Most Americans suffer from a low credit score, which has several negative effects, including higher interest rates and the inability to get unsecured loans/credit. According to Experian.com, the average credit score in the United States in 2021 was 714, which falls within the average credit scores for moderate to middle-income individuals. Average credit score brackets, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, are:

  • Low income = 658
  • Moderate income = 692
  • Middle income = 735
  • Upper income = 774

Understanding how credit scores get calculated can improve your score usually between six months and three years. However, you can start seeing some improvements as soon as 90 days (3 months), but you have to be aware that, since every person has different situations, the process of repairing your credit score is very individual. Therefore, time, actions needed (and effort) will depend on many factors like: your starting score, financial situation, and of course, how proactive and committed you are with improving your credit.

What is a Good Credit Score?

smiling woman with a credit card in hand using a laptop in her kitchen

Generally, good credit scores are those between 670 and 739, and scores from 580 to 669 are considered fair. Anything under 579 is regarded as a poor credit rating. Excellent credit ratings range from 740 to 799, and perfect credit scores are 800 and up.

Scores are determined by your credit behaviors, including balances, credit applications, payments, and more. It gives potential creditors an idea of how well you handle debt and determine the level of risk they will take should they give you a loan or credit card. Good credit scores may qualify you for most lines of credit you apply; however, you may still appear as a greater risk than someone with a very good or excellent score.

My Credit Score Is 550 (or Less), How do I Raise It?

Worried business man looking at his laptop with a credit card in hand

You can do several things to raise your credit score, including disputing false information, paying off collection accounts, and lowering your percentage of credit used. If you haven't got your credit report yet, you can get it from all three credit bureaus - Experian, Transunion, and Equifax for free. Free copies of credit reports are available either through their websites or through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Free Experian Credit Report

 Free Transunion Credit Report

 Free Equifax Credit Report

Now that you know where your credit history stands, let's get started and find out what you may need to do. Here are some ways to help you raise your credit score depending on different factors:

If You Have Lots of Collection Accounts

If you have a lot of accounts in collection, first verify it is a valid debt and that you owe it. Then, reach out and try to settle with the collection company in addition to having the item removed from your credit report. Removing the article will help boost your credit score. Even if the company doesn't agree to terminate the account, paying off can help raise your credit score.

May You Have Multiple Late Payments

If your credit report score has dropped because of multiple late payments, it is time to sit down, create a budget, and start making payments on time. Setting up automatic payments can also help pay bills on time. Paying bills on time accounts for 60 to 70 percent of your credit score. If you start paying all debts on time, you may see an improvement in your score as soon as a few billing cycles.

Overextended Credit Usage

When rebuilding your credit, keeping a watchful eye on your credit utilization ratio, and keeping it low is vital. This ratio determines the amount of credit you use versus the total amount of credit you have available. Keeping this ratio below 30 percent can help improve your credit score and make you look more appealing to lenders.

Dispute False Information

When reviewing your credit reports, check to see if there are any errors on the reports. Common errors may include:

  • Accounts that are not yours
  • Late payments that were paid on time
  • Accounts with paid-off balances still showing as having a balance

Take time to dispute any information on your credit report that is incorrect. Depending on the item, once removed, it can raise your score anywhere from 50 points to 100 points (or more).

Apply for a Credit Card or Get a Secured Card

credit card swiping at point-of-sale

Though it may drop your score initially by a few points, applying for a credit card or getting a secured card can help add a new line of credit and diversify your credit types. In addition, with usage and on-time payments, a new card can help boost your score as soon as six months to one year. Here are some great credit card options that will help you increase your credit score when using them responsibly:

Great for those with limited or no credit history:

Citi® Secured Mastercard®
Citi® Secured Mastercard®

If you're new to credit and/or have no credit history, the Citi Secured credit card can be a great option to start with. You will be able to start building your credit and in the long run, upgrade to an unsecured card after paying on time for the first 18 months. The card requires a security deposit ($200 - $2,500), does not have an annual fee, and has a 26.24% variable APR.

