In most cases, you can improve your credit score by at least 100 points within a month. The key is focus, organization, and using the right methods.
Using the methods in this post, I have helped hundreds of people quickly improve their credit scores.
Now let’s get into it so you can do the same!
10 Steps to Raise Your Credit Score 100 Points
The following methods can help you improve your credit score by 100 points or more. You should start seeing results in as little as 30 days.
If one of the methods doesn’t apply to your situation, just move on to the next one.
- First: Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report
- Identify Negative Entries On Your Credit Report
- Challenge Late Payments, Collections & Charge Offs
- Optimize Your Credit Utilization Ratio
- Establish a Solid Payment History
- Limit Credit Inquiries and Other Methods
- Build Positive Credit With A Secured Credit Card
- Get a Credit Builder Loan
- Become an Authorized User on Someone Else’s Account
- Get a Co-Signer to Help You Build Credit
1. Get A Copy Of Your Credit Report
Before we get into the credit building methods, there are a few things you’re going to need to do.
First, you need a current copy of your credit report. In addition, I recommend signing up for a credit monitoring service. This allows you to pull your credit report and credit score every day to see what progress you’ve made.
There are several good credit monitoring services out there, so it’s up to you which one you want to use.
I use TransUnion and it’s worked well for me. Now you can use free credit monitoring services like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame which have nice mobile apps so you can check your score seamlessly.
No single free monitoring service will give you access to your scores from all three credit bureaus, but even monitoring scores from one or two credit bureaus give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on with your credit.
For example, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, one of these free services can alert you by telling you about new inquiries on your credit file.
If you want your official credit reports from all three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — visit annualcreditreport.com to get started.
Normally, you’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each credit bureau at annualcreditreport.com. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, you can get a free credit report each week through April of 2021.
Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report
2. Identify Negative Entries On Your Credit Report
Once you have your credit report in front of you, let’s start going through it.
First, let’s identify the negative items on your credit report that need to be addressed. When I say “addressed”, I mean we’re going to attempt to get them completely removed from your credit report.
That’s right —100 percent removed as if they were never there. Succeeding with this can bump up your credit score immediately.
Which Entries Should I Remove to Improve Credit?
Here are some negative entries you should be looking for on your credit report:
- Late Payments
- Charge offs
- Tax Liens
If you’re like most people, you probably have a few late payments and perhaps a collection or charge off. If you have more serious negative items, don’t worry, there are removal techniques for these too.
That said, let’s start with the most common negative entries.
3. Challenge Late Payments, Collections, and Charge Offs
I have written many articles about removing late payments, collections, and charge offs, so I don’t want to get super specific here.
Instead I’ll share an overview and then point you to the articles that will tell you how to execute the techniques.
Basically, in order to remove these negative items, you’ll need to follow a couple of steps. First, you need to write the original creditor a “Goodwill Letter.”
This letter will simply explain the situation that led up to the late payment, collection or charge off.
At the end of the letter, you’ll ask that they consider making a “goodwill adjustment” and remove the entry from your credit report. It’s simple.
What If A Goodwill Letter Doesn’t Work?
If the goodwill letter doesn’t work, you’ll need to follow more advanced techniques to get the negative entry removed.
The advanced techniques are outlined in each one of the following articles depending on the type of negative entry:
- 3 Ways to Get a Late Payment Removed From Your Credit Report
- 3 Steps to Remove Collections From Your Credit Report
- How to Remove a Charge Off From Your Credit Report
Payment History & Credit Use Can Improve Your Credit Score
Removing late payments, collections, and charge-offs will probably make your credit score rise by 100 points.
But what if you don’t have any negative marks and you still want to improve your score? Or what if the negative items are accurate and can’t be removed?
You’ll need to take additional steps and change your credit habits. Let’s get into these steps now.
4. Optimize Your Credit Utilization Ratio (30%) For Huge Credit Score Improvements
A large part of your credit score — 30 percent of the popular FICO scoring model — comes from your credit utilization ratio.
Credit utilization ratio is a fancy term for how much of your available credit you’re actually using. If you’re using all of your available credit, your credit utilization ratio is 100 percent.
A credit utilization rate above 30 percent is likely pulling down your FICO score and your scores with the three major credit bureaus.
So how much of your credit are you using? You can find out by checking your credit report. For many consumers, credit card debt can be the huge problem here.
Keeping Credit Card Debt Low
If you have a credit card with a $1,000 credit limit and your balance is $800, you’re using 80 percent of your available credit. This will hurt your credit score.
Simply put: You want to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent on all of your credit cards.
So does this mean you could average 30 percent by having a 60 percent balance on one card and a 0 percent balance on another card?
Nope, each card should be under 30 percent individually. This is a very important thing to keep in mind if you want to improve your credit score.
So to see quick credit score improvements, pay down credit cards with a balance above 30 percent of the available credit.
Attacking Credit Card Debt From the Other Side
There’s another way to improve your credit utilization rate: by raising your credit limits.
Let’s look at that $1,000 credit card limit from above. If you have an $800 balance — an 80 percent credit utilization ratio — you could lower this ratio by getting a higher credit limit on the card.
It never hurts to ask your credit card company for a higher credit limit, especially if you’ve been making on-time payments for a year or more.
The key here is to avoid using the new available credit. You need it to stay unused so it can help lower your credit utilization ratio.
