In order to be approved for credit and get the best rates on credit cards and loans, it’s vital to have a good credit score. But what is a good credit score? Credit scores around 700 are considered “good” by FICO and VantageScore, the two most popular credit rating services. But what if your credit score is under 700? Chances are, you can get it up to 700, or even 750, quickly once you understand how credit scores work and learn how to manage credit to your advantage.
Here’s what you should know about your credit score — and what to do to improve it fast.
How Do FICO and VantageScore Calculate Credit Scores?
Knowing how the FICO and VantageScore scoring models work will help you identify ways you can improve your credit score. Both scoring models weigh several factors according to their influence on your score.
FICO has five factors:
- Payment history: 35%
- Amounts owed: 30%
- Length of credit history: 15%
- New credit: 10%
- Credit mix: 10%
VantageScore 3.0, VantageScore’s most popular version, has six factors:
- Payment history: 40%
- Depth of credit: 21%
- Credit utilization: 20%
- Balances: 11%
- Recent credit: 5%
- Available credit: 3%
VantageScore 4.0, VantageScore’s newest version, places slightly more emphasis on payment history and balances and slightly less on depth of credit and available credit.
How To Get a 700-750 Credit Score Fast
Achieving a 700 or 750 credit score is a process, not an event, which means you can’t raise your score 100 points overnight. However, depending on your current score and your overall financial situation, the following strategies for improving your credit score could start paying off in as soon as a few days.
1. Check Your Credit Report Regularly
Regularly checking your credit report is a reliable way to pinpoint financial weaknesses so you can create a solid plan to combat them. Plus, it allows you to check for errors. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — each year. AnnualCreditReport.com provides reports from all three bureaus, and as of Sept. 3, you can request reports weekly, free of charge.
To correct any inaccuracies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends first filing a dispute with each credit bureau that’s reporting the inaccurate information. Disputes can be filed online at each bureau’s website or by mail. The credit bureaus have 30 to 45 days, depending on the circumstances, to investigate errors.
The CFPB suggests you then contact the company that furnished the information — your bank, landlord or credit card company, for example — to alert it of the mistake. If the furnisher agrees that it made a mistake, it must correct your record with the credit bureaus. Your credit score could be updated within a few days after the correction is made.
2. Make Payments on Time
Making payments on time is crucial to reaching your ideal credit score range because payment history makes up 35% of your score. Missing payments negatively impact your credit score. How much depends on what your score was before the missed payment, but it could be as much as 100 points. Although missed payments remain on your credit report for seven years, your credit score can recover with just three to five months of on-time payments, according to U.S. News.
Setting up automatic payments eliminates the need to remember to pay your recurring bills.
3. Avoid Closing Old Accounts
It can be tempting to close credit cards once they’re paid off, but leaving them open can build up your credit score in several ways.
For one, the way you handle current lines of credit is of more interest to creditors than how you handled past credit lines. Recently closed accounts will still factor into your score, but open accounts will carry more weight.
In addition, closing old accounts changes the average age of your accounts, which can hurt your score. VantageScore bases 20% to 21% of your score on the depth of your credit history. FICO bases 15% of your credit score on the length of your credit history, taking into account “how long your credit accounts have been established, including the age of your oldest account, the age of your newest account and an average age of all your accounts.” Closing an old account can reduce the average age of all your accounts, making it harder to reach a 700 score.
The third way closing old accounts works against you is by increasing your credit utilization. The closed account reduces the amount of credit you have available, so your outstanding balances comprise a larger percentage of it.
Finally, closing an old account changes your credit mix if it’s your only account of its type. For example, if you have a car loan, a store credit card and a bank credit card and you cancel the store card, you’ll reduce your account types to a bank card and car loan.
Credit mix makes up 10% of your FICO score and contributes to the depth of your credit history, which makes up 20% to 21% of your VantageScore. As FICO noted, you don’t have to have each type. But having multiple types can help raise your score.
4. Add Rent and Utilities to Your Credit Report
Utility companies do not share information with consumer reporting agencies, but thanks to the Credit Access and Inclusion Act, you can add utilities, phone and rent payment history to your credit report. That can help you establish your credit score if you don’t yet have a credit history or boost your score if your history has negative information.