Perfect for those needing to rebuild their credit

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

This Capital One QuicksilverOne card is top-notch for those with fair credit (580+) needing to rebuild their scores, as this card offers the opportunity to enjoy a generous rewards program and many of the same benefits offered by cards for those with good-excellent credit scores.

Rewards an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase and 5% on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
Annual Fee $39
APR 28.49% Variable
PREMIER Bankcard® Mastercard® Credit Card
PREMIER Bankcard® Mastercard® Credit Card

The PREMIER Bankcard won't require you to have a good credit score to apply (500+) and has an easy application process. This is a great unsecured option for those that would like to build their credit

Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card
Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card

This card is an amazing option for those that are looking to quickly rebuild their credit scores without worrying about annual fees or high-interest rates, not even paying on time your card as this car offers a great feature called "Safe Credit Building" that allows you to set up the payment of your card's balance automatically. Additionally, the Chime Credit Builder card does not require a minimum deposit or credit check to apply (so you don't have to worry about a hard pull either) and will report to the three major credit bureaus.

Reflex Mastercard® Credit Card
Reflex Mastercard® Credit Card

One of the great advantages of the Reflex Mastercard is that you can check if you're pre-qualified without impacting your credit score. Additionally, there's no minimum credit score to apply, can have up to $1,000 credit limit as well as the option to increase it up to $2,000 after making all payments on time during the first 6 months, and reports to the 3 major credit bureaus.

Get a Credit Builder Loan

Set up a credit builder loan to help boost your credit score fast. When you make your payments on time, these loans report to the credit bureaus, and your money is put into a savings account. At the end of the loan, you will have several positive marks on your credit report and money in the bank.

You may also want to read: Best Personal Loan for Credit Card Debt Consolidation

Why is My Credit Score Stagnant?

Young man on a table. worried expression

It can be highly frustrating to log in to see if your credit reports remain stagnant and if there are no changes to your credit score. Unfortunately, this feeling is very common among those trying to improve their credit score for a specific purpose, including buying a new car or home or paying less interest on future personal loans. Some reasons your credit score may not be improving include any of the following reasons:

  • You have missed a few payments
  • Your overall credit usage is high
  • You have a limited credit history
  • You have applied for multiple loans or credit cards
  • You do not have a variety in the type of credit accounts
  • A creditor keeps incorrectly reporting information

How to Prevent Your Credit from Becoming Stagnant?

man typing on his computer with documents aside

If you are trying to improve your credit but are noticing it is remaining stagnant, or even if you're not sure where to start and feel that you need guidance, it might be time to hire the help of one of the three best credit repair services.

Some credit repair service companies include Novae Money, Lexington Law, and Ovation by LendingTree. Even if you have a credit score stuck at 750, it is possible to bring that score up in a short period.

Novae Money

Novae Money
Novae Money Learn More

The company not only provide a personal finance manager and access to credit & debt collection attorneys when buying their premium package but also provide an affiliate program where you can earn a $100 commission every time you refer them someone that is in the market for credit repair services; Namely, you'd be earning some money while repairing your credit, as well as providing others the opportunity to start improving or repairing their scores too.

Repair Your Credit & Earn

The first time you register, you'll be charged a $150 one-time fee + your package monthly cost. That is to say, you'll be paying $150 + $89 = $239 the first time you register, then $89/month. However, you can save some money by having a free month when you refer a friend*

Pros
  • Provides faster results than if you were to do it on your own
  • Pinpoint items to be corrected
  • You can dispute all your negative lines or accounts without limitations (late payments, collection, bankruptcies, etc)
  • Free month every time you refer someone*
Cons
  • A $150 one-time fee to register
  • Can take time

* Registration is required in order to waive your monthly service fee

Lexington Law

Lexington Law
Lexington Law Learn More
Pros
  • A law firm is handling your credit repair
  • They have a proven track record
  • They offer multiple plan options
Cons
  • Not accredited by the BBB
  • Issues with business ethics

Ovation

Ovation
Ovation Learn More
Pros
  • Multiple credit repair options
  • Direct access to advisors 24/7 support
Cons
  • No guarantee it will be effective
  • No credit counseling

How to Improve Credit Score in 6 Months?

