Your credit score is made up of five primary factors—your payment history, the debt-to-credit ratio, age of your accounts, types of credit and new accounts that you've opened. The length of time that it will take to improve your credit score depends on the reasons why your score is low. It could take as little as two months or as long as 10 years to improve your credit score.
Mistakes on your credit report can be causing a low credit score. If you find some inaccuracies when checking your account, write to the credit bureaus to have them remove or adjust the information. For example, if you've paid off an account that shows as open on your report, you can write to the company showing proof that you've paid. This will increase your credit score in a short period of time, usually 30 to 60 days.
The ratio of debt that you owe to the amount of credit that you have been extended counts for 30 percent of your credit score. High debt can be holding your credit down. As you work on paying down your debt—without adding any new debt—your credit score will gradually increase. The length of time for this varies depending on how much debt you have and how long it takes you to pay it off, but expect slight increases a couple of times per year.
Inquiries and New Accounts
The longer you've had your credit accounts open, the better your credit score. Opening new accounts puts inquiries in your report. These remain on your account for two years and can bring your score down. If you don't request new accounts for two years, though, these remarks will disappear and your credit score will improve.
Your payment history accounts for 35 percent of the credit score. If you have late payments, defaults or collections showing up on your account, you can bet you have a lower score. If you keep consistently paying your bills on time, your score will gradually increase. After seven years, these negative marks will go away and you will see a more drastic change in your score. If you have a bankruptcy, though, it will stay on the report for up to 10 years.
Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.