How long does it really take to improve your credit score?

Improving your credit score is essential for many life goals — but how long does it take? Read more to find out what to expect as you rebuild your credit!
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How long it takes to improve your credit score ultimately depends on your starting point. Think of it like getting a house ready for sale: a new or well-maintained house will take less time to prepare than a dilapidated old farmer’s cottage.

Credit scores are the same way. If your credit score has taken a big hit or has been neglected, it will take more time to build it back up. The reason for this has to do with how credit reference agencies determine credit scores.

Here, we’ll take a look at what impacts your credit score and use that knowledge to contextualise how long it will take you to improve your credit score. Let’s jump in!

Understanding what affects your credit score

The UK has three main credit reference agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. While each calculates your credit score in a slightly different way, they all consider the same main factors like the following:

  • Your payment history: How consistently you make payments on credit
  • **Your credit utilisation ratio:**How much of your available credit you use
  • Your credit history: How long you’ve had credit accounts open
  • Your credit mix: How many different types of credit products you use

Of all these factors, your payment history is far and away the most important.

To understand why payment history is so important, it’s worth reminding ourselves exactly what a credit score is: a credit score is a way to measure how likely you are to repay what you’ve borrowed. If you miss a payment, use too much of your available credit, or close a credit account, it will be recorded in your credit report and cause your credit score to drop.

But with that said, not all marks on your credit report are made equal, nor are their recovery times.

What’s the timeline for improving your credit score?

Again, the amount of time it’ll take you to build your credit score depends on where your score starts. Here, we’ll take a look at how long you can generally expect it to take to recover from common credit damages, ranging from severe to minimal.

  • If you defaulted, it could take as long as six years for your score to fully recover.
  • If you had a County Court Judgement (CCJ), it could also take six years for your score to recover completely.
  • Missed payments could stay on your credit report for six years, but your score can start recovering in a few months, assuming you’ve made the payment.
  • Applying for a credit card or having a hard search pulled on your credit report can hurt your score slightly. However, if you haven’t made multiple searches or given credit reference agencies anything else to be concerned about, your score should recover within a few months. Again, that’s assuming that you’re managing your new credit wisely.

Keep in mind that although marks like CCJs and defaults can stay on your report for over half a decade, your score can start recovering before they’re removed from your report. It just depends on how well you adjust and build better credit habits.

Tips for building your credit score back faster

Your payment history plays an absolutely vital role in improving your credit score. Therefore, paying your bills and credit card balances on time and in full is one of the best things you can do for your credit score.

While payment history is the most important factor for your credit score, it’s not the only factor. Other tips you should consider include:

  • Reducing your credit utilisation: Try to use no more than 25% of your available credit at any given time. Want to learn more about credit utilisation? Check out our article on the topic — plus, learn the savvy strategy for using more than 25% of your credit limit without increasing your credit utilisation ratio.
  • Limiting hard credit checks: While a single hard credit check won’t do lasting damage to your credit score, making multiple applications within a short time period can make lenders think you’re reliant on credit. Look for details about eligibility requirements before applying for new lines of credit to limit the damage you do to your score.  Related read: What’s the difference between a hard credit check and a soft credit check?
  • Considering credit builder cards or loans: If your credit history tells lenders you’ve struggled to manage your payments in the past, credit builder cards or credit builder loans can help you change that narrative. These products require you to finish making payments before the line of credit is released to you, demonstrating your ability to make regular payments.

Build a solid payment history with the Pave app

No matter what state your credit score is in, building a solid payment history can help you strengthen your credit score. But doing that is easier said than done, and that’s why we made the Pave app.

Pave helps you protect and build your credit score by tracking upcoming payments so you don’t miss a thing. Plus, you can open a credit builder account with Pave to actively build your payment history and improve your credit utilisation.

If you want to see for yourself how 99% of our customers* with good credit habits improved their scores, download the Pave app today.

The 99% number represents Pave Plus customers who have been with Pave for at least 6 months, and have taken all actions listed in the Pave app while not adding negative markers to their credit file such as late payments or defaults. Pave cannot guarantee an increase in your credit score.