How Do I Improve a Bad Credit Score?

Use credit cards wisely and pay off balances each month to help increase your credit score.

Use credit cards wisely and pay off balances each month to help increase your credit score.

Credit scores are based on several factors including your ability to make monthly payments on time, the length of your credit history, your current credit card balances, and the number of credit and loan accounts you have. Reducing your debt and paying on time can positively improve your credit score in as little as 90 days. Start repairing a bad credit score today by creating a monthly budget to help you pay down your credit card and loan balances.

Obtain a copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting bureaus -- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com (see Resources) to obtain a free credit report from credit reporting bureaus. Then review each report for errors such as accounts listed twice, new accounts not reported, inaccurate account balances, and incorrect home addresses and Social Security numbers. Fix errors by contacting the creditors and the credit reporting bureaus.

Pay your credit card and loan payments on time to establish a consistent payment record. Contact creditors and lenders if you can't afford to make regular payments to work out a new payment schedule or lower your monthly payments.

Contact collection agencies to pay off any accounts listed on your credit report as charge-offs. Creditors and lenders typically charge-off accounts after six months of nonpayment and sell the debt to collection agencies. While you may no longer owe the creditor or lender money, you do owe the collection agency. A charge-off can last up to 7 years on your credit report and cause your credit score to remain low. Write a letter to collection agencies after repaying the debt to persuade them to report the debt as "Paid as Agreed."

Maintain your current credit card accounts by keeping balances low. Pay off your balances completely each month if you can, or keep balances under 35 percent of your total credit limit.

Keep your existing credit card accounts open to establish credit history. The length of time an account is open affects your credit score. Use your credit cards every once in a while to purchase small items to demonstrate your ability to use credit wisely.

Items you will need

  • Credit report


  • Monitor your credit score to track your progress. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion offer credit score monitoring services for a monthly fee.


  • Repairing your credit score may take 12 months or longer, depending on the amount of debt, late payments and discharged accounts on your credit report.

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About the Author

Based in the Washington metro area, Jessica Jones has been a freelance writer since 2006, specializing in business topics. Her fiction has also been featured in publications such as "The Jamaican Observer Sunday Literary Supplement" and at websites including HackWriters. Jones earned a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing from Lesley University.

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