Can I Fix My Credit in a Week?

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If you’re getting ready to apply for a car loan, mortgage or credit card, you may have heard it’s a good idea to check your credit before doing so. But, waiting until the last minute to check your credit before applying may have you surprised — if you find you have low credit scores for any number of reasons, you may be wondering just how quickly you can fix your credit.

“Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for credit because it took time for this problem to arise and it generally takes much more than a week to resolve it,” John Heath, a credit expert and consumer attorney for Lexington Law, a Credit.com affiliate, said in an email.

Timing Is Everything

Credit scores are based on information in your credit files, which includes new data about how you handle your accounts reported by your creditors every month, according to Jeff Richardson, a spokesperson for VantageScore Solutions.

This monthly reporting date differs from lender to lender and the monthly date your credit scores update also differs depending on the reporting bureau, which is one of many reasons the cycle for fixing your credit may take more than 30 days, Richardson said.

Another example of timing limitations arises when you attempt to fix your credit by disputing errors on your credit reports, according to Heath. These disputes may include a current account, collection, bankruptcy, public record, tax lien or late payment that can’t be substantiated, isn’t yours, is inaccurately reported or is outdated.

“One of the major rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act grants the credit reporting agencies 30 days to review your challenges to items on the credit report,” Heath said.

According to a 2012 VantageScore report, showing the impact of different positive and negative credit behaviors, you can typically improve your credit scores by 10 to 15 points within a few months with simple credit management techniques such as paying bills on time and paying down debt. For larger score improvements, it can take even longer depending on your specific credit report and account history.

Credit Fixes Accomplished in 30 Days

In general, the negative score impact of running up the balances on your credit cards can usually be corrected by a payoff the next month, according to Richardson.

“Pay down the balance all the way to zero, or at least under 30% of your total available credit, and you may see a credit score bump back up the next month, so long as there are no other negative credit events on your report,” he said.

Again, depending on timing, there might be one way you might improve your credit score in one week, according to Richardson.

“A score increase or decrease will depend upon when the lenders update your file,” Richardson said. “If you can find out when, say, a credit card issuer is reporting to the credit bureaus and reduce your balance significantly beforehand it is possible to see a score increase in a short time period.”

He favors taking a longer view of your credit health and improving your credit before you need to apply for any new credit, if possible.

Heath said you could spend one week reviewing your credit reports thoroughly making sure you recognize all the listings on the report and creating a budget that assures timely payments. Both of these actions, easily completed in one week, go a long way toward improving your credit in the long run.

No matter what steps you take to improve your credit scores — whether it’s to repair errors you discover or simply improve your habits — it’s important to note that these are things you can do on your own. There are also professional credit repair experts who are available to help you, but opting to turn to one for help is not essential.

If you are unsure where your credit currently stands, you can view two of your credit scores for free, updated ever 14 days, on Credit.com.

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6 Reasons You Need to Improve Your Credit Score, Even if It’s Already Great

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You’ve put in the work to get your credit to a good place. You feel you shine in most of the five areas that make up a strong credit profile — you pay your bills on time, maintain a good debt-to-credit ratio, have a variety of credit accounts (and have had some of them for many years), and limit the number of credit inquiries on your account. But now that you’ve got that good credit score, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep aiming higher.

“If you work to build a good credit score and then stop paying attention to it, your score can slip even if you aren’t doing anything ‘bad’ like missing payments or maxing out your credit cards,” according to an email from Thomas Nitzsche, the media relations manager for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions.

Here are six reasons why you should keep improving your credit, even if it’s already quite good. (And you can keep an eye on how you’re doing by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

1. Gives You a Buffer

“The higher your score, the more buffer you have if something bad happens financially,” Nitzsche said. “For example, if your score is just barely ‘excellent’ and you miss a couple of payments you might drop down to a ‘fair’ score. Whereas, had you started with a near-perfect score, you may only drop down to a ‘good’ score.”

2. Puts You in a Better Position to Close a Credit Card (If Necessary)

You may be looking to close a credit card you don’t use, especially if it comes with an annual fee, but doing so could hurt your credit score (the amount of credit you have in relation to your debt, also known as credit utilization, makes up 30% of your credit scores).

