How Can I Improve a Bad Credit Score to Fair?

Beautiful young smiling woman working on laptop and drinking coffee while sitting in a big comfortable chair at home

If you have bad credit and are having trouble getting approved for a new loan, it may be time to focus on increasing your credit score. You can improve a bad credit score by following a few simple steps—which could help you save thousands of dollars.

What Is Considered a Bad Credit Score?

Credit scores are used by lenders to judge how likely it is that a borrower will pay back their debt. The FICO® scoring model, used by the majority of lenders, places credit scores in a range from 300 to 850. Those scores are broken into different ranges, also called credit bands.

Within these ranges, scores between 300 and 579 are considered very poor, while scores between 580 and 669 are considered fair. Anything above 669 is considered good, very good or exceptional, depending on where it falls. Having a fair score is better than having a very poor score, but ultimately you should aim to get your score to good or above to maximize your financial possibilities.

How Can I Boost My Bad Credit Score?

Improving a bad credit score can seem daunting, but in reality, it might not be too hard. Typically it takes time for credit scores to change, but a new tool called Experian Boost®ø is helping many people increase their FICO® Score instantly. Boost uses your on-time utility and telecom payments to help improve your FICO® Score.

With Experian Boost, consumers can connect their Experian account to their bank accounts to identify utility and telecom payment history. Once you confirm the data, it is added to your Experian credit file and a new FICO® Score is calculated in minutes. You can learn more about how Experian Boost works here.

Experian Boost is free and easy to use, and it's a great score-boosting option for people who have a record of on-time utility or telecom payments. The increase from using Experian Boost could be enough to move your score from very poor to fair and is a great first step in improving your credit score.

Steps to Boost Your Credit Score to Fair and Above

Beyond Experian Boost, you can increase your FICO® Score by adopting a few key habits. Start with these four steps:

  1. Pay all your bills on time. Payment history is the most important aspect of your FICO® Score, and even one late payment can negatively impact your score. Make sure to pay all your outstanding bills, and continue to make payments on time if you want to improve your credit scores over time.
  2. Be mindful of your credit utilization ratio. Credit utilization is calculated by dividing the amount of credit you are currently using by the total amount of credit available to you. This means the more you spend on your credit cards, the higher your utilization ratio will be. Credit utilization is the second most important aspect of your FICO® Score, accounting for 30% of your score. To improve your credit scores, keep your utilization ratio under 30%—under 10% is even better.
  3. Dispute inaccurate information in your credit reports. Mistakes happen and inaccurate information can sometimes make its way into your credit file. Monitoring your credit reports is an easy way to uncover any false information or errors. If you see something out of place, file a dispute with the creditor and the credit bureau as soon as possible.
  4. Avoid applying for too much new credit. Every time someone other than you requests your credit report—which happens each time you apply for new credit—a hard inquiry is recorded in your credit file. Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for up to two years, and in some cases can bring down your credit scores. Hard inquiries indicate how much credit you've applied for, and multiple applications within a short period can signal to a lender that you may be overextended. Try to limit or spread out your new credit applications to make sure they don't negatively affect your credit scores.

In addition to the above tips, getting a copy of your free credit report will give you an idea of what might be bringing your score down. Once you have an idea of what's in your reports, follow our tips and continue to practice good credit habits to help improve your scores over time.

How Good Is Your Credit Score?

300 credit score301 credit score302 credit score303 credit score304 credit score305 credit score306 credit score307 credit score308 credit score309 credit score310 credit score311 credit score312 credit score313 credit score314 credit score315 credit score316 credit score317 credit score318 credit score319 credit score320 credit score321 credit score322 credit score323 credit score324 credit score325 credit score326 credit score327 credit score328 credit score329 credit score330 credit score331 credit score332 credit score333 credit score334 credit score335 credit score336 credit score337 credit score338 credit score339 credit score340 credit score341 credit score342 credit score343 credit score344 credit score345 credit score346 credit score347 credit score348 credit score349 credit score350 credit score351 credit score352 credit score353 credit score354 credit score355 credit score356 credit score357 credit score358 credit score359 credit score360 credit score361 credit score362 credit score363 credit score364 credit score365 credit score366 credit score367 credit score368 credit score369 credit score370 credit score371 credit score372 credit score373 credit score374 credit score375 credit score376 credit score377 credit score378 credit score379 credit score380 credit score381 credit score382 credit score383 credit score384 credit score385 credit score386 credit score387 credit score388 credit score389 credit score390 credit score391 credit score392 credit score393 credit score394 credit score395 credit score396 credit score397 credit score398 credit score399 credit score400 credit score401 credit score402 credit score403 credit score404 credit score405 credit score406 credit score407 credit score408 credit score409 credit score410 credit score411 credit score412 credit score413 credit score414 credit score415 credit score416 credit score417 credit score418 credit score419 credit score420 credit score421 credit score422 credit score423 credit score424 credit score425 credit score426 credit score427 credit score428 credit score429 credit score430 credit score431 credit score432 credit score433 credit score434 credit score435 credit score436 credit score437 credit score438 credit score439 credit score440 credit score441 credit score442 credit score443 credit score444 credit score445 credit score446 credit score447 credit score448 credit score449 credit score450 credit score451 credit score452 credit score453 credit score454 credit score455 credit score456 credit score457 credit score458 credit score459 credit score460 credit score461 credit score462 credit score463 credit score464 credit score465 credit score466 credit score467 credit score468 credit score469 credit score470 credit score471 credit score472 credit score473 credit score474 credit score475 credit score476 credit score477 credit score478 credit score479 credit score480 credit score481 credit score482 credit score483 credit score484 credit score485 credit score486 credit score487 credit score488 credit score489 credit score490 credit score491 credit score492 credit score493 credit score494 credit score495 credit score496 credit score497 credit score498 credit score499 credit score500 credit score501 credit score502 credit score503 credit score504 credit score505 credit score506 credit score507 credit score508 credit score509 credit score510 credit score511 credit score512 credit score513 credit score514 credit score515 credit score516 credit score517 credit score518 credit score519 credit score520 credit score521 credit score522 credit score523 credit score524 credit score525 credit score526 credit score527 credit score528 credit score529 credit score530 credit score531 credit score532 credit score533 credit score534 credit score535 credit score536 credit score537 credit score538 credit score539 credit score540 credit score541 credit score542 credit score543 credit score544 credit score545 credit score546 credit score547 credit score548 credit score549 credit score550 credit score551 credit score552 credit score553 credit score554 credit score555 credit score556 credit score557 credit score558 credit score559 credit score560 credit score561 credit score562 credit score563 credit score564 credit score565 credit score566 credit score567 credit score568 credit score569 credit score570 credit score571 credit score572 credit score573 credit score574 credit score575 credit score576 credit score577 credit score578 credit score579 credit score

The purpose of this question submission tool is to provide general education on credit reporting. The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. However, if your question is of interest to a wide audience of consumers, the Experian team may include it in a future post and may also share responses in its social media outreach. If you have a question, others likely have the same question, too. By sharing your questions and our answers, we can help others as well.

Personal credit report disputes cannot be submitted through Ask Experian. To dispute information in your personal credit report, simply follow the instructions provided with it. Your personal credit report includes appropriate contact information including a website address, toll-free telephone number and mailing address.

To submit a dispute online visit Experian's Dispute Center. If you have a current copy of your personal credit report, simply enter the report number where indicated, and follow the instructions provided. If you do not have a current personal report, Experian will provide a free copy when you submit the information requested. Additionally, you may obtain a free copy of your report once a week through December 31, 2022 at AnnualCreditReport.