Improving your credit score often requires a lot of patience, because a good credit score is built on years of responsible habits. If you’ve made mistakes, they can be challenging to recover from, but it’s a doable goal. Of course, if you want to buy a home, take out a personal loan or get a new credit card, you may not have a lot of time to boost your score. You need a quick route to the next-highest tier of credit quality if you want loan approval and affordable interest rates.
In the credit world, there aren’t a lot of quick fixes, and some strategies for getting a significant score change are questionable, at best. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a 100-point surge in your credit score, but it’ll take time. It’s not very realistic to expect such a drastic change in a month’s time, said Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com’s director of consumer education.
How to Make Big Changes
Detweiler said there are a few reasons you might be able to pull off a major turnaround in a short period of time. If a negative item recently appeared on your credit report and you’re able to have it removed, you may see a massive score change. For example: Say your healthcare provider sent a medical bill to the wrong address and it ended up in collections. A collection account can seriously harm your credit standing, but in a situation like a billing error, you’re in a good position to negotiate the account off your credit report.
If the IRS placed a tax lien on you within the last few years and you enroll in the Fresh Start program, you have the ability to purge the lien from your credit report. Seriously negative tradelines that are only a few years or months old will have the biggest impact on your credit standing, so if you have cause to have them removed, it’s possible to get that 100-point jump you’re looking for.
“It’s more likely to happen if there’s something seriously negative in the past few years that’s bringing down your score,” Detweiler said. “But even if you can’t boost it by 100 points, you can still make a significant improvement.”
Set Realistic Goals
One of the easiest ways to drastically change your credit score is to focus on lowering your credit utilization. Keep your credit card balances as low as possible, relative to their limits, because credit utilization has a major impact on your credit score. Payment history is the most influential factor in determining credit scores, so make sure you don’t slip up there, but credit utilization is nearly as important.
You can also try piggybacking on someone else’s credit by asking a close friend or family member with excellent credit utilization to add you as an authorized user to one of his credit cards. This is a bit of an iffy strategy, Detweiler said, but it has the potential to improve your credit score in the short term. The primary accountholder needs to seriously consider how adding you as an authorized user may affect his or her finances. If your friend gives you a credit card tied to his/her account, their credit standing will be exposed to your spending habits, and they’ll be on the hook for the bill. Set clear expectations before formally establishing this relationship. The primary accountholder may also want to consider adding you as an authorized user and not giving you the associated card, so you can’t go rogue with it.
As far as score fluctuation goes, it’s important to remember that your score will regularly change, because scores are generated in real time, and your creditors report to credit bureaus at different times throughout the month. Small changes, like a shift of 10 to 15 points in either direction, aren’t cause for concern, but if your score moves more than 25 points within a month of checking it, you’ll want to figure out why that happened. (Note: Make sure you’re comparing the same scoring model based on the same credit report; otherwise, it’ll be difficult to pinpoint the cause of the difference.)
The change could be as simple as a big change in your credit utilization, but it may also be an indication of identity theft. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your credit, regardless of your financial goals.
If you have only one negative tradeline on your credit report, it’s going to be easier to quickly recover from the setback.
“If it was a series of things or a gradual descent into debt, then it’s going to be harder to change,” Detweiler said.