Credit reports and scores

How to increase your credit score quickly

A high credit score helps you qualify for the best loan rates and terms, whether you’re shopping for a mortgage, home equity line of credit (HELOC), car loan or other personal loans. You’ll also qualify for the best rewards programs, travel points and cash-back offers when you apply for a credit card. Better rates and terms mean more money in your pocket to spend, save, or invest, so it pays to have the highest credit score possible. These tips can help if you need to boost your credit score quickly. 

A credit score is a three-digit number representing your credit risk — the likelihood you’ll pay your bills on time. The highest credit score is generally 850, but achieving a perfect score is rare. Instead, the average credit score in the U.S. was 714 in 2022, unchanged from 2021, according to Experian.  

Creditors and lenders consider your credit score (among other factors) when deciding whether to approve you for a new account — and, if so, the rate and terms you’ll receive.  

Your credit score is based on the information included in your credit report. Scores vary depending on which scoring model is used, but most consider the same five factors:

  1. Payment history: Whether you consistently pay your bills on time. This is usually the most heavily weighted factor in your credit score. 

  2. Credit utilization: The amount of your available credit that you use, expressed as a percentage. Using too much of your available credit can indicate you’re overextended and at a higher risk of default. Experts recommend using no more than 30% at any given time. 

  3. Length of credit history: How long you’ve had your credit accounts — and how long it’s been since you’ve used them. A longer credit history is generally better (but you can still have a good score with a shorter history).

  4. Credit mix: Considers the types of credit accounts you have. It’s best to have a combination of installment accounts and credit card accounts to demonstrate you’re adept at managing different types of credit. 

  5. New credit: Assesses the number of credit requests you’ve made recently. Applying for a new line of credit triggers a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can take a few points off your credit score. Multiple new accounts within a short period can suggest you have more debt than you can handle. 

You may have heard you need a “good” credit score to qualify for a specific loan or credit line, but what does that mean? While lenders have different thresholds, here’s how FICO (the most used credit scoring model) breaks it down:

If your credit score is lower than you’d like, here are some tips for increasing it quickly. 

1. Check your credit report — and fix any errors

Mistakes can negatively impact your score, making it harder to get credit or qualify for the best available loan terms. You can request a free credit report at every 12 months from each of the three major consumer reporting agencies. Review your report carefully, looking for information that isn’t accurate or complete. 

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB), common credit report errors include:

  • Identity errors: The wrong name, phone number, or address; accounts belonging to someone with the same or a similar name (aka a “mixed file”); incorrect accounts resulting from identity theft. 

  • Account status: Closed accounts reported as open; accounts incorrectly reported as late or delinquent; incorrect dates; the same debt listed more than once; accounts listing you as an owner when you’re an authorized user. 

  • Data management errors: Not updating corrections; accounts that appear multiple times with different creditors.

  • Balance errors: Accounts with an incorrect current balance or credit limit. 

If you find an error, contact the credit reporting agency that sent you the report — Experian, Equifax or Transunion — and the company that provided the information (your credit report includes directions for reporting mistakes). 

2. Pay your bills on time

Late payments stay on your credit report for years. Set up reminder alerts and automatic payments to help ensure you never miss a due date. Catch up on late payments, and if you miss a payment by at least 30 days, ask your creditor if they’ll consider not reporting it to the credit bureaus (they might not agree, but it’s worth a shot). 

3. Pay down your revolving credit balances

Smaller balances help keep your credit utilization low. If your budget allows, pay more than your monthly minimums — or better yet, pay off your balances in full. Timing also matters: Aim to have a low balance when your credit card company reports it to the credit bureaus each month. A good strategy is to pay down your balance before the billing cycle ends or make several monthly payments to maintain a low balance.  

4. Increase your credit limit

A higher credit limit can help lower your credit utilization — assuming your balance stays the same. Your card issuer might offer a credit limit increase, or you can request one. It’s best to wait until you’ve gotten a pay raise (or taken an extra job to boost your income) and have a track record showing financial responsibility. 

5. Become an authorized user

If a trusted relative or friend has a credit card account in good standing with a high credit limit, you can “piggyback” by becoming an authorized user. The account gets included in your credit report — and its credit limit helps lower your credit utilization. Your credit can improve even if you don’t use the card. 

6. Deal with collection accounts

An overdue bill can get sent to collections. When that happens, you’ll start getting debt collection notices (via phone, mail, email, or text) asking you to pay up. If you settle a collection account, you remove the risk of being sued over the debt. Additionally, the collection agency might stop reporting the debt once you zero out your balance (but you’ll have to ask). 

A good credit score helps you qualify for the best rates and terms on loans and lines of credit, but there are other benefits, too. For example, a good score can make it easier to lease a rental property, set up utilities, and get a cell phone without prepaying or making a security deposit. You may even score better auto and home insurance rates.

Because a good credit score can help you save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year, it pays to do everything you can to boost it. 

Editorial Disclosure: All articles are prepared by editorial staff and contributors. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the editorial team and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in this article is accurate as of the date of the publish. Check the lender’s website for the most current information.

This article was originally published on and reviewed by Lauren Williamson, who serves as Financial and Home Services Editor for the Hearst E-Commerce team. Email her at [email protected].

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