Don’t Always Close Accounts
You can help your credit history by keeping old accounts open even after you pay them off. This isn’t possible with an auto loan or a student loan.
But a credit card account or line of credit with a balance of $0 can stay in your portfolio indefinitely. It’ll help your credit utilization ratio — and your overall credit score — just by existing. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
This method will also help you length of credit history which we’ll touch on below.
5. Payment History (35%): The Biggest Piece of the Puzzle
The FICO scoring model emphasizes payment history more than anything else. Your payment history drives 35 percent of your FICO score.
There’s really only one thing you can do to improve your payment history: always make on-time payments, especially on credit accounts but also on your cell phone and utility bills.
Setting up auto payment options can help if you tend to forget due dates. You can find all sorts of budgeting apps like YNAB, Mint, Pocketguard, and Wally to help tame your personal finances and schedule your monthly payments for you.
If you already have late payments pulling down your score, consider sending goodwill letters to your car loan or credit card issuer explaining your mistake. You never know. The creditor may be willing to help improve your credit profile.
6. Limiting Credit Inquiries and Other Good Habits
Together, payment history (35 percent) and credit utilization rate (30 percent) comprise the bulk of your credit score. The rest of your score comes from a few other matters you can also try to control:
- Length of Credit History (15%): A longer credit history — seven years, for example — provides a good sample size for creditors and can help build credit. This is another good reason to keep some old revolving accounts open even if you don’t use them. A credit card or line of credit that you’ve had for years can help raise the average age of your accounts.
- Credit Inquiries (10%): Only hard inquiries hurt your credit, and one hard inquiry by itself won’t be a problem. Hard inquiries occur when you apply for a new credit card, mortgage, or personal loan. When you spread three or more hard inquiries across a 12-month period, you could see a credit score decrease. Soft inquiries — which occur when you get pre-approved for a personal loan or get a free credit score from your monitoring service — do not hurt your credit score.
- Credit Mix (10%): Keeping a variety of accounts can help you maintain a good credit score. A good credit mix may include a mortgage, a home equity line of credit, a few credit card accounts, and a personal loan or two. Having all credit cards and no installment loans could pull down your credit rating a little.
How to Rebuild a Damaged Credit History
So far we’ve talked about removing negative information and establishing better personal finance habits — both of which can improve your credit score significantly beginning today.
But what if you’ve made several mistakes and have bad credit already? What if you’re just starting out in life and don’t have any credit history at all?
What can you do to speed up the process of improving your credit file?
Here are some ideas:
7. Get a Secured Credit Card
It’s an age-old Catch-22: Your bad credit score keeps you from getting a credit card. Simultaneously, not having a credit card keeps you from improving your credit score.
Secured credit cards can help spring this trap. Secured credit card work because you become the lender and the borrower on the account.
You make a deposit to fund the credit card account so the lender doesn’t have to take a risk. Then you use the card just like you would use any other credit card or debit card.
Keep the account in good standing by making regular on-time payments and keeping the credit card balance well below the credit limit. Over time the credit bureaus start to get the idea: You’re establishing good payment habits.
Pretty soon you should start to see an improvement in your credit score.
Back when I had bad credit, I got myself a secured credit card and this kick-started my journey to a perfect credit score.
There are hundreds of secured credit cards to choose from. I’ve reviewed quite a few secured credit cards on this blog and you can read those reviews for some guidance on picking the best one.
That said, my personal favorite is the Open Sky Secured Credit Card.
You should expect to pay some annual fees to open a secured credit card account.
8. Apply for a Credit Builder Loan
A credit builder loan works a lot like a secured credit card, but you take even less risk because you never spend the “borrowed” money.
The money you borrow will go into a bank account. The lender will set up auto payments from that same bank account. So the money for payments will always be there waiting to be drafted.
Without you doing anything, your credit profile will show on-time, regular payments. As you already know, payment history comprises 35 percent of your FICO score.
Expect some high loan origination fees and a high interest rate. I’ll be blunt: You’ll lose money on a credit builder loan. But when you build credit you can save thousands of dollars by getting lower interest rates in the future.
9. Become an Authorized User on Someone Else’s Account
As an authorized user you can piggy-back on a friend or family member’s good payment history. Just ask the account holder to make you an authorized user. You’ll have to provide some personal information but not much else.
Your friend, the account holder, won’t have to take any risk. He or she doesn’t even have to give you a credit card.
This won’t help you score as much as successfully using a secured credit card or credit-builder loan would. But every little bit helps, right?
10. Ask a Friend or Family Member to Co-Sign on a Loan
Your friend or family member would have to take a risk in order to co-sign on a loan for you. Co-signing means the friend would take responsibility for your full amount of debt if you failed to pay.
You’ll need a co-signer who has a credit profile strong enough to get approved for the loan.
Getting a personal loan or credit card account on the strength of your co-signer’s credit history — and then keeping the account in good standing yourself — can help your credit score tremendously.
Bonus Idea: Have A Professional Help Improve Your Credit Score
I should probably mention the easiest and quickest way to improve your credit score is to have a professional credit repair company help.
For this, I suggest Lexington Law Credit Repair. They’ll charge a monthly subscription rate, but it’ll be money well spent if you can save thousands of dollars by getting lower interest rates in the future.
Credit repair companies like Lexington Law won’t do anything you couldn’t do yourself, but they’ll do the work for you.
Check out their website.
I hope you find these methods useful in your credit repair journey. Please let me know down in the comments which methods worked best for you.