It’s possible to improve your credit score in a matter of weeks. For example, you could successfully dispute errors on your credit report, pay down credit card debt, or pay off collections accounts. Each of those steps could remove negative information from your credit report or add some positive info, either of which may benefit your credit score. Simply paying your monthly bills on time will help, too, though a single on-time payment probably won’t improve your score very much. You need to consistently pay on time.
With that being said, credit improvement can be big or small. It’s certainly possible to improve your credit score by a few points in a few weeks. But significant credit-score improvement is generally measured in months and years. And exactly how long it will take depends on three factors:
- Your Starting Point: You can build a credit score from scratch in about a month. But it takes far longer to rebuild damaged credit. For example, someone with damaged credit who can only get approved for a secured credit card can generally improve to fair credit (and upgrade to an unsecured credit card) within 12 to 18 months. But that assumes they use that secured card responsibly. And the timeline varies based on how much information (positive or negative) is already in a person’s credit report before improvement efforts begin.
- Your Monthly Habits: Credit scores are based on the contents of your credit reports. To improve your credit score, you need to add positive information to your credit reports each month. In particular, that means paying your credit card bills on time and keeping your credit utilization at a healthy level.
- Your Definition of “Improvement”: Obviously, it will take a lot longer to improve your credit rating from “bad” to “good” than to increase your score by a few points. In that sense, perspective matters.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at how long it generally takes to rebound from some common sources of credit-score damage.
How Long Does It Take to Improve Your Credit After … ?
Some people need to improve their credit after relatively minor mistakes, such as missing a payment or maxing out their spending limit. Some are dealing with more serious issues, such as bankruptcy. And others have to bounce back from things they didn’t realize would damage their credit, such as applying for or closing a credit card account. Each group is dealing with a different timeframe, as you can see below.
Here’s how long it usually takes to improve a credit score:
|Action||Avg. Recovery Time||Credit Score Impact|
|Applying for Credit||3 months||Minor|
|Closing an Account||3 months||Minor|
|Maxing Out a Credit Card||3 months||Moderate|
|Missed Payment / Default||18 months||Significant|
Bear in mind these timeframes are far from guaranteed. It all depends on what else is on your credit report and how much positive information you add moving forward. A single misstep in an otherwise long and positive credit history will be far easier to bounce back from than numerous mistakes made at the beginning of your credit career.
Similarly, if your credit score is lower to begin with, you’ll obviously have less ground to cover to regain your original standing. That’s why someone with a 680 credit score may recover faster from the same mistake than an individual with a 780 score.
Here’s how long it takes to improve credit, by starting score:
|Type of Negative Info||780 Credit Score||720 Credit Score||680 Credit Score|
|Late Mortgage Payment||3 to 7 years||3 years||9 months|
|Short Sale||7 years||7 years||3 years|
|Foreclosure||7 years||7 years||3 years|
|Bankruptcy||7 to 10 years||7 to 10 years||5 years|
If you want a more-personalized credit-improvement forecast, just sign up for a free WalletHub account and check out your Credit Analysis.
When to Improve Your Credit Score
You should always be working to improve your credit score. And that goes for pretty much everyone. Credit scores are always changing based on the latest information in our credit reports. Hardly anyone has the highest possible credit score. And a good credit score is the product of responsible habits over a long period of time.
The urgency of credit improvement, however, depends on your current standing and financial goals. Your overall personal-finance strategy should be geared toward building and maintaining an excellent credit rating over time. But it’s particularly important to get your financial house in order before any big event, such as buying a house or car, where your credit standing will be a deciding factor in terms of both approval and cost.
Image: BadBrother / Shutterstock.com