If you’ve ever had a credit score dip for whatever reason (missed payments, too many inquiries, a high utilization ratio), you know it can be stressful trying to figure out how long it will take to rebuild your credit. It’s not easy navigating a low credit score, especially when you don’t know how long the process of increasing it is going to take. If you arm yourself with useful credit knowledge and follow proven tips, you can restore your FICO score. We’ll explain how long negative information lingers on your report, how long it takes to see your score rise and ways to rebuild your score starting today.
Why fixing your credit is so important
Credit impacts many important aspects of your life. Having a high credit score means potential lenders view you as less of a risk for loans or other forms of financing. Good credit makes it easier to purchase cars and homes, as well as open lines of credit with favorable terms. You’ll get preferential treatment in the form of lower interest rates and fewer fees. With good credit, it’s easier to secure employment since some employers now look at applicants’ credit records during the hiring process.
Although bad credit holds you back, credit mistakes don’t affect your credit forever.
How long does negative information stay on your credit report?
Negative information on your credit report, such as late payments and collections, will stay on your credit report for seven years the date it initially appeared. The age of the negative information is a major factor in how it will affect your credit score. Older negative information has less of an impact than recent negative items.
The number and severity of other credit-score-lowering behavior can also influence how long negative information will remain on your credit report. For example, if you have numerous delinquencies or high balances on other accounts, then these can linger longer than a single late payment or a smaller collection balance.
Your credit score before negative information appeared can also play a role in determining how long that data remains on your credit report. If you had an excellent score prior to the negative item being reported, it could take longer to recover that high score versus someone who had an average or fair score to begin with. No matter what your initial score is, it’s always possible to improve with time and responsible financial habits.
How long does credit repair take?
The time required for someone to rebuild their credit depends on several factors such as the severity of the damage caused by late payments or defaults, how long ago those events took place, your current income level, and ability to pay off debt, and consistently positive payment behavior over a long period of time.
Credit score recovery after a late payment
Everyone makes mistakes. If you’ve made a late payment recently, don’t panic. Your credit score does not drop overnight when you miss a payment. It may take a few months for the full impact of a late payment to show up on your credit report. Usually, if a payment is just a few days late, you’ll incur a late fee, but it won’t be reported to the bureaus as delinquent. Once the payment is 30 days late, creditors typically report. After 60 and 90 days, the impact on your score becomes more serious.
If you had a late payment reported, catch up and focus on making timely payments to offset the negative activity.
Credit score recovery after bankruptcy
Bankruptcy can have a significant and long-lasting impact on your credit score. Typically, a bankruptcy will stay on credit reports for seven years if you filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy and 10 years for Chapter 7. Unlike a simple missed payment, this situation can be difficult to rebound from for a few years.
During the 7- to 10-year period after filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it may be almost impossible to obtain credit or apply for certain types of loans such as mortgage loans or business loans. A long timeframe is designed to ensure financial responsibility and caution moving forward. While your credit score does drop immediately after filing for bankruptcy, with time, responsible financial behavior, and careful planning, you may be able to rebuild your credit history so you can be financially successful in the future.
Credit score recovery after other setbacks
Rebuilding your credit score after enduring a financial setback such as a divorce, job loss, or medical emergency can be daunting. It’s hard to know where to start, and the process can seem overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to tackle it all at once. Taking small steps can pay off in the long run toward rebuilding your credit score.
Remember that time is on your side; while progress may be slow initially, gradually increasing healthy financial habits every day can have a big impact in the long term.
7 steps towards rebuilding your credit
Rebuilding your credit doesn’t happen overnight; however, here are things you can do right now to make sure that it starts improving as soon as possible.
Monitor your credit report regularly
If you know what’s on your credit report, you can identify areas that need improvement. You can get a free copy of your report from all three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) once a year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. If you’ve recently been denied credit based on the information in your report, you can also request a free copy of your report directly from the bureau.
Dispute errors on your credit report
Look for errors or inaccuracies and dispute them immediately with the respective bureau. Errors are typically grounds for an investigation. If the credit bureau finds the information is wrong, the account must be updated. You may also want to contact the company to report incorrect information. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides contact information for the bureaus and specific instructions for filing a dispute.
Work towards paying down existing debt
Paying off credit card debt is one of the quickest and most effective ways to boost your credit score. The amount of debt you owe is one of the major factors that determine your credit score, so getting rid of it can make a huge difference in your overall rating. When you pay off your debt, it will reduce the amount that you owe and improve your credit utilization ratio, which is another factor that contributes to your score. The more money you owe on a single credit card or line of credit, the lower your overall utilization ratio is going to be – so paying down this debt can help raise it significantly.
Beyond improving your utilization ratio, paying off credit card debt can also help improve other aspects of your credit score. For instance, if you have been delinquent on payments in the past or have defaulted on a loan, it can show up as negative marks on your report and harm your rating. Paying off outstanding balances in full can help erase these unfavorable items from your report and restore some points to your overall score.
Focus on paying off the higher-interest accounts first to help minimize the amount of interest you pay overall.
Make payments on time
The most important factor when rebuilding your credit is paying bills on time every month. Late payments stay on your report for seven years, and lowering this number is critical in improving the overall outlook of your finances. To ensure timely payments, set up automatic payments with online bill pay services or have reminders sent directly to your email or phone each month so that nothing slips through the cracks.
Ask for a credit limit increase
A credit limit increase is a quick and instant way to automatically reduce your credit utilization by adding additional available credit. If you have an established credit history with the credit card issuer, they’re more likely to bump up your limit. Avoid using the extra credit and continue working towards paying down your balances.
Curb your spending
It’s important to curb spending on unnecessary items and manage finances wisely. You can do this by creating a budget and setting financial goals. Start by tracking income and expenses for a few months so that you have an accurate picture of where your money is going. Then set realistic targets for different categories like housing, groceries, entertainment, and transportation. Once these targets are established, stick to them as closely as possible to keep spending within limits.
Consider a credit builder loan
A credit builder loan is a tool to help rebuild your credit score. It works by allowing you to borrow a certain amount of money, typically a few hundred dollars, that goes into a special account that is administered by the lender. As you make regular payments over time, the lender reports those payments to the major credit bureaus, and you begin to establish a positive track record with creditors.
The benefit of taking out a credit builder loan is that it allows you to prove to lenders that you are capable of managing your finances responsibly and can be trusted with more access to credit in the future. Since the loan amount is usually small, it means that the payments are usually more manageable.
Using a credit builder loan encourages better financial habits as it encourages you to budget and plan ahead so that you have enough money at the end of each month to pay off your loan balance.
Consistency is key
Understanding how credit works, checking your report regularly for errors, and making sure all payments are made on time are all good places to start when trying to rebuild damaged or low scores. With diligent effort and some patience, you should be able to get back into good standing before too long.
How fast can I fix my credit?
How fast you can fix your credit depends on various factors, including your current score and the damage done to it.
How long does it take to go from bad credit to good credit?
It can take a few months or several years to go from bad credit to good credit.
How can I speed up my credit repair?
You can speed up your credit report by paying all your bills on time, paying down debt, reducing your credit card utilization ratios and considering a credit builder loan.