“If you’ve been actively raising your already high score as you go along, even if your score drops following that card closing, your score will remain high enough to obtain new credit when you need it,” Barry Paperno, a credit expert who blogs at Speaking of Credit, said in an email.

3. Helps You Develop (& Maintain) Good Habits

Improving your score really is a lifestyle more than a one-time action,” and maintaining the good habits necessary for a high score can help you preserve your healthy credit profile for a long time, Nitzsche said.

4. Teaches Those Around You Good Habits, Too

Whether you’re setting an example for your kids or you’re helping your spouse better understand finances, having good habits of your own can really influence those around you.

“The ongoing work of maintaining a good credit score is also an important habit that your dependent or partner can learn from when you make it part of your routine,” Nitzsche said. “This can benefit others around you in the long term by having financial conversations and preparing them for a brighter financial future.”

5. You’ll Have Better Approval Odds

“Every creditor sets its own score requirements, so in most cases you have no way to know if your score will qualify for approval without actually applying,” Paperno said. “By ensuring your score is as high as it can be, such as by always paying on time, keeping card balances low and limiting new account applications, you can apply for credit when necessary without having to worry about whether you’ll be approved or denied.”

6. May Be Able to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Some employers look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process. So, just like you (hopefully) polish up your resume before applying for a job, having a shiny credit profile can be impressive.

“Although the credit score is not a consideration when being interviewed for a job, the factors that contribute to a healthy credit report can influence an employer’s hiring decision in some states where it is legal for them to include a credit review as a part of their hiring process,” Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said in an email.

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An Average Credit Score Isn’t the End of the World. Here’s Why

Average. If someone uses the word to describe your kids, your intelligence or your looks, you’re probably not going to be too happy about it. But you shouldn’t necessarily be upset if the same can be said of your credit scores.

It turns out that the average American credit score isn’t actually all that bad. According to the most recent data from FICO, the average credit score for 2015 was an all-time high of 695 (though different scoring models, like VantageScore, for example, also exist and use slightly different methodology). That average falls into the area that a lot of lenders would classify as “near-prime” score — somewhere between 650 and 699 and pushing the “prime” classification (700 to 749)— though the exact scores considered near-prime and prime depend on the scoring model used.

That’s right. Prime. Like prime rib. Like Grade A Prime. Sounds a lot better than average, doesn’t it?

It’s Not So Bad Being Average

As a general rule, credit scores typically break down as follows:

  • Excellent Credit: 750+
  • Good Credit: 700 to 749
  • Fair Credit: 650 to 699
  • Poor Credit: 600 to 649
  • Bad Credit: below 600

Many lenders and credit scoring companies refer to credit rankings as super-prime, prime, near-prime and sub-prime. All of these classifications simply mean how risky they think it is to lend to you. Whether they call you an “average” or “fair” or “near-prime” borrower, it means your chances are pretty good for getting a loan for a new car or a mortgage at a good interest rate — or for being approved for a rewards credit card (here’s a simple guide to help you find the right credit card for you).

Being average means you’ve done a pretty decent job of paying your bills on time, keeping your credit card balances reasonably low in relation to your credit card limits and not overextending yourself with debt. Of course, it also means there’s room to improve your credit scores so you can get even better loan terms and credit card perks.

If you’d like to boost your credit scores to a higher level, or if you’re just not sure where your credit stands, you can start by checking your two free credit scores, updated monthly on Credit.com. It’s also a good idea to check your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com to make sure there aren’t any mistakes or surprises that will lower your credit scores.

See? It’s not so bad being average after all.

More on Credit Scores:

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4 Maneuvers That Can Protect Your Good Credit Score

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Getting a good credit score is one thing; keeping a good credit score is another. One small slip-up, like a single missed payment or collections account, can easily kick you out of the credit elite.

That’s why maintenance is key. You’ve worked hard to get over that 700 benchmark, so here are some steps you can take to stay there.

1. Put Loans on Auto-Pay

A first missed payment can cause a good credit score to drop up to 100 points. To avoid this type of fall, consider setting your loan or credit card payments to auto-pay via a linked checking account. You could also consider automatically paying some bills, like monthly utility payments, with a credit card. Just continue monitoring the account to make sure you’re being charged correctly. And if a card you’re using expires, be sure to update its account information with the service provider so that you don’t miss a payment.

