3 real ways to boost your credit score in 30 days

Jan 17, 2021

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“Just buy this magic potion and all of your problems will disappear.”

Big promises about quickly improving your credit can feel like magic potions — too good to be true, fairy tales that simply aren’t real.

However, we have credit-improvement tips that aren’t just hype. They’re real and they can work wonders for some people in a very short period of time. For others,  significant credit score improvement takes more time, along with consistency and a lot of patience.

Nonetheless, the following tips are worth exploring. Depending upon the information that’s on your credit reports, these tips could help you boost your credit scores in as little as 30 days.

1. Focus on Utilization

It almost goes without saying that you need to make your payments on time if you want to earn good credit scores. If your credit reports are already littered with late payments, it’s probably going to take some time for those delinquencies to stop hurting you.

To try to boost your credit scores quickly, you need to focus on credit-scoring components over which you have more control. Your credit utilization rate is one such area.

“Credit utilization” refers to the percentage of your credit limits that’s being used on your credit card accounts. If you have a credit card with a $10,000 limit and a $5,000 balance, the account is 50% utilized (i.e., you’re using half of your available credit).

    • $5,000 Balance ÷ $10,000 Limit = 0.5 X 100 = 50% Credit Utilization Rate

Lower utilization ratios are good for your credit scores. As you use more of your available credit and your utilization ratios climb, it has a negative impact on your credit score.

Here’s why this matters.

Payment history may be king when it comes to determining credit scores, but credit utilization is the queen. Credit utilization is largely responsible for 30% of your FICO score. As a result, lowering your credit utilization is one of the most productive ways to potentially improve your credit scores.

You can lower your credit utilization in two ways:

    • Pay down your credit card balances. This increases the amount of available credit on your account. Remember the example above where a $10,000 card with a $5,000 balance was 50% utilized? If the balance on that same card was paid down to $2,500, the new credit utilization rate would be only 25% once the account was updated on your credit report.
      • $2,500 Balance ÷ $10,000 Limit = 0.25 X 100 = 25% Credit Utilization Rate
    • Ask for a credit limit increase. If you can’t afford to pay off your credit card balances all the way to $0 right away, it might be worth asking your card issuer for a credit limit increase. A credit limit increase can help to lower your credit utilization ratio now while you’re working toward paying off your full balance. Let’s say you could afford to lower the $5,000 balance on the card above to $4,000 right now, but the card issuer gave you a credit limit increase to $16,000. Those two actions would still net you a credit utilization rate of 25% even though you paid less toward your overall balance.
      • $4,000 Balance ÷ $16,000 Limit = 0.25 X 100 = 25% Credit Utilization Rate
    • Keep in mind this is only a good idea if you have the discipline to not tap into your newly acquired credit. That new extra credit needs to remain open and unused for your utilization rate to drop. If you think expanding your credit limit might tempt you to spend more, don’t do it.

2. Fix the Errors

As important as your credit reports are and as hard as the credit bureaus work to keep the information on your reports accurate, credit reporting mistakes do occur. In fact, a study by the Federal Trade Commission found that 20% of consumers had an error on at least one of their credit reports with Equifax, TransUnion or Experian.

Not every error will wreck your credit scores, but many credit reporting errors can cause severe damage. This is especially true of derogatory information like late payments and collection accounts.

Sometimes even mistakes that might seem minor on the surface could have more of an impact on your credit score than you know. Since it can be difficult to tell whether a credit error is truly damaging your score, your best bet is to review all three of your credit reports often. If you find information that isn’t correct, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute those mistakes with the credit bureaus.

Thankfully, if an incorrect negative item is removed from your credit report, there’s a good chance your credit score will improve once the error is fixed or deleted outright.

Related: 6 things to do to improve your credit in 2021

3. The Authorized User Secret

Did you know that your credit score might be able to benefit from someone else’s good credit history? When a loved one adds you onto an existing credit card account as an authorized user, the account will typically find its way onto your credit reports within a few months.

Related: Everything you need to know about authorized users

If someone in your family has made on-time payments and has a low credit utilization ratio, they can also help boost your credit score. If the account was opened some time ago, there is an added bonus for you because your loved one’s account on your report might improve the average age of your credit — another move that might be very good for your scores.

Before you ask a spouse or loved one to add you onto his/her credit card as an authorized user, it’s important to ask the following questions:

Earning Good Credit for the Long Haul

The very best way to earn and keep great credit scores is to practice smart credit management habits over a long period of time. This means that you make your payments on time and don’t charge more on a credit card than you can afford to pay off in a given month.

You should also keep an eye on how often you apply for new credit, but realize that inquiries only play a minor role in credit scores. You probably shouldn’t fill out a new credit application every week, but it’s fine — smart even — to strategically leverage your good credit to take advantage of fantastic offers when it makes sense to do so.

Featured photo by Rido/Shutterstock

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