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How long does it take to raise your credit score?

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The time it’ll take to raise your credit score depends on the reason your score needs boosting in the first place. If your score is low because you don’t have much credit history or you’re just starting your credit building journey, your score can be boosted within months.

It may take a little more time if your score is low from the amount of debt you have, but finding the right debt relief option is the first step you’ll need to take to get on the right track.

For those who have hurt their creditworthiness through missed payments or going through bankruptcy, making your way back to a healthy credit score will take even more patience. In certain cases, the full recovery time can take years.

Your credit report is a history of your past relationships with credit. For example, if you consistently make late or missed payments, those derogatory marks will stay on your report for a long time. Let’s take a look at how long different derogatory marks stay on your credit report, how long it takes to raise your credit score and some of the top ways you can work on improving your credit score.

Raising your score depends on your starting point

Your credit score isn’t just a judgment call, it’s determined through a formula considering five different factors. Listed in order of importance, each of the following factors can raise or lower your credit score:

  • Payment history (35 percent)
  • Credit utilization (30 percent)
  • Length of credit history (15 percent)
  • Credit mix (10 percent)
  • New credit (10 percent)

With a history of consistent payments being the most influential factor, a great opportunity is offered to those new to credit cards. Every month you pay your card’s bill on time will bump your credit score up, so set a routine and you can grow your creditworthiness quickly—as long as you can avoid missing a credit card payment.

Your credit utilization ratio (also referred to as debt-to-available-credit ratio) is how much of your total credit limit you use across all lines of credit. Typically, you want to keep this figure between 10 and 30 percent to stay in good standing. Opening up new card accounts or getting a credit limit increase can help build credit by decreasing this ratio, but that isn’t all it takes. By making the effort to pay off your outstanding balances you’ll help your credit utilization, thus improving your credit score.

The length of credit history is fancy-talk for the average age of your credit accounts. The longer the account has been open, the better, so you may want to avoid closing an old account to keep yourself out of poor credit. There are cases where canceling a credit card account is the right move, but as a general rule you’ll benefit from keeping old ones open.

Adding new types of debt into your profile such as personal loans or auto loans will give you a healthier credit mix and raise your credit score. If you can manage the payments, opening new credit card accounts and other debt is generally beneficial. That being said, don’t apply for multiple new credit sources all at once—it doesn’t look good in the eyes of credit issuers.

For those who are looking to boost their credit score because you’ve missed credit card or loan payments, declared bankruptcy, defaulted on a loan, had a loan turned over to a collection agency or had any other major financial issues, it can take years to rebuild your credit. It’ll start with hard work in your budgeting and cutting back on spending to make consistent, timely payments every month.

How long it takes to raise your score

The length of time it takes to raise your credit score depends on a combination of multiple aspects. Your financial habits, the initial cause of the low score and where you currently stand are all major ingredients, but there’s no exact recipe to determine the timeline. Thanks to studies done by CNBC and FICO, we’ve compiled the typical time it takes to bring your score back to its starting point after a financial mishap. The following data is an estimate of recovery time for those with poor to fair credit.

Event Average credit score recovery time
Bankruptcy 6+ years
Home foreclosure 3 years
Missed/defaulted payment 18 months
Late mortgage payment (30 to 90 days) 9 months
Closing credit card account 3 months
Maxed credit card account 3 months
Applying for a new credit card 3 months

How long do derogatory marks stay on your credit report?

Your score is determined by the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), but it’s up to your lenders to contact them to report information about you. It can be as simple as your credit card company reporting that you made a monthly payment on time, increased your debt or decreased your balances. These are all positive influences on your score, but there may be a slight lag in timing due to the reporting process.

In addition to a potential delay in the telephone game between your credit issuer and the credit bureaus, certain financial events can linger on your credit history for years. Unfortunately, the more harmful events are often the ones that stick around the longest, so it’s best to know what actions will be the biggest burdens:

Event Average time on credit report
Late payments 7 years
Foreclosures 7 years
Debt collections Up to 7 years
Chapter 13 bankruptcy 7 years
Chapter 7 bankruptcy 10 years

This may seem ominous, but here’s the good news: recency bias is alive and well in the credit scoring world. Even if they’re still present, the old items that appear on your report have less weight than your newer ones.

Top ways to raise your credit score

There are several things you can do in the short-term to try and better your credit score.

Improving your credit utilization will likely have the quickest impact. This could be through paying down debt, upping your credit limit or opening a new credit account. Additionally, there are a couple other things you can do to start your journey to an increased score, including the following:

  • Make credit card payments on time. This is especially helpful for those with no credit history because you have the chance to prove yourself by being consistent right off the bat.
  • Remove incorrect or negative information from your credit reports. Oftentimes, you can challenge old information or dispute errors on your credit report to attempt to get the event removed.
  • Hold old credit accounts. Keeping accounts open that improve your length of credit will help your score as you better your habits.
  • Become an authorized user. When you are added to an existing credit card account as an authorized user, you are adding information to your own credit history by piggybacking on someone else’s. However, make sure the account reports to all three major credit bureaus to ensure the data is showing up on your credit report.
  • Use a secured credit card. When you have a limited credit history or a low credit score, a secured credit card can help you build up your credit score by generating a history of responsible use. Secured credit cards require a deposit in order to obtain a line of credit, and the line of credit is usually equal to the amount of the initial deposit.
  • Report rent and utility payments. A history of on-time rent and utility payments can really benefit your credit, but you may need to use an alternative reporting service if your landlord or property management company isn’t already reporting your rent payments. For example, you can use Experian Boost to add these accounts to your credit history.
  • Minimize credit inquiries. Everytime you apply for a new credit card, your credit score takes a hit. You can avoid any unnecessary dings to your credit by researching credit options best for your financial needs. You may even consider using a service such as CardMatch™ to check out pre-qualified credit card offers.

The bottom line

As it is with many of life’s problems, there’s no better time to address the issue than now. By making on-time payments and carefully assessing your financial needs, you will be on the right track toward building strong credit.

Keep in mind that the path to financial recovery takes time, sometimes even years. But regardless of the dilemma you may find yourself in, a proactive approach is the best way to tackle financial recovery. And your credit score will thank you in the long run.

Written by
Joey Robinson
Credit cards contributor
Joey Robinson is a credit cards contributor for Bankrate and upon graduating with a Bachelor’s degree concentrated in Finance, Joey worked at “Big Four” (Ernst and Young) accounting firm before exploring the world of credit cards. Over the past two years, he’s shared his expertise and has brought understanding to complex topics as a writer and editor for sites like Bankrate, CreditCards.com and NextAdvisor. His advice on avoiding common credit card fees, top balance transfer tactics and more financial tips have been featured on MSN Money and other various news publications.
Edited by
Associate Editor