Checking a credit score

7 ways to increase your credit score in 3 months

Let's be clear on one thing here: you never want to have to raise your credit score in three months. Having a strong credit score is a marathon, not a sprint. It'll be much harder to build it back up than it will be to keep it in good shape from the start.

But as we all know, shit happens. Life requires expenses and sometimes that causes us to go a little bit overboard. When that happens, it's time to start exploring how you can turn things around sooner rather than later.

Even those who aren't in any particular credit trouble may find themselves looking to step things up a notch. A great credit score can open up all kinds of doors. Whether it's for a car loan, mortgage, rental, business loan, etc., the last thing you want is for it to hold you back.

Follow these seven tips and your score will be sure to go up before long.

1) Fix credit report errors

Don't do a single credit-related thing until you've checked your credit report for errors. Finding one is more common that you might think.

This is why it's good practice to keep receipts for credit card purchases. It's not the end of the world if you toss away the one you got for buying chips and pop at the corner store, but for anything remotely substantial, holding on to that receipt is a must-do.

2) Pay everything off

Time to do the dirty work. Ultimately this is what it's all about. No matter how bad things have gotten with your credit situation, getting it to a point where you have zero debt will always reflect extremely well on you.

For some of us this can be really difficult to deliver on. There's no magic button that can clear away debt. In most cases, becoming debt-free will require some extremely difficult decisions regarding priorities and actionable steps. Speaking of which...

3) Explore consolidation

When you can't pay off your debt immediately, one of the next-best things you can do is shift around that debt strategically. This is called consolidation.

The optimal option for a quick fix is to shift the debt onto a balance transfer card. These are alternative credit cards that typically have particularly low introductory interest rates. That's their benefit. The catch is that after that introductory period dries up, the rates go up enormously. So balance transfer cards are advisable, but only if you can say with certainty that you'll be able to avoid the steeper interest entirely—or have so much paid off by the time it kicks in that it won't matter.

4) Raise your limits

"Raise your credit card limits." Hmmm, doesn't this sound a little counterintuitive? It could be. But only if you choose to be comepletely irresponsible with it!

The rationale behind asking for a credit limit (or accepting one that's offered) is that it's a sign of trust. Banks won't give limit increases to individuals they suspect will abuse the privilege. A limit increase is something that will positively impact your credit score, and in turn, positively impact the chances of securing any loan you may be after.

5) Become an authorized user

Another display of trust. Becoming an authorized user on someone else's credit card essentially gives you free reign to use that card while also tying your reputation to its usage. If this is something you're interested in doing, you better be able to trust the person you're signing on with—and they sure as hell better trust you.

The advantage to this scenario is that someone who doesn't have a great history can demonstrate trustworthiness and management of a healthy situation in order to boost their own. The downside is that there's always lots of potential for it to go wrong. Choose wisely!

6) Keep balances low

Why wait until a statement is due before you pay it? If you can get into a habit of paying off your credit charges no more than a week apart, then you'll always be in good standing. If there's an unforeseen emergency that were to spring up when you are expected to pay off you're statement, this will mitigate that potential damage. Plus, since your payment history will factor into your report and score, this will just look better as well.

7) Track different cards closely

Chances are you have at least a couple different credit cards. If you do, make sure to keep track of all of them. To reinforce what was said in the previous tip, there's no point in risking late payments over laziness. Getting everything paid on time becomes more difficult when you have different cards to keep track of. So whatever it is you have to do to pay your cards regularly—make written reminders, get friends to keep you accountable, etc.—make sure you do it.