The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.
5 Tips on How to Improve Bad Credit
Posted on Jan 29, 2018
Updated on Aug 9, 2022
Building credit is very much like losing weight - getting there takes a lot of time and work. Quick solutions may lead you into a trap and leave you worse off than you were before. But if you are worried about your credit situation, that's a start - a lot of Americans aren't even aware that they are in trouble until they have to apply for a mortgage or get a car loan. But if you are determined to make things right, you'll eventually succeed, and the process is not that complicated. If you follow these 5 simple tips, you may get from bad credit to excellent credit in due time.
1. Check Your Credit Report
First things first - you need to know where you are now in terms of your credit score. Start by checking your credit reports and credit scores with the three major credit reporting agencies - TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of these three credit bureaus every year.
When you receive the copies of your credit reports, take note of the things that hurt your credit score such as late payments, delinquencies, debts in collection, accounts you do not recognize and other suspicious records. Be attentive - a credit report is not flawless, it just contains data used to calculate your credit score and it may contain errors. There even may be errors in your personal information. If you see an error, dispute it with credit bureaus and/or your issuing bank.
Analyze all negatives that hurt your credit score. Bear in mind that your credit score consists of several things that affect it to a different degree. Some things have more weight than the others. In this pie chart, you can see which things have the most impact.
2. Get Rid of Your Debt
If you've studied the chart thoroughly, you've probably noticed that credit utilization makes up a large portion of your credit score - specifically, 30%. It's almost a third of the whole thing! Credit utilization ratio is the amount of your balance divided by your credit limit. In other words, it's how much you owe. The more debt you have, the less likely you have a good credit score. The perfect utilization ratio should not be over 30%. So, how do you remove debt?
Pay more than the minimum payment. Paying the bare minimum each month lets you shake off the thought of your debt for another month without consuming a lot of resources, so in the short run it may seem like a good way. However, as the APR takes effect, the interest is added to your balance, enlarging it drastically. As a result, your balance grows like a snowball each month, and one day the interest may exceed your initial balance. However, you may easily prevent this if you pay more than the minimum each month and don't let the interest grow.
Pay off your worst credit card first.As we already established, your credit utilization is a proportion. So if you take out the most affecting part of this proportion, it'll change for the better. Try get the credit card with the most debt out of the way first, and your overall debt-to-credit ratio will lower. Besides, a large debt is likely to collect more interest.
3. Get a Secured Credit Card
With a bad credit score, you're likely to face a dilemma: you need a credit card to build credit, but banks won't approve you for a regular credit card with a bad credit score. But there's a way around that. Secured credit cards are meant for building credit and are very easy to use. For a secured card you'll need to pay a security deposit that is usually equal to your line of credit. That is, if you need to pay upfront $200, you'll have a credit limit of $200, but once you close the card, you may get your deposit back. Some secured credit cards can even be upgraded to an unsecured account. Not very attractive? Consider this not a real credit card, but a tool to improve your credit. Below you can see and compare a range of secured credit cards and choose the one for you.
- Earn 1% Cash Back Rewards on payments made to your First Latitude Secured credit card account.
- Building credit starts immediately when you open your account - just pay your bill on time to establish your credit.*
- Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
- First Latitude is accepted wherever Mastercard® is accepted, online and worldwide!
- Pay 6-months-on-time and apply to get a second credit card in your wallet!
- *Cardholders who keep their balance low and pay their credit card bill on time every month typically do see an increase in their credit score.
- No credit check to apply. Zero credit risk to apply!
- Looking to build or rebuild your credit? 2/3 of cardholders receive a 48+ point improvement after making 3 on-time payments
- With an 87% average approval rate for the past 6 months, OpenSky gives everyone an opportunity to improve their credit
- Extend your $200 credit line by getting considered for an unsecured credit line increase after 6 months - no additional deposit required!
