5 Creative Ways To Increase Your Credit Score ASAP
Depending on where you start, you could see a 200-point increase in just a few months.
There’s no sugarcoating this — your credit score is important.
You need good credit to rent an apartment, to buy a home, to buy or lease a car, to get a lower rate on your student loans, and so on. If your credit has taken a hit, it’s in your best interest to work toward improving your score. If you have no credit, or limited credit, you’re in the same boat.
I’m not going to get into the details of what makes up your credit score, because that has been written about extensively elsewhere. I’m also not going to get into the differences between FICO and VantageScore, but if you rely on services like Credit Karma to track your score, just know that you are seeing your VantageScore, not your FICO score.
For all intents and purposes, it doesn’t matter which score you’re looking at right now, because your goal is to increase all of them.
The options outlined below are not sequential. You can do one of them, two of them, or all of them. You can do them in any order that you want. Each one has the potential to make a positive impact on your credit. You can do them whether you have no credit, bad credit, or even a past bankruptcy. In most cases, it doesn’t matter, but if something doesn’t apply to you, just skip ahead to the next one.
Ready? Let’s do this.
First, figure out where you’re starting.
You can get your FICO score from Experian or Discover for free. You can get your VantageScore from Credit Karma for free. There are a few other services that will give you a free credit score (like Credit Sesame), but I don’t recommend these. Why? Because they spam you with emails, literally every single day, encouraging you to open more credit cards. Just stick with the basics — Experian and/or Discover, and Credit Karma. Don’t worry about little discrepancies between scores.
1. Use ExperianBoost to add your utility payments to your Experian credit report.
I have seen people pay monthly fees to get their rent and utilities added to their credit reports. Experian does it for free — at least with utilities. ScoreBoost only affects Experian, but it takes 5 minutes and your score will either remain the same, or increase — immediately.
2a. Open a credit builder account with Self (previously Self Lender)
I can’t say enough great things about Self. The concept is pretty simple. You loan yourself money over 1–2 years. The money is stored in a CD, and at the end of the payment period, the CD unlocks and the money comes back to you. If you need to cancel early and withdraw your funds, you can.
I’m on my second credit builder account with Self. A screenshot from my dashboard is below. I pay $25 per month. I can pay extra any time I want, but I want the account to remain open for the entire term so that I’ll have more positive payment history on my credit report.
You can open an account in minutes. No credit check is performed.
This is a great option for people who have no credit, have terrible credit, and even for people who have pretty good credit, but have never taken out an installment loan.
2b. Open a secured credit card with no credit check, using your Self credit builder account as your deposit.
What?! I just discovered this one now. Looks like it’s a new feature on Self. As soon as you’ve made 3 on-time payments and accumulated at least $100 in your Self account, you can choose to sign up for the Self secured credit card.
With no credit check. With no additional deposit.
That’s pretty amazing, because credit checks do lower your score a bit, and too many of them will cause you to get denied for credit cards, loans, etc.
In other words, you could open a Self account, then open a Self secured credit card, and both of them report to the credit bureaus every month. Nice.
3. If your FICO score is in the mid 600s or higher, consider using Payoff or Tally to pay off all of your credit cards.
Payoff and Tally have similar methods of operation. They pay off your high interest credit cards. You pay them once a month at a much lower interest rate, with no hidden fees. The benefit: by paying off your credit cards now, your utilization rate drops big time and your credit score goes up within one billing cycle.
You need a FICO score of 640 for Payoff and 660 for Tally, since they are extending you a line of credit, after all. If you’re not there yet, keep these on the back burner because you’ll likely be there soon.
4. Use an app like Digit or Tally Save to allocate your spare change to credit card payments and student loans.
This might not make a significant impact immediately, but long term, it helps because you’re making an extra payment. I currently use Digit, but I’m on the waiting list for Tally Save, which is currently in beta testing.
Here’s how Digit works: you connect your bank account, and you choose one credit card and one student loan to connect. Digit makes tiny withdrawals from your bank account ($1 here, 74 cents there — you probably won’t even notice) and saves them in folders based on the goals you set. Once a month, the funds are sent to the credit card and the student loan that you have connected.
You can get started with Digit pretty much right away. I am definitely looking forward to Tally Save, though, because it will allow you to chip away at ALL of your credit cards and student loans, instead of just one. You can get on the waiting list here.
5. If your credit is literally in shambles because of collection accounts, late payments, and so on: consider credit repair.
Brandon Weaver has a fantastic YouTube channel that teaches you how to do it yourself. For free.
I recommend a credit repair company only if you do not have the time or patience to dispute negative items yourself. If you choose to use a credit repair company, I recommend Sky Blue Credit.
Their website isn’t the fanciest, but they deliver on their promises, and their rates are the best I’ve seen. If you aren’t a good candidate, they won’t even accept your case. Once they’ve gotten as many negative items removed as they can, they literally email you to inform you that it’s time to cancel your subscription. Customer service is top notch. (Many people consider Lexington Law. I don’t recommend them. They charge too much money, they take too long, and they are very difficult to communicate with.)
What NOT to do:
- Do NOT sign up for a debt consolidation program. These programs require you to miss multiple consecutive payments to your creditors before they negotiate a settlement for you. Your credit is destroyed in the process. If you’re in this much trouble, chapter 7 bankruptcy is easier to recover from than debt consolidation.
- Do NOT apply for a bunch of extra credit cards. While it’s true that opening a new account increases your available credit and can have a long-term positive effect on your credit score, applying for credit cards that you aren’t going to be approved for just hurts your score. If you must apply for a new card, get pre-approval first from Discover, Capital One, or another reputable lender.
- Do NOT buy a tradeline. Yes, I know that you can pay a few hundred dollars to get added to a stranger’s credit card as an authorized user. But this is (a) temporary, (b) dangerous, and (c) not helpful — authorized user accounts are not factored in to every scoring model. Some scoring models ignore authorized users altogether. If you want to try the authorized user method of increasing your credit score, ask a close family member to add you as an authorized user and then to destroy the physical card when it arrives.
- Do NOT sign up for any services that look too good to be true. “Get an 800 credit score in 30 days!” No. It doesn’t work that way, so don’t fall for it.
- Do NOT close old credit card accounts unless they are from non-reputable banks and have huge annual fees. You need these seasoned accounts on your credit report. If you have an account with high annual fees, ask the creditor to remove the annual fee, or to convert your account to a different account with no annual fee. If there’s a small annual fee (like $19 a year), consider keeping this tradeline open until your credit score has gone up a bit. Closing a 10+ year old account is usually a mistake.
So, there you have it. If you combine common sense and responsible spending habits with the tips I’ve outlined above, you should see a significant increase in your credit score within a few months. I’ll update this article over time to keep it up-to-date with the latest information from the companies I mentioned.
Slow and steady wins the race, but not TOO slowly. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll see the positive effects.