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There is no "quick fix" to credit, but the sooner you begin work on your credit score, the better. It can take several months or even years to build or rebuild an excellent credit score, especially if you've made some serious mistakes in the recent past.
But there are some things you can do to improve your credit score that can have a positive impact more quickly.
How Often Is Your Credit Score Updated?
Services that show you your credit score may advertise that they update your score every month or even every week, but that doesn't mean the credit report information your score is based on has necessarily changed.
Your credit score is calculated the moment it's requested based on the information that creditors report to the national credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Creditors report information to the credit bureaus on their own timeline, generally once every 30 to 45 days. They may not report to all three bureaus, or if they do, they may not report to all three at the same time.
So while your credit score based on data from Experian may have been updated based on recent reporting, that may not be the case with credit scores based on data from one of the other two bureaus.
That said, if you have a lot of accounts with multiple creditors, you may be able to get an updated score several times throughout the month as each reports to the credit bureaus.
Also, the amount your credit score changes will be based on the new information from your creditors. Some credit score factors have a bigger impact on your score than others.
What Factors Affect Your Credit Score?
Your FICO® Score☉ is influenced by five factors in your relationship with your creditors. Understanding each one and how much they impact your score can help you prioritize your efforts to improve your credit history.
- Payment history: The most important element, your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO® Score. Paying on time every month is crucial to maintaining a positive payment history. If you miss just one payment by 30 days or more, it could drop your score significantly.
- Amounts owed: The total amount you owe is a factor in your credit score, but this component focuses more on your credit utilization ratio than anything else. Your utilization ratio is the percentage of your available credit on credit cards and other revolving accounts that you're using at a given time. The lower your balances compared with your credit limits, the better it is for your credit score. This factor also considers how close you are to paying off your loans. Amounts owed makes up 30% of your FICO® Score.
- Length of credit history: The FICO® Score model considers how long you've been using credit, as well as the average age of your credit accounts. Opening multiple credit accounts in a short period can significantly decrease the average age of your accounts, so it's best to apply for new credit only when you need it. This factor makes up 15% of your score.
- Credit mix: Having different types of credit on your credit reports shows a broader capability of managing your debts. For example, having a credit card, an auto loan, student loans and a mortgage can be better than just having credit cards. However, you should avoid applying for new credit simply to bolster your credit mix. Your credit mix makes up 10% of your FICO® Score.
- New credit: The last 10% of your FICO® Score is determined by new credit accounts. Virtually every time you apply for credit, the lender will check your credit based on one or more of your credit reports. When this occurs, the credit report will record what's called a hard inquiry, which may cause your credit score to dip slightly for a short time. However, if you apply for multiple credit accounts in a short period, it could have a negative compounding effect.
When you check your credit report and score, determine how well you're handling each of these five factors and what you can do to make adjustments for the better.
Fastest Ways to Improve Your Credit
It's unlikely you'll be able to get your credit score to where you want it in just 30 days, but there are some actions you can take that can improve your score more quickly than others:
- Pay off credit card debt. Your credit utilization rate changes as your credit card and other revolving credit account balances change. If you have the means to pay down large balances in a short period—either with cash or via a consolidation loan—your credit score will be updated as soon as your lenders report the lower balance.
- Become an authorized user. If you have a family member who has a credit card with a positive history, consider asking them to add you to the account as an authorized user. Once that's reported to the credit bureaus, the entire history of the account will be added to your credit reports, which can help improve your score.
- Use Experian Boost®ø. Historically, only credit accounts have been reported to the national credit bureaus. But with Experian Boost, you can also add your utility, phone and even streaming service payments to your Experian credit file in order to try to boost your credit score. To use this free tool, you'll connect your bank account and verify eligible positive payments. Once they're added to your Experian credit report, you'll be able to see the results instantly.
- Dispute credit report inaccuracies. Rarely, creditors may report inaccurate or unsubstantiated information to the credit bureaus. Check your credit report regularly to make sure everything is accurate. If you find something that isn't, file a dispute with the credit bureaus. If their investigation supports your claim, the information will be removed or modified and your credit score will reflect that change.
Again, improving your credit can be a long process, but taking these steps can give you a head start and give you the chance to see improvements early on in the process.
Is There a "Quick Fix" to Repairing Credit?
Unfortunately, there's no way to improve your credit overnight. In some cases, credit repair companies may advertise fast results, but they can't do anything about your credit score that you can't do for yourself.
Credit repair companies often promise that they can improve your credit score by disputing information on your credit reports for a fee. If negative information is legitimate, disputing it won't cause it to be removed.
In general, it's best to develop good credit habits and use them to build your credit history. Go over your credit report and the credit score factors above to plan out the steps you can take to improve your credit score now and in the future.
Building and Maintaining Good Credit Is a Lifelong Endeavor
If your credit score isn't where you want it to be, building it can have a huge positive impact on your ability to get affordable credit and even cheaper auto and homeowners insurance rates. But once you achieve your goal, you may be tempted to focus less on your credit score.
Even after building credit is no longer a priority, it's important to continue to practice good credit habits to maintain your positive history. With Experian's free credit monitoring service, you can get real-time updates when information on your Experian credit report changes. You'll also get free access to your FICO® Score powered by Experian data and your Experian credit report.
As you keep track of your credit score and the information that informs it, you'll be in a better position to make adjustments as needed to keep your credit score in tip-top shape.