How to Fix My Credit Score in 6 Months: Top Strategies
Need to improve your credit score to meet your financial goals? Here’s what you need to know.
December 13, 2022
Rome wasn’t built in a day; likewise, your credit rating won’t go from poor to perfect in 24 hours. But what about a longer time frame? If you want to know how to fix your credit score in six months, the good news is it may be possible.
Credit scores are complex beasts, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to securing excellent credit within a specific period. However, to help you plan for your circumstances, we’ll explain the factors that affect credit scores and how to influence your rating positively.
What are credit scores?
To know how to fix your credit score in six months, you need to understand what the number means and where it comes from.
First, three parties are involved in compiling your credit score:
Credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian)
Credit scoring agencies (FICO and VantageScore)
Lenders pass on data about your borrowing activity to the major credit bureaus, and the credit bureaus use it for your credit report. Then, credit scoring agencies take the information from your credit report to determine your credit score.
There are a few different credit scoring models, but they generally assign scores between 300 and 850. Your starting score may impact how quickly you can improve your credit rating.
If your credit score is 300, it will likely take you longer to achieve a score of 800 than someone else with a score of 500.
Factors that affect credit scores
FICO uses the following factors to determine your FICO Score:
Payment history (35%)
Amounts owed (30%)
Length of credit history (15%)
Credit mix (10%)
New credit (10%)
This gives us our first clue about how to fix your credit score in six months. Since these factors affect your credit score, you’ll need to focus on improving these aspects to boost your rating.
How often are credit scores updated?
One big piece of the puzzle is missing: How often does your credit score get updated?
As we’ve already established, multiple credit bureaus and credit scoring agencies exist. This is the first complication — different entities follow slightly different processes. Plus, not every lender reports to every credit bureau; they may receive the information at different times.
Generally speaking, lenders report monthly to credit bureaus (though they sometimes take longer). However, the day they report their information varies. For instance, credit card companies send information at the end of the credit card billing cycle. Your credit report may update multiple times monthly depending on how many lenders report information about you and when.
Then, credit scoring agencies use algorithms that automatically take information from your credit report and use it to update your score.
You can expect your credit score to update at least once a month, if not more often. But the precise frequency depends on how many credit products you have and when those lenders report.
How long do entries stay on your credit report?
Most negative marks stay on credit reports for a few years, though the exact time frame depends on the type of entry. Missed and late payments, loans in collections, student loan defaults and foreclosures all stay on your account for seven years. Meanwhile, Chapter 7 bankruptcies stay on your account for a decade.
Credit inquiries (applications for new credit) don’t affect your score after one year, although they remain on the credit report for two years.
How to fix your credit score in 6 months
Now we come to the ultimate question; how do you fix your credit score in six months?
A word of warning: Even though most people will be able to improve their credit score somewhat within six months, being able to “fix” it is another matter. Everyone’s situation is different.
The steps below won’t guarantee a perfect credit score, and they’re not the only actions you can take to boost your score. However, they’re some of the most practical steps to secure a good credit score as quickly as possible.
Avoiding missed payments
As we’ve seen, payment history is the most important determinant of credit score. Above all, this means avoiding late or missed payments where possible.
There’s nothing you can do about the payments you’ve already missed — but if you make sure to meet all future payments on time, your credit score will likely improve.
If you can, enable auto-pay on your loans and credit accounts (meaning your lender will take automatic payments from you), so you don’t have to remember all your due dates. Also, even if you occasionally have to make a late payment, avoid letting it devolve into a collection account, which can significantly impact your score.
Reducing (or eliminating) debt balances
The next most crucial factor affecting your credit score is the amounts owed. Owing more money negatively affects your credit score, so it’s a good idea to reduce your balances where possible.
Consider adopting the debt avalanche method, where you first tackle the loans with the highest interest rate (often credit card debt), then move on to debt with lower interest rates. This enables you to pay off your balances more efficiently. However, check for early payment penalties first (which sometimes apply to auto loans).
Using less available credit
Your credit utilization ratio on revolving credit is one component of the amounts owed credit scoring factor. It refers to the percentage of your available credit limit you use. You should aim for as low a number as possible.
For example, if you have a $5,000 credit limit and spend $4,000 on your credit card, you’d have an 80% credit utilization rate. Most experts recommend keeping your ratio under 30%, aiming for single digits if possible.
There are two main ways to reduce your utilization ratio. One is to request a higher credit limit from your card issuer or lender. The second is to keep your monthly balance below a certain amount each month.
Let’s take our example from above. If you have a $5,000 credit limit and want to keep your credit utilization at 25%, then aim to use only $1,250 of your credit each month and pay it off in full by the due date.
Balance is based on monthly reports to credit bureaus, usually sent at the end of your billing cycle close to your statement date. So another option is to pay off part of your balance before your billing cycle closes.
For example, if you had to spend $3,000 of your $5,000 limit, you can make a $2,000 payment before the end of your billing cycle, leaving you with a balance of $1,000. The $1,000 balance would be reported to the credit bureaus when your billing cycle ends.
Keeping accounts open
Some people think closing a credit account will help to “clean up” their report and, therefore, help them build credit. But the opposite is true.
Since the length of your credit history is one of the factors impacting your score, closing an account can have a negative impact. When it comes to installment loans like student loans and personal loans, you won’t have any choice but to close the account when you pay them off (and you shouldn’t refrain from doing so). But it’s generally not a good idea to close a credit card account.
Removing errors from your credit report
So far, we’ve focused on actions you can take that will fix your own mistakes. But despite what you might think, your credit score can sometimes be affected by events beyond your control. It’s common to have errors on your credit report due to mistakes on the side of the credit bureau or being a victim of identity fraud.
To check, you can obtain a free credit report on AnnualCreditReport.com. If you don’t recognize some entries, file a dispute with each credit bureau to remove the errors.
Refraining from new inquiries
New credit has the most negligible impact on your credit score, but when you’re aiming for credit repair, every bit helps. You shouldn’t apply for a new credit card or loan unless necessary. And if you do have to apply for new accounts, keep the inquiries to a minimum.
However, this only applies to hard inquiries. Soft inquiries (which you can carry out as a pre-check before making an official application) don’t affect your credit score.
Good things come to those who wait
The mechanics behind credit scores are complicated, so when it comes to the question of how to fix your credit score in six months, there’s no guarantee it will be possible. However, by following good practices like making on-time payments and reducing your debt, you can fix bad credit over time.
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