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Building good credit doesn't happen quickly

By

To Her Credit
To Her Credit, Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). She writes "To Her Credit," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women, credit and debt, for CreditCards.com, and also wrote for MSN Money, Interest.com and Bankrate.com, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs. See her website SallyHerigstad.com for more personal finance tips and free budgeting worksheets.
Ask Sally a question, or read her previous answers in the To Her Credit archive
Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear To Her Credit,
I have been working on my credit since April. I have two credit cards that I pay, on time. I keep the balances low. I have a car note that I pay on time, along with a school loan payment. How long will it take before I really see a drastic change to my credit? -- Corry

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Corry,
Three or four months are not very long in the life of a credit history! It sounds like you're doing great, but you're going to have to be patient.

You should be able to see a difference in your score in that amount of time. One variable, however, is how often your creditors report to the credit bureaus. Some creditors report every month, or even more often, while others may report every few months. Chances are, your credit card companies report every billing cycle.

You can ask your creditors how often they report to the credit bureaus. If you're in a hurry to see improvements in your score, for example, if you're about to buy a house, you might even ask your lender to request a "rapid rescore" service. Your lender generally pays an extra fee to have your credit score manually updated. It may raise your score in days, rather than in weeks or months.

If you have negative information on your report from before you started working on your credit in April, and the information is correct, you'll just have to be patient as you wait for the bad history to move further and further away in your rear-view mirror. When people have a long history of having trouble paying their bills, they can't expect potential creditors to be suddenly impressed by three or four months of on-time bill paying. There's only one way to build trust, and that's by doing what you say you will do, over and over again.

One thing in your favor is that you have a good mix of credit. Ten percent of your score is based on credit mix. A car note, along with your student loan and a couple of credit cards, should be a good mix. You're also doing well keeping your balances low. The lower you keep them, the better.

Have you checked your credit recently (you can pull your FICO credit score for about $20 at MyFICO.com and your credit reports for free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com)? It may be doing drastically better already. If it's only improving gradually, give it some time. As long as your credit score is headed in the right direction, you're taking good care of your credit.

See related: FICO's 5 factors: The components of a FICO credit score 

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Published: August 23, 2013


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Updated: 09-29-2016


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