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How Long Does it Take to Raise Your Credit Score?

| MoneyRates Personal Finance Specialist.
min read

couple-financial-planningHow long does it take to raise your credit score? You can raise your FICO and reduce what you pay for personal loans, mortgages, automobiles, and credit cards. And you may be able to do it in just days, weeks or months.

Start today to get your credit score up and start paying less for everything you finance this year.

See today's personal loan interest rates

Increase FICO Score, Pay Less for Everything

According to MyFICO.com, improving your score by 100 points can save you thousands every year. That's a new car, a fantastic vacation, upgrades to your home, or a comfortable retirement. It's your choice.

In the next section, we demonstrate how much you might save by changing your credit score from 620 to 720. We'll assume that you carry a typical mortgage, auto loan and credit card portfolio.

How Does Your Credit Score Affect Your Mortgage Rate?

As of this writing, the average home purchase price in the US is $384,500. And the average down payment is 7%, leaving you with a $357,575 mortgage. MyFICO says that you'd pay 4.80 percent with a 620 credit score, and 3.44% with a 720 credit score. The difference over 30 years is nearly $120,000.

And that's just one loan.

How Does Your Credit Score Affect Your Auto Loan?

A $35,000 automobile financed over five years costs over $6,000 more to finance if your credit score is 620 than it does at 720. That's $1,200 a year more.

Personal Loan Interest Rates by FICO Score

Then, there are personal loans. Personal loan interest rates depend a lot more on your credit score. That's because there are no assets for lenders to repossess if you don't repay your loan. The lender only has your promise to repay. And your credit score tells lenders a lot about how you have backed up those promises in the past.

Personal loan interest rates among mainstream lenders range between under 6% to about 36%. Typical applicants with FICO credit scores in the 620 tier get rates offers ranging from 25% to 30%, while those 100 points higher get 7% to 10%. That 20-ish difference in interest rate over a 5-year loan term with a $10,000 balance could cost you an extra $6,500 in interest charges.

Credit Card Interest Rates by FICO Score

And credit cards? Those who qualify for zero balance cards pay, well, zero. At least for an introductory period. Then, their rate will likely range between 10% and 15% as of this writing. While those in the "fair" category will pay about twice as much.

How to Raise Your Credit Score by 100 Points FAST

You can see how improving your credit score can improve your lifestyle and your financial security. Here's your plan.

Start Here: Check your credit report and score

Your first step when you want to improve your credit score is to see what you're up against.

Order a copy of your credit report from all three major bureaus for free at the government's site, annualcreditreport.com. Pay the small charge to obtain your FICO scores as well.

Your "representative" score is the middle score of the three. So if your scores are 599, 612 and 623, your representative score is 612. Note that there are many variations and versions of the FICO score (over 50!), and not every lender uses the same one.

But you'll get an idea of where you are and what your problems are. Aim for the tier above your current one. If you have poor credit, aspire to the "fair" range. If you're at "fair," shoot for "good." Once you experience the joy of a credit score 100 points higher than it is now, you'll keep going. Until you're chasing down "excellent!"

FICO tiers: Where are you now?

Here are the tiers MyFICO divides consumers into:

  • 620 - 639
  • 640 - 659
  • 660 - 679
  • 680 - 699
  • 700 - 759
  • 760 +

So if you're at 620 today, you'll see some savings just by reaching the next highest tier, which is 640.

What's causing your low scores?

Your next step depends on why your score is low. If it's inaccurate information, you can clean up your report yourself by contacting all three credit bureaus, Trans Union, Experian, and Equifax, and the company reporting inaccurately, providing proof that you paid on time.

The CRAs (crediting reporting agencies) have 30 days to investigate and correct the issue.

However, you may not have weeks if you're applying for a mortgage now. If you have a mortgage in process, your lender can bring in a rapid re-scoring company to expedite the process at a reasonable cost.

There is no guarantee that correcting information will raise your score by any specific amount.

