Did your credit score take a hit? Keep reading to learn some steps you can take to repair your credit score and how long it will take to bounce back.
Your credit score can affect your financial and personal life in a variety of ways. Not only does your credit score determine the types of credit products you qualify for and what interest rates you receive, but it can affect your job prospects, insurance rates and even how easy it is for you to rent an apartment.
Certain events – like defaulting on credit card debt – can really harm your credit score. The good news is, if your credit score isn’t quite as high as you want it to be, there are very clear-cut steps you can take to improve it. While these steps won’t skyrocket your credit score overnight, they do add up over time and make a big impact.
Keep reading to learn how to improve your credit score and how long it will take you to repair it after it took a hit.
How long it takes to fix your credit score
Because creditors and other reporters of credit behavior, such as landlords, usually report your movements on a monthly basis to credit reporting agents, your credit score is also typically updated once a month.
Certain credit report activities can affect your credit score almost immediately, whereas others have a much smaller effect that takes time to add up. For example, when it comes to FICO credit scores (the most popular credit scoring model), your payment history makes up 35% of the total credit score and is the most important factor affecting credit score calculations. Taking out new forms of credit and having a mix of different types of credit products account for 10% of your credit score.
That means that if you miss a debt payment in one month (35%), that will have a much greater impact on your credit score than if you open a new credit account in that same time period (10%) or improve your credit mix (10%).
If you recently damaged your credit score, how long it will take to repair will depend on where the damage has been done. Let’s take a closer look at how long different marks against your credit score can take to fix.
Credit report errors and high credit utilization: one to three months
Mistakes happen in life and your credit report isn’t an exception. Creditors can misreport information, clerical errors can occur and fraud can happen. It’s a good practice to review your credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) from time to time to look for mistakes. You can get a free report each year from AnnualCreditReport.com (currently free each week due to the pandemic).
If you find a mistake on your credit report, you can dispute it, and if the credit bureau finds your dispute is accurate, they must remove the error from your credit report. It can take a few months to dispute these errors and see a correction made, so you may have to wait a while to see your credit score improve.
Having a high credit utilization ratio can also hurt your credit score, as it makes up 30% of your total score. It’s best to keep your credit utilization below 30% (the lower the better), so a fast way to improve your credit score is to pay off any existing balances on revolving credit. After a month or two, you’ll see your credit score improve.
Hard inquiries: 12 to 24 months
A hard inquiry (also known as a hard credit check or hard pull) occurs when you apply for a new credit product, such as a credit card or auto loan, and the lender reviews your credit report to see how creditworthy you are. Unfortunately, hard inquiries can cause your credit score to drop by a few points and will stay on your credit report for two years (although they won’t impact your credit score after 12 months). Sometimes, applying to rent a property or for utilities leads to a hard inquiry.
There’s nothing you can do on your end to speed up this repair process, but you can minimize the negative effects of hard inquiries by getting pre-approved (this counts as a soft inquiry and doesn’t harm your credit score) before you apply for a lending product to get a good idea if you’ll qualify or not. You should also avoid applying for new credit cards more than once every six months.
If you want to shop around for a new credit product, such as a mortgage, you can avoid incurring more than one hard inquiry as long as you submit all of your applications within the same time period (usually 45 days). Multiple hard pulls for the same kind of loan count as just one hard inquiry – the credit bureaus recognize that you’re shopping around for the best deal (which is smart) and not trying to take out multiple new credit products at once.
Late payments: 18 to 24 months
Remember, your payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score and is the most important factor in the FICO credit scoring model. This is because lenders like to see on-time payments when determining how creditworthy an applicant is. Late payments stay on your credit reports for seven years and the impact they have on your credit score decreases over time. It can take two years for your score to rebound from the damage of late payments.
The best way to lessen the impact of a late payment is to keep other areas of your credit report strong and to focus on making on-time payments moving forward. The more late payments you have on your credit report, the longer it will take to bounce back from them.
Alongside making on-time payments each month, try to lower your credit utilization ratio, improve your credit mix and keep older credit accounts open to keep your credit history nice and long.
Foreclosures and bankruptcy: 7 to 10 years
If you experience a foreclosure, a note of this event will stay on your credit report for seven years. After that time, the foreclosure will be removed from your credit report and will no longer be factored into your credit score.
You will also see Chapter 13 bankruptcies sticking around on your credit report for seven years after you file, but a Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report even longer – 10 years from the date of filing. After either type of bankruptcy notation is lifted, your credit score will no longer be affected.
Similar to repairing late payments, time is in charge here, but you can take steps to improve other areas of your credit score to balance out the impact of foreclosure or bankruptcy.
Repairing your credit score takes time, and it’s understandable if you feel impatient. It’s important to remember that all the steps you take to repair your credit score also help you build healthy credit habits that will keep your credit score happy in the long run.