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Boost your credit score: 6 productive tips to put you in prime position

There’s no overnight fix when it comes to improving your credit. You can, however, make steps towards a brighter financial future with some of the advice presented here.

Gregory Andersen

Managing Editor at Tally

September 8, 2022

Do you feel like your credit score is holding you back and you’re constantly looking for the fastest ways to boost your credit score? Does it seem like your attempts to improve your credit score never help as much as you hope for?

You’re not alone. Credit card debt and poor credit holds back millions of Americans from achieving their financial goals and dreams. 

Working to improve your credit score can feel like an uphill battle. But here’s the good news: Your credit score is not permanent. It’s constantly changing, and you have the ability to improve it.

The best way to improve your credit score is through sustained, responsible money management over time. That means paying your bills on time and reducing the amount of debt you owe. 

Bethy Hardeman, our personal finance expert at Tally, believes just a few small changes can have a significant impact on your credit score.

“There’s no quick fix for credit, but there are some simple things you can do now that could get you moving in the right direction,” Hardeman said. “In fact, some of these tips could help your score in six months or less.”

Improving your credit score requires a lot of patience. So while you continue to develop your healthy money management habits, here’s a detailed guide on how to give you that extra credit score boost when you need it most.

Bullseye! Pinpoint accuracy is crucial when it comes to your credit history, so make sure your credit reports don't contain any mistakes.

What makes up my credit score?

Your credit score is a numerical score between 300 and 850. It’s calculated by an algorithm, which takes into account the following credit scoring factors for a FICO® Score:

  • 35% payment history: Your history of payments and whether or not they were on time.

  • 30% amounts owed: The amount you owe and the percentage of available credit you are actively using.

  • 15% length of credit history: The average length of all your credit accounts and loans.

  • 10% credit mix in use: The variety of credit types you have (loans, credit cards, etc.)

  • 10% new credit: Excessive new credit applications can lower your score, but occasional new accounts are not harmful.

By being aware of these credit factors, you can better understand what will help — and hurt — your credit score. 

Why does credit score matter?

Your credit affects many aspects of your financial life, including:

  • Your ability to get approved for loans or credit cards

  • The interest rate you will receive

  • Your ability to rent an apartment

  • Your rates for insurance 

Whenever you apply for something — a loan, a credit card or even an apartment lease — the other party will pull your credit history. This will show them how responsible you have been with credit in the past, which they use to estimate how responsible you might be in the future. 

Tips to boost credit score

If you’re not happy with your credit score today, you can start taking steps to improve it. Here’s where to start. 

Make sure your credit report is accurate

One of the fastest ways to boost credit score is to fix errors on your credit report. 

The information on your report can have a tremendous effect on your life, so why leave it to chance?

If you’re sharing your credit score with other people — banks, lenders, even your landlord — it’s important to know what’s behind it.

Your credit score is based on your credit report. Everyone has three different credit reports from the three credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 34% of Americans found an error on their credit report. 

So, clearly, it’s worth an extra look.

Credit report errors are also the No. 1 complaint received by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If a creditor is incorrectly showing you made late payments or defaulted on a loan, it’s almost certainly hurting your credit score.

You should also check your credit reports regularly because new information is always being added.

“Your credit report tells the story of how you’ve managed your credit and debts over the course of your life. It’s the recipe for your credit score — the number used by lenders to determine whether or not to extend credit to you,” Hardeman said. “And don’t forget that your three credit reports could have different information. This can happen when an information provider sends data to one or two bureaus but not the other one. You really need to check all three for accuracy.”

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can get one free copy of each of your three credit reports every year. These free credit reports are available at

Some of the major errors in credit reports to look out for include:

  • Personal details: Confirm the spelling of your full name and address and double-check your Social Security number and birthdate.

  • Missing credit accounts: If you’re making regular payments to a credit account that isn’t listed on your report, the omission may be harming your credit score.

  • “Late payments” that were made on time: Your payment history is the single-greatest factor (up to 35 percent) for credit-reporting bureaus when they calculate your credit score, and late payments hurt your credit score. If they’re on your credit report, make sure they’re accurate.

  • Outdated information: Late payments, collections and charged-off accounts remain on your credit report for seven years, while bankruptcies can last up to to 10 years and hard inquiries last up to two years. All of these can hurt your credit score, so be certain all of your details are up to date.

  • Unauthorized credit applications: Be thorough and confirm that you are responsible for every credit application on your report.

“If you have a late payment on a credit card, but it’s recent and out of the ordinary, you can try to call your credit card company to request that it be removed,” Hardeman said. “Of course, you need to back this up with a good reason and the data that shows you’ve been a good credit holder, but it can be worth a shot.”

If you find any of these errors in your credit reports, address them immediately. You’ll need to file a separate dispute for each error and for each credit report. Learn more about how to initiate a dispute online.