- Get free monthly access to your FICO score in our mobile application
- Build your credit history across 3 major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion
- Fund your card with a low $200 refundable security deposit to get a $200 credit line
- Apply in less than 5 minutes with our mobile first application
- Choose the due date that fits your schedule with flexible payment dates
- Fund your security deposit over 60 days with the option to make partial payments
- Join over 1.2 million cardholders who’ve used OpenSky to build their credit
- Better than Prepaid…Go with a Secured Card! Load One Time - Keep On Using
- Absolutely No Credit Check or Minimum Credit Score Required
- Automatic Reporting to All Three National Credit Bureaus
- 9.99% Low Fixed APR - Your Rate Won’t Go Up Even if You Are Late
- Activate Today with a $200 Minimum Deposit - Maximum $1,000.
- Increase Your Credit Limit up to $5,000 by Adding Additional Deposits Anytime
- Receive Your Card More Quickly with New Expedited Processing Option
- No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
- Quick and Complete Online Application; No credit inquiry required!
- Includes Free Real-Time Access to Your Credit Score and Ongoing Credit Monitoring powered by Experian
- Full-Feature Platinum Mastercard® Secured Credit Card; Try our new Mobile App for Android users!
- Good for Car Rental, Hotels; Anywhere Credit Cards Are Accepted!
- Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
- Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 -- $2,000 Submitted with Application
- Just Pay Off Your Balance and Receive Your Deposit Back at Any Time
- 24/7 Online Access to Your Account
- Nationwide program; available in all 50 US states *See Card Terms.
- Get a fresh start! A discharged bankruptcy still in your credit bureau file will not cause you to be declined.
- ¡Hablamos Español! Nuestros representantes de servicio al cliente hablan Español con fluidez para su conveniencia.
- Make 6-months of on-time payments & you’ll be invited to apply for an unsecured First Digital Mastercard!
- Earn 1% Cash Back Rewards on payments made to your First Progress Secured credit card account.
- No minimum credit history or credit score required!
- Imagine being rewarded for simply paying your bill each month.
- Accepted wherever Mastercard® is accepted, online and worldwide!
- Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
- Manage your statements, transactions & rewards on-the-go with the First Progress Card Mobile App!
4. Avoid carrying balance
Remember the pie chart? The second thing that affects your credit severely is your payment history. It takes 35% of the whole. Payment history is the information on how you pay all your bills and if you pay them on time. Until you reach at least fair credit, consider all your credit cards just means of showing credit bureaus and credit card issuers that you are a responsible consumer. You need to lead an exemplary financial life without any mistakes.
The most important thing is once you've dealt with the old debt, don't accrue the new one. Never carry a balance on any of your credit cards. Pay off all of the balance by the due date each month. Never be late with your payments, because that way you'll lose a lot of points and bring a late payment fee on yourself. To make things easier for yourself, you may just charge a small amount each month and pay it off at once. Try to carry this style into your future life - even when you improve your credit you'll gain a lot from your habit of not carrying your balance from month to month and escape a lot of problems. And while your credit is far from perfect, this is crucial.
5. Upgrade to an Unsecured Card
As soon as you are free of your debt and have improved your credit score, you can breathe a sigh of relief and move on to better opportunities. If you have a secured card of one of major banks, you may ask for an upgrade to a regular card. Or you can just choose another regular card for bad credit that won't make you pay a deposit. Here are some of our picks:
- Up to $1,000 credit limit doubles up to $2,000! (Simply make your first 6 monthly minimum payments on time)
- All credit types welcome to apply!
- Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From Experian* (When you sign up for e-statements)
- Initial Credit Limit of $300 – $1,000* (subject to available credit)
- Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
- See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
- Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
- Free online account access 24/7
- Checking Account Required
- Bad Credit, Low Score? No Problem!
- Managing your credit is key! TRY US RISK-FREE FOR 7 DAYS!
- Receive a $750 Credit Line*
- Easy Application with Immediate Results
- No Credit Check
- *usable only at theHorizonOutlet.com
- Reporting monthly to all three major credit reporting agencies
- Perfect credit not required for approval; we may approve you when others won’t
- Easy and secure online application
- $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
- Receive your card more quickly with optional Expedited Processing (additional fee applies)
- Get a result in as little as 60 seconds upon completion of the online application
- Online Customer Center available 24 x 7
- Checking account required
- The First Access Visa Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.