Printed credit report showing a poor credit score of 425

Low credit scores can happen to just about anyone. You might miss a payment on your student loans, close out a bank account or get a few hard checks on your score. While the circumstances are unfortunate, there are still plenty of tactics to rebuild your credit score to its former glory. In this post, we’ll walk through 7 different options to rebuild your bad credit. Keep in mind that many of these tactics require diligence, education, and some initial sacrifices (that will pay off down the road). 

What is a Bad Credit Score? 

The first step in repairing your bad credit score is to see what your credit score actually is. A bad credit score is categorized as a FICO score between 300 and 620, though some score charts subdivide the category into ‘bad’ (300-500) and ‘subprime’ (550-620). If your score is below 500, you definitely want to look into ways to rebuild your credit score.

How Does a Bad Credit Score Affect Me?

Having a bad credit score can have several negative effects, including: 

  • High interest rates on your credit cards and loans
  • Applications for loans being rejected
  • Difficulty getting approved for an apartment
  • Required security deposits on utilities
  • Difficulties purchasing a car

This is just a part of the list. Essentially, the lower your credit score gets, the harder it is to get it back up. Many predatory lending companies (ie: Title Loans, Payday Loans, etc.) prey on those with low credit scores, because they know they can charge them much higher interest rates. You’ll want to be on guard against no credit check loans and other installment loans with short repayment periods.

Ways to Rebuild Bad Credit 

Now that we’ve outlined how to categorize your score as ‘bad’ and some of the negative consequences of being saddled with a low credit score, let’s jump into ways you can rebuild your bad credit. 

Pay on Time

This may seem like a no-brainer, but on-time payments can be one of the most influential factors when it comes to rebuilding your credit score. This includes not just bills, but all existing lines of credit (credit cards, personal loans, etc.). The biggest piece of the pie that makes up your credit score is payment history, so this is one to pay particular attention to. 

Keep in mind that late payments can take up to seven years to come off your free credit report. You’ll want to prioritize bills that have already gone to collections with accounts that are still open.  

Use only a Fraction of your Credit Limits

There’s something called ‘credit utilization’ which defines the percentage of your credit limit that you’re using. It’s the second most influential factor in your credit score aside from on-time payments, so it should be handled with the utmost attention. 

As a general rule of thumb, it’s good to keep your credit utilization no higher than 30% of the limit on the card. The lower you can keep this utilization, the better. You should be able to check the credit utilization of you credit cards by viewing your credit score or using this calculator. You’ll want to prioritize bringing down the highest ratios first. As soon as this adjustment is reported to the credit bureaus, you can expect to see your credit score bounce back.  

Attain a Secured Credit Card

If the situation is dire and your credit card accounts have been closed altogether, a secured credit card may be the fresh start you need. With this option, you’ll need to provide a deposit upfront (equating to your credit limit). In this way, you use the card much like a debit card, and you ensure your credit score doesn’t drop any lower than it already is. 

Note: Make sure the issuer reports payments to all three major credit-reporting bureaus. 

Utilize a Credit-Builder Loan or Secured Loan 

A credit-builder loan or secured loan helps you boost your credit profile, and they’re typically offered at credit unions or community banks.  Requirements include:

  • Proof of Income
  • Being a member/customer of institution lending the money 
  • Proof of ability to repay loan 

It’s the responsibility of the lender to hold the money until you repay. Once repaid in full, the money is released back to the borrower. All this does is prove that you are willing and able to manage your credit, though keep in mind that late payments will still count against your score. 

Become an Authorized User

Another option is to ask someone to add your as an authorized user on their credit card. By being listed as a user, your credit score automatically goes up. In fact, you don’t even have to access the account. If the primary owner does want to give your access to spend on the card, however, they can set spending limits for authorized users. This helps with accountability.

Keep in mind that the score jump won’t be huge, since you aren’t legally responsible for debts on the account. There’s also a win-lose aspect to this option; If the primary doesn’t pay their bills on time, it can negatively affect your score, too. Make sure you’re signing on with someone you trust to avoid this pitfall. 

Get a Co-Signer

If the reason you need to improve your credit score it to attain a loan or credit card, consider asking family members or friends if they would be willing to co-sign. This is a huge ask, since the co-signer would be agreeing to take full responsibility for your repayment if you default.  However, this is also the quickest way to get around a slow credit build up. 

Installment Loans for Bad Credit

Luckily, there are some installment loans out there (like- personal loans) that will lend to you even if you have bad credit–though they are few and far between. This gives you an opportunity to make on-time payments and prove that you’re trustworthy. 

Basic requirements to attain an installment loan include an active checking account and income standards, though these requirements can vary depending on the size of the loan and your credit score. You can apply for an online personal loan from helix today to see whether you qualify.

How Long does the Rebuilding Process Take? 

This may all sound daunting, but it’s important to take that first, difficult step toward rebuilding your credit score. The process can be slow, but consistent compliance with the recommended options above should get you started on the right track. Late and missed payments, judgements and collections take seven years to be removed from your record, so you want to take preventative steps to avoid these dings specifically.