1. Request a copy of your credit report. Everyone has access to one free annual copy of each of their three credit reports. The best tactic is to order each one four months apart so you can keep track of how your credit is improving throughout the year.
2. Before you do anything else, thoroughly check your credit report for any errors. If there’s a mistake, which is not uncommon, dispute the error. This is easy to do online.
3. Once mistakes have been fixed, call up your creditors to try to negotiate with them. You can’t pretend that you’ve been paying your bill all along, but you can try to work out a good deal. Some creditors will erase a debt that’s gone to collection. Or, you may be able to offer to pay the balance in exchange for them changing the credit report status to “Paid as Agreed.” Whatever deal you work out, make sure to get it in writing before making any payments.
4. Ask about a “Good Will Adjustment.” If you were a great customer up until a certain point, like when you lost your job, the creditor may go easy on you. Ask that they remove the account from the credit report.
5. Check out the limits on your credit cards and then make sure this information matches what’s on the credit report. If you had an increase to your credit card limit, it’s possible that the credit report still shows the previous limit. This could make it look like you’re maxing out your cards when you’re not. You may need to contact the credit card company and have them update the information on your credit report.
6. Don’t have a credit card yet? Get one! Even if you have a low credit score, you’ll still be able to qualify for a prepaid, secured credit card. Don’t charge too much on the card and be sure to pay the bill on time. Instead of paying the minimum every month, pay off a higher percentage of the balance. Being a responsible credit user is one of the best ways to increase your credit score. Be sure that you choose a credit card that reports to all three credit bureaus.
7. Still can’t get a credit card? Ask one of your friends or relatives to add you as an authorized user on their card. Work out a plan for how you’ll use the card responsibly. It helps to get it in writing so the other person feels comfortable with the setup.
8. Don’t pay for every single thing with your credit card. You should only use your credit card some of the time. Experts say that using just 10% of your credit at a time is the perfect ratio.
9. If you have a good track record with a credit card company, ask them if they’re able to increase your limit. Just make sure you can trust yourself to not overspend. Also, you’ll still want to use just 10% of your credit at a time, but the good news is that the amount that equals will now be higher.
10. Don’t close a credit card, even if you’re not using it very much. This shows the credit bureau that your available credit has gone down, which could have a negative effect on your credit score. A good tactic is to setup a recurring charge on a seldom-used card, like your monthly utility bill.
11. If you already have a credit card, you could see your credit score budge by using a different kind of credit. For example, you may want to take out a personal loan from a credit union. Just make sure that you’ll be able to pay the loan back on schedule.
12. Always make sure to pay your bills on time. Your payment history has a major impact on your credit score, especially your FICO score.
13. Pay your bills in two monthly installments. It’s not good for your credit score when you charge a lot all at once. Instead, break up your payments over four weeks to make more frequent charges for smaller amounts. Pay half of each bill two weeks before the due date and the other half a day or two before the due date.
14. Stick with one or two credit cards. While you’ll want to keep small balances on each, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to have eight different cards that all carry small balances. Pay off your cards with small balances and stick with two cards, max.
15. Don’t worry about the old debt on your credit report if it’s in good standing. While negative items will be bad for your score, good debt is actually good for your credit. The longer your history of good debt, the better your credit score.
16. Don’t use your credit at places that could hint to a problem with your finances. If you take out a cash advance or make get paid by a pawnshop, this showcases that you might be having financial trouble. Creditors are less likely to work with you to eliminate your debt if they think you’re not reliable.
17. Seek out professional help. Sometimes you just need people who are trained and experienced in helping people increase their credit score quickly. There are many credible law firms that can help you make big improvements quickly.
Your credit isn’t something you should ignore. While it could take up to a month or two to see a major improvement, that’s still considered fast in the grand scheme of things.