Experian offers a free service called Experian Boost that adds your utility bills as well as other payments you make, such as for streaming services, to your Experian credit report. TransUnion offers a similar service for reporting various non-credit accounts for an annual fee.
Your landlord might already subscribe to a rent reporting service that allows you to report your rent payments. If not, a service like RentReporters can verify your payments and add them to your credit report for a fee. For an additional fee, RentReporters will report the past 24 months of rent payments.
5. Increase Your Credit Limit
Increasing your credit card and line-of-credit limits isn’t a viable solution for everyone, but if you already have good credit, doing this can encourage your score to rise above 700. Your credit limit is a contributing factor to the utilization ratio because it represents the amount of available credit. An increased limit can help lower the ratio, improving overall credit.
If past credit problems prevent you from increasing your credit limit, you might consider taking out a secured credit card or a credit-builder account from a company like CreditStrong. With a secured card, you make a deposit, and the credit card provider gives you a credit line in the same amount, or perhaps slightly more. CreditStrong’s Revolv account, on the other hand, immediately reports a $1,000 revolving credit account to the credit bureaus, and it gives you access to the funds after you’ve paid $1,000 into a savings account. The limit increases in $250 increments after every third on-time payment, up to a maximum of $3,000, so you could see a small difference in your score almost immediately and additional improvement within a few months.
6. Make Small Purchases With Your Credit Cards
Managing credit cards responsibly helps build or rebuild credit scores. It’s important to keep your utilization low — FICO recommends you not use more than 10% of your credit limit — but it’s also important to use your cards regularly so your creditors have more payments to report. FICO says 0% utilization won’t cause a significant drop in your credit score, but it will keep you from getting maximum points for the amounts owed factor that makes up 30% of your FICO credit score.
The best small purchases to make are those that you make already. Perhaps pay for one grocery order per month, or a utility or subscription bill you’d typically pay for via debit from your checking account. To avoid forgetting the credit card payment, you can set up autopay and have it pay off the balance each month.
7. Pay Off Your Maxed-Out Credit Cards
Having a large amount of debt negatively impacts your credit score. Maxed-out credit cards look bad on credit reports because a high utilization ratio suggests you might be struggling to keep up with your expenses.
Many consumers use Dave Ramsey’s snowball method to pay down credit card debt. This method entails paying extra toward the smallest balance while making minimum payments on the rest. When the first card is paid off, you pay extra toward the next-smallest balance, and so on.
Another option is the avalanche method, where you pay the highest-interest card first. The gratification of paying off an account might be slower to come with this method, but it could get you out of debt faster by freeing up money that otherwise would’ve gone to high interest payments.
8. Don’t Open Too Many New Accounts at Once
Newly opened credit determines 10% of your FICO credit score and 5% to 11% of your VantageScore credit score. Opening multiple credit accounts too quickly can be risky, especially if you have a short credit history.
Another way this can hurt your credit score is by the multiple hard inquiries that will show up on your credit report. Each one can reduce your credit score by a few points, which pushes you further from that 700 credit score goal. In addition, each new account shortens the average age of your accounts.
9. Be Aware of the Rate-Shopping Window
FICO and VantageScore both allow consumers to shop for rates without being penalized for multiple hard inquiries. Similar inquiries — for mortgage loans or for car loans, for example — are treated like a single inquiry, so they have minimal impact on your credit score. So if you plan to apply with multiple lenders, try to do so within a narrow window. In FICO’s latest scoring model, that window is 45 days. For VantageScore, the window is 14 days.
Can I Get a 700 to 750 Credit Score Within the Next 6 Months?
Whether a 700 or 750 score in the next six months is a realistic goal depends on your current score and why it’s less than 700. If, for example, a mistake on your credit report is dragging down your score, correcting the error could boost your score within a few days. A past bankruptcy, on the other hand, is something you can’t control. You really have no choice but to wait it out. Its impact on your score will lessen as time passes, but it could be a couple of years before a 700 score is possible.
Consistency Is Key
You’re on the right path to improving your credit score if you already have good credit — or are committed to improving bad credit. No matter where you’re starting from, building your credit takes perseverance but will pay off in time. Continue to practice good financial habits — keep an eye on your credit report, keep debts to a minimum, be careful of how you use new credit and most importantly, pay your bills on time — so you can work up to a 700 credit score and maybe even reach 750.
Laurel Funk contributed to the reporting for this article.