2. Set Up Alerts

Many issuers or banks let you set up alerts to tell you when a payment is about to come due, if one was missed or if you’re perilously close to your credit limit. That last alert can be helpful when it comes to keeping your credit utilization rate (how much debt you are carrying versus how much credit has been extended) intact. For best credit scoring results, it’s generally recommended to keep this rate below at least 30%, and ideally at 10%, of your total available credit limit(s).

3. Consider Credit Monitoring or a Credit Freeze

You can also consider credit monitoring, a service that alerts you when changes are made to your credit file. To minimize the odds of identity theft, you might want to institute a credit freeze, which keeps creditors from pulling your credit reports and new accounts from being taken out in your name. Just note: You, too, won’t be able to get new credit until you “thaw” your credit report. Both freezing and thawing typically involve a fee.

4. Check Your Credit Regularly

It’s always a good idea to regularly check your credit on your own. That way you’ll be aware of what’s on your credit reports and what you can potentially do to maintain or improve your credit scores even further. You’ll also want to be on the lookout for any errors that may cause your scores to fall. If you spot inaccuracies, be sure to dispute the errors with the credit bureau in question. You can keep an eye on your credit by pulling your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your two of your credit scores, updated each month, on Credit.com.

[Offer: If you need help fixing errors on your credit report, Lexington Law could help you meet your goals. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

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5 Things Keeping You From a Perfect Credit Score

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A perfect credit score isn’t the most practical goal: There are hundreds of scoring models, and even the same score can vary significantly month to month, because your credit history is constantly being updated.

Of course, perfectionists don’t care about practicality. If you’re one of them, striving for that “perfect” 850 credit score (the highest on many common scales), you can check your credit history and see if any of the following five things are blocking your achievement. (You can do so by pulling your credit reports for free each year on AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.)

1. You Spend Too Much

Credit utilization — i.e, how high your credit card balances are compared to your credit limits — is one of the easiest adjustments you can make to your credit score. Even if you use very little available credit, say, less than 10%, you can still see improvements in your credit scores by using even less. You could see your score fluctuate if you go from using 3% of your available credit to 2%. Either you need to have high credit limits, spend little on your credit cards, pay off your credit cards more often than necessary or a combination of the above to keep your credit utilization as low as possible.

2. Your Credit History Is Short

The only thing that can give you a long credit history is time. Even if you’re doing everything right — making payments on time, keeping credit card balances low, rarely applying for credit and maintaining a mix of accounts — there’s nothing you can do but wait for your oldest accounts to age. Generally, if the average age of your credit accounts is younger than seven years, your credit history is considered short. Have patience and keep old accounts open, unless you have a really good reason to close them.

3. You Don’t Have a Mortgage

Account mix — or having a variety of installment loans and revolving credit accounts on your credit history — makes up about 10% of your credit score. If you have a lot of credit cards but no auto, home, personal or student loans, your score could benefit from adding one of them. Conversely, if you only have student loans, adding a credit card to the mix could also help. Account mix isn’t nearly as important as making loan payments on time or keeping debt levels low, but it could be responsible for those few points that sit between you and credit score perfection.

4. There’s an Error on Your Credit Report

Review credit reports carefully, especially if you feel like your credit scores are lower than they should be. Credit reporting errors are common, and to get them off your report you need to dispute the incorrect information with the major credit reporting agencies. Inaccurate, negative information can seriously tank your scores, and the longer it goes unresolved, the more likely you’ll see effects in other areas of your finances, such as higher interest rates for credit products.

5. You Made a Mistake Years Ago

The last seven years in the U.S. economy were tumultuous, and your credit score might still reflect that. Most negative information, like late payments and debt collection accounts, can remain on your credit reports for seven years. The older the information, the less impact it has on your credit scores, but until they age, you’ll have to deal with slightly lower scores. No matter how recent a negative trade line on your credit report is, the best thing you can do is move forward. Focus on making smart credit moves to offset any mistakes from the past.

Obtaining a perfect credit score isn’t easy. Credit scoring algorithms are complicated, and even if you do attain the highest score, you likely won’t keep it forever. Once you’ve crossed that “excellent credit” threshold of about 750 (on a 300 to 850 scale), you’ll qualify for the best interest rates and credit products. Whether you have a 799 score or an 850 won’t matter to anyone but you.

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