary depending on the type of debt and the areas where you require assistance.

For example, if you are struggling with credit card debt, debt relief could take the form of an interest rate hold, whereas debt consolidation could be used if you have multiple types of debt.
Other types of debt relief include debt management plans, debt settlement, and credit counseling. Debt relief is defined as any strategy or tool that assists people in finding an effective way to manage their debt.