If your credit score is lower than you would like, there are strategic ways that you can bring it up. Though rebuilding credit can be more challenging than when you are starting from scratch, it is possible to make gains relatively quickly. This is especially more likely if you are struggling with a lower score. Small changes can yield greater changes that produce increased points. Before starting this process, it is important to know where exactly you are starting from. Be sure to check your credit score so you can identify where you currently stand which better allows you to set achievable goals. Strategies you can practice to build back your credit include the following: 

  • Pay bills on time

Your payment history is the most important factor that impacts your credit score. When rebuilding your credit, it is incredibly critical to pay all bills and existing lines of credit on time. If only paying the minimum amount is possible, be sure to do this on time and consistently. If you are unable to make a payment, contact your creditor ahead of time to see what your options are. It could be possible to make alternative arrangements so that this mark does not show up on your credit report. Late payments can remain on credit reports for up to 7 years, making it challenging to rebuild if there is an accumulation of these. If you have bills that go to collections, prioritize the bills that are still open and active. 

  • Practice credit utilization 

Credit utilization refers to the percentage of your credit card  limit you are using. The the amount of credit you use also impacts your credit score. It is important to know the limits on your credit cards as well as the credit utilization. Experts recommend not exceeding 30% of the limit on your credit cards, suggesting that the lower the credit utilization the better it is for your credit score. 

  • Get a secured credit card

A secured credit card is specifically designed for people rebuilding their credit. It requires you to pay a deposit upfront which is typically equal to the credit limit. This allows the creditor to take this deposit if you are unable to make a payment. Aside from this, a secured credit card works like a conventional credit card. There are different types of secured credit cards (with varying interest rates), be sure to choose one from an issuer that reports to all major credit-reporting bureaus. 

  • Become an authorized user

You can ask a family member, partner, or friend to add you on their credit card as an authorized user. Your name being on the account is beneficial for your credit score even if you do not make any charges or access the account. There are credit cards that allow primary cardholders to establish credit limits for authorized users which could help persuade them from adding you on their account. Though the impact on your credit score may not be drastic (because you are not legally responsible for debts associated with the credit card), it can still be helpful in raising your credit score. 

  • Contest any credit report errors 

It is important to stay up to date with the information on your credit report. If there are any errors, be sure to intervene to have those mistakes fixed. Common information to look for includes any payments labeled as late, outdated information that should no longer be on your report, another person’s credit activity reflected on your report etc. If These errors are on your report, they are likely contributing to a lower credit score. File disputes about these errors and follow-up to ensure that they are addressed.  

  • Address collections accounts

Paying off debts in collections is another useful way to rebuild credit. You can also request that the collection agency stop reporting debts once you have paid it off. 

These basic strategies can significantly boost your credit score. The time it takes to recover your credit score depends on the credit missteps (and time) that are marked on your credit report. But you can start seeing improvement relatively quickly, once you begin accumulating positive credit information. Choose a combination of strategies that are most feasible for you and track your progress!