There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as your credit score can improve (and potentially worsen) depending on several factors.
How long it will take for your credit score to improve will depend on your previous credit behaviour – and how seriously your score was affected – plus the steps you take to positively develop your credit history going forward.
Unfortunately, there’s no ‘quick fix’ to improve your credit score sooner. The best thing you can do is continue to repay any debts on time each month, to showcase your ability to manage your money responsibly. Our guide on how to improve your credit score gives even more hints and tips.
It’s also a good idea to regularly monitor your credit report and ensure the information on there is accurate and up to date. If you do spot any inaccuracies, investigate this and ask those responsible for the error to rectify it to ensure there’s minimal impact on your score.
The factors most likely to impact your credit score
First things first… remember you don’t have just one credit score. Each organisation, including lenders and credit reference agencies, will have their own scoring system. It’s likely that these organisations will use the information found on your credit report as part of the scoring process, though. Our credit score guide goes into more detail.
The information on your credit report most likely to impact your score includes:
Your repayment history shows prospective lenders what kind of customer you’re likely to be. If you’ve always repaid what you owe on time, you’re more likely to be a safe bet. If you have a history of paying late or missing your repayments, you will be seen as a higher risk.
Late or missed payments will also be recorded on your credit report, which will be visible for six years. While lenders will be able to see this information, they’ll likely pay more attention to your recent credit history so the impact of late or missed payments may lessen over time.
A one-off late or missed payment will undoubtedly have less of an impact. Your score may soon bounce back if you ensure all future repayments are made on time.
However, a history of missing your repayments will show lenders you may not be a reliable customer. This could result in your finance application being declined, or you being offered higher rates to off-set some of the risk.
CCJs and bankruptcies will also stay on your credit report for six years. It could be much harder to borrow money while this information is recorded on your file.
You may find the impact on your credit score does lessen over time, though – particularly if you work hard to build a positive payment history going forwards.
Credit utilisation is essentially what percentage of your total credit limit you’re using. If you’re using a large percentage of your available credit each month, this could be having a negative impact on your credit score. However, this may only be temporary - your score could improve relatively quickly once you pay off some of your credit card debt.
That’s because your credit score will be calculated when requested (i.e. when you apply for a loan). Your card issuer will report your credit usage each month so, if your score’s calculated at a time when your credit usage is particularly high you could expect to see a lower score. It’s well worth checking your credit report from time to time and keeping an eye on your credit utilisation in the months leading up to a credit check.
Do note that credit utilisation differs to your debt-to-income ratio (what percentage of your income is accounted for by debt repayments) in that your credit utilisation is recorded on your credit report and could impact your credit score.
Of course, your debt-to-income ratio will still be assessed by lenders as part of their affordability checks. But if you’re purely looking to improve your credit score, then keeping your credit utilisation at below 30% could be a good idea.
New loans or credit accounts
Applying for and taking out additional debt could have an impact on your credit score. While you may experience a short-term negative impact on your score when you initially open the account, you may actually find that it could have a positive effect long-term (providing you make your repayments consistently). That’s because, generally speaking, older accounts have a positive effect on your credit history.
You may also find that having a varied credit mix, such as revolving and instalment credit, improves your credit score as it shows you have a reliable history of managing different types of credit.
Our guide on how applying for a loan affects your credit score goes into more detail.
Hard credit checks
When you apply for new types of credit, including loans, a hard credit check will be recorded on your credit report. This will have a small, short-term impact on your score but you should find this clears relatively quickly provided the volume of searches isn’t excessive.
There are no set rules on how much each of the above factors impacts your score, or how long it will take to recover if your credit score has been impacted. You may find it helpful to use a free credit score checker to give you a rough idea of your credit performance and to identify areas of improvement.
Improving your credit score takes time
As we’ve already said, there’s no ‘quick fix’ when it comes to boosting your credit score.
Even taking proactive steps to improve your credit history won’t have an instant impact. That’s because organisations such as your credit card provider or lender report to credit reference agencies roughly every month, and it may take a further few weeks for the information to be recorded on your credit file. Therefore, it could take up to six weeks for any change to show on your credit report (and a good few months before any new accounts start to help your credit score).
Put simply, it really is a matter of being patient.