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Your credit score is critical to your financial wellbeing. It's the key to achieving a comfortable lifestyle and helps you in maintaining healthy borrowing power in retirement. But having a bad credit score can close out many opportunities to live a comfortable life -- and have a healthy financial future -- especially at a time when credit is king amid rising interest rates and a looming recession.
The good news is that if you have bad credit, you're not stuck with it forever. With our help, and some time, you can improve your credit score fast and with little trouble. Here's how.
Before we can dive into how to increase one's credit score, it's important first to understand how credit scores are determined.
Your credit score consists of a three-digit value to convey your financial responsibility. It shows lenders and financial institutions how well you can make timely payments. Your credit score falls within a specific range that lets lenders know quickly what type of credit you have -- from very poor to excellent.
There are two types of credit score models:
These two score types vary but slightly.
The FICO credit scoring system is constantly revamping; the newest version is FICO Score 10 but there are two models currently being used, FICO Score 8 and FICO Score 9. Here's the breakdown of current FICO scores:
Type of credit
Also: The 5 best credit cards for good credit
Experian also offers its own credit scoring model. Under this model, credit scores are assigned a little differently. Excellent credit runs from 781 to 850, while very poor credit ranges from 300 to 499.
FICO credit scores are based on specific guidelines that are each weighted and contribute to an overall credit rating of 100%.
Type of rating
Length of credit history
Based on this breakdown, there are many reasons why your credit score is lower than before. These are some of the major factors that can quickly impact your credit score.
Thankfully, you are not stuck with your credit score forever. Credit is a revolving machine that grows over time, constantly evolving as you spend and borrow. Today's credit score doesn't have to be the same one you have in a few months if you pay close attention to your finances and make timely payments.
Using research from FICO and CNBC, Bankrate assembled a 2022 report showing the typical time it takes to improve your credit.
Type of financial issue
Average recovery time for credit score
Applying for a new credit card
Maxed credit card account
Closing credit card account
Late mortgage payment (1-3 months)
Up to 7 years
Bankruptcy (Chapter 13)
To best understand how long credit scores may stick around, you must first examine which events are currently plaguing your report. Once you identify the trouble spots, you can look to see how long it will take to improve them. For example, if you have a bankruptcy on your record, it could take six years or more until it is removed from your report.
Also: The 5 best credit cards for bad credit
Just because you have a poor credit score today, it does not mean that you were stuck with one forever. The beautiful part about credit is that it is constantly changing, and so is your credit score, too.
Instead of fretting about today's credit score, work on improving tomorrow's instead.
Make timely payments: Late payments can take up to seven years to drop off your credit report, depending on how long it takes for your credit issuer to sync up with the credit bureaus.
Watch what you pay: If you can, pay more than the minimum to reduce your debt as soon as possible. However, if you cannot afford to pay more than the minimum, make sure you at least make that minimum payment so your account (and your credit score!) do not fall behind.
No new accounts: When you apply for a new account, it can ding your credit report and take that much longer to remove.
Debt-to-income ratio: Consider your debt-to-income ratio and try to get your utilization score below 30%, so your credit score will increase faster.
For other ways to improve your credit score, check out our new ZDNet guide to improving your credit.
Also: Best bankruptcy credit card: Rebuild credit
It may take a while to remove certain large financial events from your credit report, like a bankruptcy, but acting responsibly, like making payments on time and minimizing new accounts, can help move things along. Be sure to sign up for a free FICO credit report, such as with AnnualCreditReport.com, so you carefully monitor how your score changes over time.
At the end of the day, all you can do is act financially responsible and give your report time to recover.