How Long Does It Take to Improve a Credit Score?
It's possible to improve your credit score in as little as a few months, though drastic improvements may take a bit more time.
Contributing Writer at Tally
December 22, 2021
Your credit score plays an important role in your ability to borrow money.
A good credit score demonstrates to lenders that you are responsible with borrowed funds and there’s a good chance you’ll make payments on time and in full.
If you have a bad credit score, lenders may be less willing to loan you money. If they do, it may come with strings attached, like higher interest rates.
So if it’s in need of repair, how long does it take to improve a credit score? Learn the factors that go into your credit score and some of the steps you can take to boost your credit score.
What is a credit score?
A credit score is a three-digit number that offers lenders a snapshot of your creditworthiness. The higher the score, the more attractive you are to lenders. A high credit score demonstrates that you are responsible with borrowed funds.
Credit scores are different from credit reports. Your credit report contains your credit history, which includes the accounts you have open, your total available credit and your payment history. This information is provided by your lenders to the three main credit bureaus, each of which has a credit report with your information.
The three main credit bureaus are:
The information on your credit report is then used to compile your credit score. The bureaus work closely with the two companies who offer credit scores, FICO and VantageScore.
What factors go into credit scores?
There are numerous components that make up your credit score. As mentioned, there are two different types of credit scores: FICO Score and VantageScore. Both generally consider the same factors when determining credit scores, though they weigh them differently.
FICO's scoring model is based on the following:
Payment history: This is a breakdown of the payments you’ve made on your account and whether they are on time or late. This accounts for 35% of your score.
Amounts owed: This factor considers your total available credit and the balances you have outstanding. It accounts for 30% of your score. The credit utilization rate offers a snapshot of how much you owe.
Length of credit history: The longer your accounts are open, the more favorable you appear to lenders. This accounts for 15% of your FICO score.
Credit mix: Lenders prefer to see more than one type of borrowed money. Having a mix of other types of credit along with your credit card, like loans or mortgages, can improve your score. This accounts for 10% of your score.
New credit: Opening new credit can improve your credit mix, but lenders must perform a hard inquiry to open a new account. You may see a short-term dip as a result of this inquiry, but this factor only makes up 10% of your score. Making on-time payments can help you recover from a hard inquiry quickly. Hard inquiries can stay on your credit report for two years but only impact your score for a few months.
VantageScore does not assign specific percentages to their scores, but rather indicates how influential certain factors are.
The VantageScore scoring model is based on the following:
Total credit usage, balance, and available credit: Extremely influential
Credit mix and experience: Highly influential
Payment history: Moderately influential
Age of credit history: Less influential
New accounts: Less influential
Now that you have a better understanding of the factors that go into the two different credit scores, let's take a closer look at some of the things you can do to improve your scores.
How long does it take to improve a credit score?
The answer to this question can be a bit loaded. It depends on your score, the types of improvements you're making and your lenders.
As a general rule of thumb, you can expect it to take one to three months for short-term improvements to your credit score. Just as one missed payment can harm your score, a single on-time payment could potentially help you build credit.
Why does it take a few months for information to show up on your credit report and therefore impact your score? It can take at least 60 days from when you receive your statement for a payment to reflect in your credit history.
It typically takes lenders 30 days to report payment history to the credit bureaus. After this information is reported to the credit bureaus, it’s added to your credit report where it then impacts your credit score.
Having said that, each person's credit report is unique. The amount of time it will take you to improve your credit score depends very much on the reasons why your score is low in the first place. If your score is low because of missed payments, making on-time payments in full could improve your score in as little as a few months because those factors are weighed more heavily in both the FICO and VantageScore models.
If your score is low because you’ve maxed out your available credit, it may take you a bit longer to improve your score. One of the factors that goes into your credit score is your credit utilization rate, as this is a direct representation of your available credit. It compares your credit used to the total credit that you have available. Ideally, your credit utilization ratio would be around 30% or lower.
In summary, it can take a few months for information — both good and bad — to appear on your credit report. Your score is not impacted until the information appears on your credit report.
What steps can I take to improve my score?
Improving your credit score can take time. Although you may see a boost from on-time payments, it takes patience and diligence to build an excellent credit score. Having said that, below are some of the steps you can take to do so.
1. Avoid late payments
A late payment is a sure-fire way to lower your credit score, which is why it’s so important to make the minimum required payments on time. This rule of thumb applies to all your debts, not just those associated with credit cards. It’s equally important to make your student loan, auto loan, personal loan and mortgage payments on time each month as well.
If you happen to miss a payment, make it as soon as you notice the error. If you make the payment before your lender reports the information to the credit bureaus, there's a chance it will not impact your score.
One way to avoid late monthly payments is by setting up automatic payments. Your lender will automatically withdraw funds from your bank account to cover your balance each month. You won't have to remember your due dates, but you will need to make sure there's enough money in your checking account to cover the balance. You can also consider using a tool like Tally† to help manage your due dates.
2. Pay off existing debt
Another great way to improve your credit file is by paying off any debt you already have, as this lowers your credit utilization ratio.
For instance, if you're a borrower with a $2,000 credit card limit, a $3,000 credit card limit and a $5,000 line of credit, your total available credit is $10,000. If you max out all three of these, your credit utilization ratio would be 100%. If you carried $9,000 in balances and had $1,000 available, your credit utilization ratio would be 90%.
Remember, your credit utilization ratio should be around 30% or lower. So paying off your existing balances is an excellent step to take toward credit repair. During this time, its wise to avoid taking on new debt.
If you’re looking at your personal finances, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to find extra money to pay off your debt. Setting up a budget can help you do just that.
3. Request a credit limit increase
Another way to lower your credit utilization rate is by requesting a credit limit increase. For instance, let's say you’re carrying $9,000 in balances on your $10,000 in total credit. The credit card account with a $2,000 credit limit currently has a $1,000 balance. You pay this off, which brings your credit utilization rate to 80%.
Then, you ask your lender to increase the total available credit on the card. This is often based on your payment history and income. Your credit card issuer obliges and increases your limit to $3,000.
Now, your total credit is $11,000. You have outstanding balances of $8,000. Your credit utilization ratio is 73% because you decreased your credit usage. There is no harm in requesting an increase from your lender on an existing account.
4. Review your credit report
It’s smart to review your credit report once per year at a minimum. Twenty percent of people have at least one error on one of their credit reports. This could be something minor, like missing personal information. It could also be negative information weighing down their credit score, like an identity thief opening a fraudulent account in their name.
Reviewing your credit report allows you to verify that the information contained in the report is correct. If you catch any errors, you can work with the credit bureaus to have them removed. This could possibly improve your score. You can secure a complimentary credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com to start the process.
It's possible for you to improve a poor credit score
Your credit score is an important financial measuring stick, as it displays your creditworthiness to lenders. If you’re not satisfied with your credit score, it's possible for you to work to improve it.
Just how long does it take to improve a credit score? It can depend on the type of information contained in your credit file. If your score is low because of missed payments and high balances, making on-time payments in full could boost your score in as little as a few months.
One tool that can help put you on the right track is Tally. Tally is designed to help you manage and pay down credit card debt quickly and efficiently, possibly putting you on the path to financial freedom.
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.