Reason codes

If your report is accurate, figure out which blemishes are affecting your score the most. Your credit report has "reason codes" you can use to determine the biggest factors bringing your score down. The most common, according to Equifax, include:

  • Serious delinquency
  • Public record or collection filed
  • Time since delinquency is too recent or unknown
  • Level of delinquency on accounts is too high
  • Amount owed on accounts is too high
  • Ratio of balances to credit limits on revolving accounts is too high
  • Length of time accounts have been established is too short
  • Too many accounts with balances

Your next step depends on your main problem.

Problem 1: Bad Credit History

See how many of these codes reference the term "delinquency?" If your credit history is a garbage heap of late payments, charge-offs and judgments, you'll need to put some time between your mistakes and your next loan application. Clean up your mess and then you can apply for "second chance" credit to get things moving in the right direction.

Bring delinquent accounts current

You won't be able to improve your credit scores until you bring your accounts current. But what if you can make your payments but can't catch up your old past-due amounts? Contact your creditors or a reputable, non-profit credit counseling agency. You might be able to get some help with this.

"Re-aging" means bringing an account current and rolling past-due amounts into the balance. Creditors might do this to help consumers who are making a good faith effort to pay what they owe. Without re-aging, your account will always be reported delinquent until you can catch up. This is called a "rolling late."

Ask (or have a counselor ask) your credit to re-age your account better chance of success if you make a couple of on-time payments first, or if you have a non-profit credit counselor contact your creditor.

Re-aging can instantly improve your credit score.

Pay on time no matter what

Next, implement a system to ensure on-time payment. It takes about six months of on-time repayment to make a meaningful difference in your credit score, so start as soon as possible.

Set your accounts up for autopay from a checking account. Choose payment dates that follow your paydays and make sure money is there to cover your debts.

Free services like Mint can help you set up your budget and alert you when you exceed it.

Problem 2: You Owe Too Much

The other main category of reason codes concerns the amount of debt you're carrying. FICO looks at the amount of credit you have with the amount used (utilization ratio), the balances and number of accounts with balances.

Credit bureaus look for spending patterns that are unsustainable. For instance, if every month you spend more than you earn, your payments increase each month, leaving even less disposable income.

Eventually, you have no more available credit and you can't make your payments.

One way to overcome this challenge is to pay off your credit cards with savings, a personal loan or home equity loan. Another option is with a balance transfer credit card.

This fix can raise your FICO almost immediately.

Don't do this unless you are 100 percent confident that you will not use your credit cards until your accounts are paid off. Avoid carrying balances again.

Problem 3: Building or Rebuilding Credit

Some of us have low credit scores simply because we have not been using credit very long, or because we don't use much of it. You need at least two "trade lines" to generate a credit score, and scoring models really reward mixes of accounts like revolving (credit cards) accounts, installment (personal loans or car loans) and mortgage debt.

You can start off with entry level accounts with small credit limits, secured credit cards and "second chance" loans. As long as the fees are not outrageous, you pay them off each month and the issuers report to the CRAs, you can build a score by just using them for small purchases and paying them in full each month.

You may also be able to jump start your FICO score by becoming an "authorized user" on a family member or friend's account. Note that you don't actually use their credit. But if they make you an authorized user, every time they pay their bill on time, the history also appears on your credit report.

Getting Professional Help

If you need assistance with budgeting, talking to your creditors, or owe more than you can pay, get help from a non-profit credit counseling service. They can teach you how to manage your money and get out of trouble.

A counselor may be able to lower your monthly payments, bring accounts current, get penalties waived and help you toward debt-free status. This service is usually called a debt-management plan, or DMP. A DMP is not a debt settlement plan, which you should probably avoid.

Some experts recommend that you consider bankruptcy if a DMP won't pay off your unsecured debts within five years. Many who try debt consolidation or DMPs fail because they can't ultimately change their spending ways or afford the payments. Be very confident that you can do this before committing.

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