How Long Does It Take to Go from Bad Credit to Good Credit?
Improving your credit is a marathon, not a sprint. But just how long it will take you to fix your score could depend on why it was so lousy in the first place.
If you’re tired of finding yourself with few options when you need to cover an unforeseen expense, then you’re going to need to improve your credit score. But how long is that going to take?
Well, it’s going to depend on how low your score is, and why your score is lousy in the first place. Here’s what you need to know.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
One of the reasons that this question doesn’t have one answer to rule them all, is because “bad credit” is a pretty broad definition.
FICO credit scores are scored on a scale from 300 to 850, with 850 being the best score possible and 300 being the worst. A prime credit score—which is a more technical way of saying a “good” credit score—is generally considered to be any score above 680.
Once you’re in that range, you can start getting qualified for a wide range of unsecured personal loans from traditional lending institutions like banks and online loan companies. And when you take out secured loans like auto or mortgage loans, you’ll be able to qualify for much better terms and lower interest rates.
If you have a score under 680, on the other hand, then your score is generally considered to be “subprime”—but this isn’t necessarily the same thing as bad credit. You can still qualify for some traditional personal loans if you have a score under 680. It’s when your score dips to below the 620 to 630 range that the bad credit label starts to really stick.
But even then, a score that’s in the 400 range is much, much worse than a score of 619, even if both of them still qualify as “bad credit.” The bottom line is this: The lower your score is, the more damage that has been done, and the longer it is going to take to fix.
So, why is your credit score low in the first place?
Your credit score is based on the information contained in your credit reports, which are documents that track your history as a borrower and user of credit over the past seven-to-ten years. These reports are created and maintained by the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
Credit reports contain lots of different data, some of which is collected from lenders and other businesses, some of which is available on the public record. Types of info tracked by these reports include credit accounts, bill payments, credit card balances and credit limits, bankruptcies, collection accounts, government liens, and recent hard credit inquiries.
With your FICO score, there are five main categories of credit report data that are used to create your score: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%t), credit mix (10%), and recent credit inquiries (10%).
Looking at those five categories, it’s clear that payment history is the most important factor in your score, followed closely by the amount of debt that you owe. Together, they make up almost two-thirds of your overall score.
So if you have bad credit, it’s a good bet that the answer lies somewhere within these categories. Either you have a history of late or missed bill payments, you owe too much high-interest consumer debt (probably on your credit cards), or both.
The best way to learn why your score is bad is to check a copy of your credit report. Luckily, U.S. consumers are entitled to one free copy of their credit reports every 12 months from each of the three major bureaus. To request a free copy of your credit report, just visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
Always pay your bills on time. Always.
If you have a history of late payments that are tanking your score, then fixing that score is relatively simple: Pay your bills on time. Only one late payment can send your score plummeting, so you’re pretty much going to need a 100% on-time payment success rate in order to improve your score and maintain it.
For folks who have trouble paying their bills on time because they don’t have the funds to cover every bill every month, here are a couple of helpful tips. First, contact your creditors to see if you can have your due dates changed. Second, create a household budget to make sure that that you have enough money in your checking account to cover all your outstanding bills.
The bad news with a score that’s suffering due to a poor payment history is that it will take years for your score to fully recover. Lenders and other creditors really value customers who pay their bills on time, so it will many, many months of on-time payments before your score will be in the prime range again.
How quickly can you pay down your debts?
If your score is low because you owe too much high-interest consumer debt, however, there is some good news: Your score can recover much faster. The quicker you pay down those debts, the faster your score will rise.
Still, that’s easier said than done! You’ll once again need to stick to a strict household budget, on top of which you’ll need a debt repayment plan. Two of the most popular strategies out there are the Debt Snowball method—which rewards you with early payoff victories—and the Debt Avalanche method—which will save you money in interest.
The more funds you are able to free up for debt repayment, the faster you’ll be able to improve your score. Considering getting a second job or side hustle to supercharge your payoff. If you get paid biweekly, plan for those three paycheck months when you’ll have some extra money coming your way.
Luckily, you should see a bump in your score once you are able to get your outstanding credit card balances below 30 percent of your total credit limits. Moving forward, do your best to maintain a credit utilization ratio under 30% at all times—even if that means paying your cards off more regularly than once a month.
You’ll probably have to be patient.
Unless you’re able to pay off a lot of debt in one fell swoop, improving your score is still likely going to take you years, not months. But the good financial habits that you build during that time will help you not only improve your score now, they’ll help you manage your money for years to come.
Subscribe to our newsletter for more marketing news & industry trends
The information contained herein is provided for free and is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. We are not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law and we do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit. Articles provided in connection with this blog are general in nature, provided for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized professional advice. We make no representation that we will improve or attempt to improve your credit record, history, or rating through the use of the resources provided through the OppLoans blog.