Minimize your credit usage

Just because you have a $5,000 credit line doesn’t mean you need to use it all every month.

Your credit utilization rate is a major factor in calculating your credit score. It’s the amount of revolving credit you’re currently using divided by the total amount available from your revolving line of credit. 

In general, your credit utilization rate should be 30 percent or less of your total credit line. 

The two primary credit score providers, FICO and VantageScore, calculate your credit score in different ways. Still, your credit utilization rate is a major factor (up to 30 percent) when credit-reporting bureaus are calculating your credit score.

“It’s a common misconception that you need to carry a balance on your cards from month to month to show active usage,” Hardeman said. “That’s just not true. You can show utilization and boost your score by charging a little bit on your cards each month and paying off the balances in full.”

The easiest way to minimize your credit utilization rate is to simply reduce spending. But that’s not always an option.

As an alternative, you can make micropayments — smaller, more frequent payments throughout the month — to keep your balance in check. By increasing your payment frequency, you decrease the likelihood that you’re carrying a big balance when your credit card issuer makes its monthly report to the credit bureaus.

“Your credit report tells the story of how you’ve managed your credit and debts over the course of your life. It’s the recipe for your credit score,” Hardeman said.

You can also request a credit limit increase. If your goal is to keep your credit utilization rate below 30 percent, and spending less is not an option, increasing the credit limit makes complete sense.

If you’re able to increase your credit limit and maintain your balance, your credit utilization rate will immediately improve. However, credit limit increases often require a hard credit check — and that can have a negative effect on your credit score.

Your best bet is to request a credit limit increase from your credit card issuer without a hard credit check.

Choose wisely: You can improve your credit score by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card, but you're also on the hook for anything that goes awry.

Choose wisely: You can improve your credit score by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card, but you're also on the hook for anything that goes awry.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card can be an easy way to improve your credit score — but it’s not without risk.

Think of it like piggybacking on someone else’s credit.

If you know someone who has good credit (and who is also willing to help improve yours) ask them nicely to add your name as an authorized user to an existing credit card account. This means you can use the card to make purchases, but you won’t be the primary account holder.

As an authorized user, you also may not have the same amount of access as the primary account holder. But in this case, you’re really only looking to boost your credit score.

Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card can increase your available credit, which, in turn, can lower your debt-to-income ratio. And that lower ratio could provide a quick bump in your credit score.

The tricky part about being an authorized user is finding a willing participant, such as a trusted family member. That’s because the responsibility of paying the credit card bill lands squarely on the shoulders of the primary account holder. And if he or she misses a payment on the card, both of your credit scores will likely take a hit.

“Before you become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into,” Hardeman said. “You have to be prepared to take on the risk. This strategy usually works best with a close family member like a spouse or parent.”

Your best bet is to seek out your credit hero. Find someone who makes smart financial decisions and make sure both of you understand the benefits and drawbacks.

Usually, becoming an authorized user is a good strategy if you have a relatively short credit history. The potential benefit to your credit score is smaller if you’ve been building credit for a long time.

Improve your credit mix

Credit mix refers to the different types of credit. It accounts for 10% of your credit score. 

If you only have credit cards, your credit mix is slim. In this case, applying for another type of credit may help boost your score. You might consider a small personal loan or even a credit builder loan.  

Of course, you should only apply for credit if you actually need it. The application process will result in a hard credit pull, which can temporarily ding your score — and you’ll have to pay the interest costs associated with the loan. 

Sign up for Experian Boost

Experian Boost™ is a service offered by Experian™, one of the main credit bureaus. It allows you to get a credit boost from bills you’re already paying, like cell phone bills and utility bills. 

These bills usually do not show up on your credit report and, therefore, do not affect your credit rating. But with Experian Boost, you can opt in to having these bills reported to Experian. On-time payments for these bills will then help you build positive credit history. This is one of the fastest ways to boost your credit score — and it’s free! 

Automate your payments

Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score, so it’s extremely important to stay on top of your payments. This includes payments on any sort of credit, e.g., credit cards, loans or mortgages.

The simplest way to ensure you make on-time payments is to set up autopay. You can typically do this online and can choose whether you want to make the minimum payment, the full statement balance or a fixed monthly amount. 

If you’re not sure how much you’ll be able to pay each month, start with the minimum payment. As long as you make at least the minimum payment, your payment will be considered on time for credit-building purposes. 

Bottom line

There’s no overnight fix when it comes to improving your credit. But by using some of the fastest ways to boost your credit score discussed above, you can make concrete steps towards a brighter financial future. 

If it feels like credit card debt is holding you back from your financial goals, Tally† is an app that may be able to help. Tally helps qualifying Americans consolidate credit card balances into a lower interest line of credit. Learn how Tally works here

†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. Based on your credit history, the APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% - 29.99% per year. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.