If you recently discovered how low your credit score is, you may feel there is a sense of urgency to get the score back to good and excellent standing. It is possible to start seeing an improvement in your credit score in six months. How fast and how much the score improves depends significantly upon the score you began at and what was causing the low score in the first place.

Understand what affects your credit score, such as missed payments, late payments, using more than 30 percent of available credit, no credit history, and applying for multiple lines of credit in a short time. Once you know what is causing your score to be low, create a plan to target those items. Whether making payments on time or removing inaccurate information, you will start seeing an improved credit score as quickly as a couple of months and an even better score in six months.

How to Increase Credit Score Faster Than Six Months?

On average most people working to improve their credit scores start seeing significant increases within six months. It is possible to see your credit score improve faster, but that depends on what is causing your low score in the first place. Simple tasks to do to help raise your credit score more quickly than six months include:

  • Dispute inaccurate items and have them removed
  • Get added to someone else's credit card (who pays their bills on time)
  • Stop applying for new credit
  • Start paying bills on time
  • Make a large payment to pay down credit card debt
  • Ask for a credit line increase
  • Pay off collections and have them removed

What's the Average Minimum Time that Someone Can Expect to Take to Start Seeing Improvements?

man pointing to a fico score graph

The average time someone can expect to see an improvement in their credit scores is after three to six months of proactively working to improve their credit history. However, it may take as much as a year to two years to see a significant improvement in scores. In rare cases, depending upon what was dropping the credit score, some people have seen an improvement as early as 30 days after starting.

One example is if you are 30 days late on your mortgage payment it can cause a delay of six months to two years for your credit to recover from that missed payment. Therefore, getting a 700 credit score in 90 days may be more realistic than trying to improve your score within 30 days.

Average credit score after first 6 months

woman on the floor with many documents and invoices

Every person is different, and the average credit score after working on credit repair can vary among individuals. Everything from the initial score, what is causing the score to drop, and what you do to fix the low score can determine how much your credit score can rise after six months. On average, those who work diligently can raise their credit score as much as 100 points within the first six months.

How Long Can It Take to Build a Credit Score Of 800-850?

worried couple in the kitchen reading documents

Though there are ways to quickly boost your credit, realistically, depending on your score when you start with credit repair, it can take up to four or more years. The most commonly asked question is, "How to get a 700 credit score in 6 months?" And is it possible to "Get a 700 credit score in 90 days?" Improving your credit score is not impossible, but it may take longer than six months, especially if you start at a significantly low credit score. Below is a chart with the average time it takes to get your score up:

Initial Score Avg. time to reach 700* Avg. time to reach 750* Avg. time to reach 800* Avg. time to reach 850*
300 2-3 years 2.5 -3 years 3-4 years 4 years
350 - 400 2+ years 2-3 years 3 years 3-4 years
450 - 500 18 months - 2 years 2 - 3 years 3+ years 3-4 years
550 - 600 12-18 months 1-2 years 2+ years 2-3 years
650 - 700 3 months - 1 year 1 year 1-2 years
750 - - 6 months - 9 months 1 year to 1.5 years
* All these values are estimates and will vary depending on different financial factors/situation

Conclusion

Be proactive and monitor your credit so you can jump on anything that gets reported to the credit bureaus, which may negatively affect your credit. Additionally, if you need some guidance or feel that it would be easier for you to have someone helping you through the process, you can try one of the top 3 credit repair services mentioned above.

Depending on what your situation is, with some proactive actions and staying on top of your credit reports, it is possible to improve your credit score within three months to one year.

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The responses below are not provided, commissioned, reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any financial entity or advertiser. It is not the advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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