A higher credit score can unlock a lot of great financial perks in your life. Improving your credit might help you qualify for financing, lock in lower interest rates and better loan terms, and even save money on your auto insurance premiums.
Of course, earning better credit can take some time. On a positive note, there are moves you can make that might speed up the credit improvement process. If you’re hoping to increase your credit score by 50 points or more, this guide can help you build a plan to try to reach your goal.
A 50-point credit score increase could be good for anyone. Yet for some people, especially those who are on the cusp of crossing over to a better credit score range, a credit score that’s 50 points higher could have meaningful financial benefits.
A FICO Score® ranges from 300 to 850. The higher your score falls on the scale, the less risk you represent to potential lenders.
Every lender sets its own criteria for evaluating credit score health. But in general, the credit score ranges that FICO® considers to be “poor” and “fair” are as follows:
If you have a FICO Score in the bad (aka very poor) range, you may find it difficult to qualify for many types of financing. When you do find lenders that are willing to approve your applications for loans, credit cards, or other forms of credit, the interest rates they offer you will likely be high.
Now, let’s assume that you work to improve your credit by 50 points, and doing so moves your credit score from a bad to fair. Although a fair credit score is still far from a perfect 850, you could start to enjoy numerous benefits thanks to your hard work. Where it might have been difficult or even impossible before, goals like buying a home, qualifying for a business loan, or opening an unsecured credit card may be within reach.
Moving up the credit score scale, here’s a look at the difference between a fair and a good FICO Score.
Once you graduate to the good credit score range, not only should it be easier to qualify for loans and credit cards, you may start to land better interest rates and borrowing terms. Below is an example of how much money you might save on a $225,000 mortgage.
As you can see, the potential savings from a 50-point credit score increase could be meaningful when buying a home. In the hypothetical loan scenario above you might save:
Trying to earn a better credit score is a lot like trying to lose weight. It can take months of hard work (often longer) to see the results you want.
However, certain actions might bring about speedier credit score improvements. Below are four strategies to consider if you want to improve your credit score fast—perhaps even by 50 points or more, depending on the circumstances.
Paying down credit card debt can save you money. It can also reduce your credit utilization rate and give your credit score a potential boost.
At the same time, it may be possible to add a layer of strategy to your credit card debt elimination efforts and take your credit improvement efforts to the next level. In other words, some ways of paying down your credit card balances may be better than others.
If one of your primary goals is to raise your credit score by 50 points or more, then the debt snowball strategy may be the smartest way to tackle your credit card debt. This approach doesn’t guarantee a 50-point score increase by any means, but it might get you closer to your goal.
With the debt snowball method you list your credit card balances from highest to lowest. Next, make the minimum payment on every account to avoid late payments. From there, apply every extra dollar possible to paying off the account with the lowest balance—zeroing out the card, but leaving it open. When you pay off the first account, move up to the next lowest balance on your list and repeat.
As mentioned, lowering your credit utilization rate can be good for your credit score, especially if you’re after a big credit score increase of 50 points or more. Credit utilization is a calculation that determines how much of your credit card limit you are using (both on individual accounts and all of your credit cards combined).
The formula for calculating credit utilization is as follows:
Credit Card Balance ÷ Credit Limit = Credit Utilization Rate
Based on the formula above, you can lower your credit utilization rate in one of two ways:
Asking your card issuer for a higher credit limit has the potential to improve your credit score when you don’t have the money available to pay off your credit card debt. You should still aim to lower your credit card debt, of course, since the interest rates on these accounts tend to be notoriously high. But if you’re looking for some credit score improvement in the meantime, a higher credit limit might work in your favor.
Note that if your credit score is low, your credit card issuer might not approve your request for a credit limit increase. It still likely won’t hurt to ask for the increase, other than the fact that you might experience a hard credit inquiry depending on the card issuer’s policy.
Any credit improvement plan should include a resolution to pay all of your credit obligations on time. On-time payments can protect your score from damage that might set back your credit improvement efforts.
