7 min read
Improving your personal credit can give you access to more financing options as well as lower rates and more flexible repayment terms.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your credit. Some of them, like establishing a positive repayment history, can take several months. But what if you need an immediate boost?
It’s nearly impossible to improve your credit in a day, or even over a week or two—but there are steps you can take to help you lift your score in as little as 30 to 60 days.
Your credit report should tell the story of your financial activity, specifically as it relates to how you manage debt and credit accounts. But, sometimes errors or fraudulent activity can wreak havoc on your credit through no fault of your own. And, if errors and fraudulent activity make it to your report, your credit score could suffer.
Each of the top credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — are required by law to give consumers a free credit report each year. To request a copy of your free credit report from all three of the credit reporting agencies, visit the federally mandated website at www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also call 1-877-322-8228, or mail your request by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form.
Once you receive your report, review it to make sure all your information is accurate and up to date. If you find errors, you can file a dispute to have them corrected. Keep in mind that each credit reporting agency collects its own information, so you’ll need to contact each individual agency to address errors on your reports. (Fixing an error at one credit bureau won’t fix the error at all three.)
Another major factor that can directly impact your credit score is the amount of credit you have versus the amount of credit you use — specifically on revolving credit card accounts. This number is often referred to as your credit utilization and accounts for roughly 30% of your FICO score.
Revolving credit is credit that “revolves” or replenishes as you repay it. Revolving credit accounts (credit cards) don’t close once the balance is paid in full. Instead, you have the flexibility of reusing the credit as long as the account remains open.
If you have a credit card with a credit limit of $10,000 and you spend $7,000, you’re left with $3,000 in available credit on the account. If you make a $5,000 payment, your balance will drop to $2,000, leaving you with $8,000 in available credit.
You can determine your individual card utilization by dividing the existing card balance by the card limit:
Total credit card balances ÷ total credit limits = revolving utilization
|Credit card balance||Card limit||Utilization (%)|
|Credit card 1: $500||$5,000||10%|
|Credit card 2: $1,000||$10,000||10%|
What’s the ideal credit utilization rate? There’s no single rule, but the lower the better. Some experts recommend keeping your credit utilization rate at or below 30% and others at 10% or less to get the biggest boost.
The two steps above can result in a quick credit score boost, but only if there are no other recent delinquencies or other negative indicators (late or missed payments, collections, charge offs, bankruptcy, etc.) in your credit report. For these types of credit problems, there are additional long-term steps you can take to continue to rebuild and improve your credit.
[Quick Tip: If you’re shopping for a small business loan, applying for a loan will typically count as a hard inquiry. With QuickBooks Capital, however, we pull a soft inquiry when you apply so there’s no impact to your personal credit score. This gives you the freedom to rate shop and apply for funding without hurting your credit score.]
Create a repayment strategy that will help you make regular payments and decrease your overall debt. Your strategy should take into account your current income and bills.
If you have both credit card debt and installment loans (e.g., mortgages, auto loans, etc.), your goal should be to manage on-time payments for each account. After that, any additional cash should go towards paying down credit card debt first. This will help lower your credit utilization and will give you more of a credit score boost than paying down installment loans.
Opening a new credit account may help to increase your total available credit. And if you keep a low balance, this can work to lower your credit utilization rate. Plus, by using a credit card and making regular, on-time, monthly payments, you can begin to establish that positive credit history.
A word of caution
If you’re considering opening a credit card to improve your credit, remember that applying for a new credit card will result in a hard credit inquiry, which can temporarily bring down your credit score. Opening a new account will also shorten your average age of credit history, which accounts for 15% of the FICO score calculation.
If you have poor credit, it’s likely you’ll have to contend with higher than normal interest rates, or you may even be declined altogether. In this case, it’s best to start with a secured credit card to work on rebuilding your credit first—at least until you improve your credit enough to qualify for better rates and terms.
Finally, late payments or high balances can do more damage than good, so opening a new credit account should be a step that you take with caution.
Keeping your business and personal finances separate is one of the golden entrepreneurial rules. However, when it comes to business funding, your personal credit can directly impact your ability to secure loans, credit cards, lines of credit, and other business financing products.
By improving your personal credit score, you can unlock more affordable funding options and take advantage of lower rates and more flexible repayment terms.