If you have a bad credit score, it may feel like a red mark follows you wherever you go. Working to improve your credit is a worthwhile goal because the better your credit, the better the rates you’ll receive on all your loans like mortgages, auto loans and credit cards. But how long do you have to wait to see a change?
There’s not an exact answer to that, as each person’s financial situation is unique and complex. In general, depending on where you’re starting from and how you manage your finances, it could take anywhere from a month to as much as 10 years. Here’s what to consider when it comes to how long it might take to see an improvement in your score.
How Quickly Does Your Credit Score Update?
Unlike a lot of financial metrics, your credit score doesn’t tick away silently in the background, changing without your knowledge. Instead, it’s recalculated each time you or a business requests it. If you request it often, it’ll update more frequently. Most popular free credit score websites request this information every month; that way, you get a new score update every 30 days.
It also depends on how often the companies you do business with report your information. For example, if your credit card company doesn’t report your payments until the end of the month, you won’t see the impact of your payments on your credit score until then, even if you pay it off at the beginning of the month.
What Factors Influence How Long It Takes to Improve Your Credit Score?
The amount of time it takes to build your credit score varies, depending on a few factors:
- Length of time you’ve had credit. If you’re just starting out, it may be easier to improve your credit score by doing things like opening a credit card and paying it off responsibly. These things can have a bigger impact if you’re new to using credit than if you have a more established credit file.
- Your current credit score. If you’re rebuilding your credit score after a dip, it’ll take longer to rebuild a high credit score back to its former glory than if you’d started with a lower credit score.
- Any negative impact and the type. Not all negative marks are created equal. Paying 30 days late won’t impact your credit score as much as paying 90 days late, for example. Declaring bankruptcy or going through a foreclosure can also have larger negative impacts on your credit score.
In general, most negative information stays on your credit report for seven years. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can even stay on your credit report for a full 10 years. The good news is that as time passes, the negative impact of these scores will lessen. It’s possible that by the time the negative marks fall off of your credit report, they’ll barely have an impact.
How Long Does It Take for Your Credit Score to Recover After Taking a Hit?
In order to understand how long it might take you personally to improve your credit, it can be helpful to look at one FICO study of the average amount of time it takes to recover your credit score back to its original number after a negative mark on your credit report.
This study was only done for mortgage payments, but it’s likely that it’d be similar for other types of negative marks, such as paying your student loans late or having a car repossessed if you don’t pay your auto loan.
In general, the longer you forgo a payment you owe, the longer it’ll take to recover. And the higher your credit score was to begin, the longer it will take to recover. Know that there are things you can do to prevent this from happening and to build credit in the meantime.
Best Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
The most important thing you can do to improve your credit score is to make all of your payments on time. Maintaining low balances relative to your total limits—especially for credit cards—is another crucial thing you can do to improve your credit score. Together, these two factors—payment history and credit usage—account for 65% of your score.
An easy way to avoid late payments is to sign up for autopay on all of your bills. It can be tough to keep track of multiple bills due at varying times manually pay every month. Autopay can remove that friction and you’ll never have to worry about a late payment. Just be sure that you have enough in your bank account to cover the automatic payment each; otherwise, it will count as a negative mark, which is what you’re trying to avoid in the first place.
Fastest Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
Making all of your payments on time is the best way to improve your credit score, but it can take a long time. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to increase your score even faster, and could have just as big of an impact depending on your situation:
- Use a credit score simulator. Some free services such as Chase Credit Journey allow you to see what happens to your credit score in different cases, such as making a late payment or paying off all of your credit cards. This can help guide you to the most effective ways to improve your credit score for your personal case.
- Pay down your credit card balances. If you’re able, paying down your credit card balances can help increase your credit score as soon as your credit card company reports that data to the credit bureaus.
- Ask for a credit limit increase on your credit cards. At the same time, asking for a credit limit increase is one easy way to boost your credit utilization ratio. It makes your current debt a smaller portion of your available credit, which is a big factor in your credit score. However, be careful to not use more credit due to your credit limit increase. Credit responsibility is key.
- Check your report and dispute any errors. You can typically check each of your three credit reports for free once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com. However, due to the pandemic, you can receive free weekly credit reports until April 20, 2022. Review your credit report, and if you find anything amiss, you can dispute it so it doesn’t unfairly penalize you.
- Consider linking alternative payments. Programs like Experian Boost allow you to connect your cell phone, utility and/or streaming video platform payments to show responsible credit behavior. A program like this is best for someone who is new to credit.
Building a strong credit score doesn’t happen overnight. Neither does repairing a credit score after making mistakes. There are several proactive steps you can take to help you raise your overall credit profile. But ultimately a combination of time and a pattern of on-time payments are the best tools to help your credit score climb.