Payment history is the most important factor that scoring models consider when calculating your credit score. A random 30-day late payment on your credit report might not seem like a big deal, but it has the potential to impact your credit score in a negative way.
Credit scoring models like FICO and VantageScore review the information on your credit reports and use it to help lenders calculate risk. A credit score predicts how likely you are to pay a credit obligation late (by 90 days or more) within the next 24 months.
Sometimes, incorrect information winds up on credit reports. But credit scoring models are unable to tell the difference between an error and accurate credit data. If an item is on your credit report, it can affect your credit score whether it’s correct or not.
Since credit reporting errors could damage your credit score in an unfair way, it’s important to be vigilant where your credit information is concerned. You’ll want to review your three credit reports often to verify that the data is error-free. (Tip: you can get free copies of your credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian at AnnualCreditReport.com once every 12 months.)
If you review your credit report and find errors, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) empowers you to dispute those mistakes with any credit reporting agency. Disputing credit errors is free, but the process can sometimes be tedious. If a creditor disagrees with your dispute and verifies that the item you dispute is accurate, the item will remain on your report. However, you can send follow up disputes with additional information, submit a complaint with the CFPB, or even talk to a consumer protection attorney if you need additional help.
A well-managed credit card can be a useful tool when you’re trying to improve your credit. At the same time, if you don’t have an open credit card you might want to consider taking one or more of the following actions.
There are several reasons a person might not have a credit card account. Some may worry that a credit card causes too much temptation. Others, however, don’t have a credit card because they don’t believe they can qualify for an account.
Bad credit or no credit can be an obstacle when you’re searching for a new credit card. Yet a secured credit card could be a good fit if the condition of your credit makes it difficult to qualify for a traditional unsecured credit card.
With a secured credit card, you may need to make a security deposit with the issuing bank that’s equal to the credit limit you receive on the account. The deposit secures the account and helps to reduce the risk involved for the lender.
Becoming an authorized user on a friend or family member’s credit card is another strategy that might help your credit. As an authorized user, the card issuer may report the account to the card bureaus under your name as well as under the primary cardholder’s name.
If the credit card has flawless payment history and a low credit utilization rate, the addition of the account to your credit report might raise your credit score. On the other hand, being an authorized user could damage your credit score if the primary cardholder doesn’t manage the account the right way.
Another potential way to add positive payment history to your credit report is with a credit builder loan. Like secured credit cards, credit builder loans tend to be easier to qualify for even if you lack previous credit history or have bad credit.
A credit builder account, like any other type of new credit, will not erase past credit problems. The FCRA allows most negative credit information to stay on your credit report for 7-10 years. But a credit builder loan that you pay on time could help you build positive credit that might help you over time.
Adding new, positive accounts to your credit report may help you build a better credit score in time. But it’s also important to avoid common mistakes (like those below) so you’re not disappointed with the results of your credit-building efforts.
Credit scoring models calculate your credit score based on many different details found in your credit report. These details (aka credit score factors) fit into five specific categories.
You can learn more about each of the categories above in this helpful credit score guide from Self. There’s no quick fix when it comes to improving your credit. But understanding where your credit scores come from can be a great first step in the right direction.
Michelle L. Black is a leading credit expert with over 17 years of experience in the credit industry. She’s an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting and debt eradication. See her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Ana Gonzalez-Ribeiro, MBA, AFC® is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a Bilingual Personal Finance Writer and Educator dedicated to helping populations that need financial literacy and counseling. Her informative articles have been published in various news outlets and websites including Huffington Post, Fidelity, Fox Business News, MSN and Yahoo Finance. She also founded the personal financial and motivational site www.AcetheJourney.com and translated into Spanish the book, Financial Advice for Blue Collar America by Kathryn B. Hauer, CFP. Ana teaches Spanish or English personal finance courses on behalf of the W!SE (Working In Support of Education) program has taught workshops for nonprofits in NYC.
Our goal at Self is to provide readers with current and unbiased information on credit, financial health, and related topics. This content is based on research and other related articles from trusted sources. All content at Self is written by experienced contributors in the finance industry and reviewed by an accredited person(s).