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How Long Does It Take to Repair Credit?

Negative marks can stay on your credit report for seven or even 10 years. But if you are having trouble managing your finances, don’t panic.

Many people hit a moment at some point when they miss a payment or pay bills late. Or perhaps they face mounting credit card debt or the prospect of foreclosure. If you are grappling with any of these situations, you may wonder how long your credit report will reflect these issues.

While seven years is a typical time period for events to stay on your report and potentially impact your credit score, the time period could be considerably shorter. And as time passes, the effect of these “bad marks” will typically diminish.

Read on to learn more about what can lower your credit score, how long it can take to bounce back, and ways to manage your money responsibly, which can help build your score.

Factors that Can Influence Your Credit Score & Report

A credit score gives a numerical value to a person’s credit history. It can help give lenders a big-picture look at a potential borrower’s creditworthiness. These scores (there isn’t just one) give lenders insight into how reliable a person might be when it comes to repaying their debt.

This can influence a lender’s decision on whether or not to loan a person money, how much money they are willing to lend, and the rates and terms for which a borrower qualifies.

Since credit scores are so widely used, it’s easy to see why some individuals may be interested in improving their credit scores. First, it might be helpful to understand the factors used to actually determine your score. Here’s a snapshot of what goes into a FICO® Score, since that is the credit score used by many lenders right now.

•   Your payment history accounts for approximately 35% of your FICO Score, making it one of the most influential factors. Even just one missed or late payment could potentially lower a person’s credit score.

•   Credit utilization ratio accounts for 30% of your score. Credit utilization ratio is your total revolving debt in comparison to your total available revolving credit limit. A low credit utilization ratio can indicate to lenders that you are effectively managing your credit. Typically, lenders like to see a credit utilization ratio that is less than 30%.

•   The length of your credit history counts for 15%, and that may be a good reason not to close an account that you use infrequently. It might help add to the length of your history.

•   Your credit mix accounts for 10% of your score. While not a good reason to go out and open a new line of credit, the bureaus do tend to prefer to see a mix of accounts vs. just one kind of credit.

•   The last component, also at 10%, is new credit, meaning are you currently making a lot of requests for credit. The number of hard credit inquiries in your name could make it look as if you are at risk of financial instability and are seeking ways to pay for goods and services.



💡 Quick Tip: Some personal loan lenders can release your funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved.

Credit Issues: How Long Do They Linger?

Negative factors like late payments and foreclosures can hang around on your credit report for a while. Generally, the information is included for around seven years.

Bankruptcy is an exception to this seven year guideline—it can linger on your credit report for up to 10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy filed. Bankruptcies filed under Chapter 7 can be reported for up to 10 years from the filing date. Bankruptcies filed under Chapter 13 can be reported for seven.

While a late payment will be listed on a credit report for seven years, as time passes it typically has less of an impact. So if you missed a payment last month, it will have more of an effect on your score than if you missed a payment four years ago.

These numbers are important to know when you are working to build your credit.

How Long Does It Take For Your Credit Score to Go Up?

Here’s a look, in chart form, at how long it takes for different negative factors to drop off your credit report.

Factor

Typical credit score recovery time

Bankruptcy 7-10 years
Late payment Up to 7 years
Home foreclosure Up to 7 years
Closing a credit card account 3 months or longer
Maxing out a credit card account 3 months or longer, depending on how quickly you repay your debt
Applying for a new credit card 3 months typically

Disputing an Error on Your Credit Report

Checking your credit report can help you stay on top of your credit. You’ll also be able to make sure the information is correct, and if needed, dispute any mistakes. There could, for instance, be a bill you paid long ago on your report as unpaid, or perhaps account details belonging to someone else with a similar name erroneously wound up on your report.

There are three major credit bureaus — Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®. Once a year you can request a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, at no cost. You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com to learn more. Checking in with each report may feel a little repetitive, but it’s possible that the credit bureaus could have slightly different information on file.

If you find that there are discrepancies or errors, you can dispute the mistake. You’ll have to write to each credit bureau individually. Generally, you’ll need to send in documentation to support your claim. Once you’ve submitted your dispute letter, the bureaus typically have 30 days to respond.

It’s possible that a bureau will require additional supporting documentation, which can lead to some back and forth within or sometimes after the 30 days. It could take anywhere from three to six months to resolve a credit dispute, though some of these situations will take more or less time depending on complexity.

Staying on Top of Efforts to Build Credit

Sometimes, resolving issues on a credit report isn’t enough to build a bad credit score. On the bright side, credit scores aren’t permanent. Here are a few ideas for helping you to build your credit.

Improve Account Management

If you’re struggling to keep up with accounts with a variety of financial institutions, it could be time to simplify. Take stock of your investments, debts, credit cards, and savings or checking accounts. Is there any opportunity to consolidate?

Having your accounts in one, easy-to-check location can make it simpler to ensure you never miss an alert or important deadline. Automating your finances and using your bank’s app to regularly check in with your accounts (say, a few times a week can be a good cadence) can make good money sense as well, helping you keep on top of payment deadlines and when your balance might be getting low.


💡 Quick Tip: Swap high-interest debt for a lower-interest loan, and save money on your monthly payments. Find out why credit card consolidation loans are so popular.

Make Payments On-Time

Did you know that your payment history (as in, do you pay on time) is the single largest factor in determining your credit score? Lenders can be hesitant to lend money to people with a history of late payments. So make sure you’re aware of each bill’s due date and make your payments on time. One idea? As mentioned above, you could set up autopay so you don’t even have to think about it.

Limit Credit Utilization Ratio

It could help to set a realistic budget that leads to a fair credit utilization ratio, meaning that your credit balances aren’t too high in relation to your credit limit. Some accounts will let you set up balance alerts that can warn you as you inch closer to the 30% guideline of the maximum you want to reach. Another option could be paying your credit card bill more frequently (for example, setting up a mid-cycle payment in addition to your regular payment).

Stratege to Destroy Debt

When it comes to paying off debt, having a plan can help. For example, using a credit card can be an effective way to build your credit history, but if not used responsibly, credit card debt can be incredibly difficult to pay off.

Not only that, it could end up impacting your credit score (say, if your credit utilization ratio creeps up above 30%, as noted above). As a part of your plan to build your credit after negative factors have occurred, you might consider putting a debt repayment plan into place.

Your finances and personal situation will be a major factor in the debt payoff plan that works best for you. If you need some inspiration, the methods below may be helpful to reference in your quest to pay off debt. If you decide that one of these options works for you, here’s how you might go about them.

The Snowball

The snowball method of paying off debt is pretty straightforward.

•   To put it into action, you would organize your debts from smallest to largest, without factoring in the interest rates.

•   Then you’d continue to make the minimum payments on all of your debts while paying as much as possible on your smallest debt.

•   When the smallest debt is paid off, you’d then roll that money into debt payments for the next smallest debt — until all of your debt is repaid.

This strategy is all about changing behavior and building in incentives to help keep you going. Starting with the smallest debt means you’d see the reward of paying it off faster than if you had started with the larger debt. While this method can help keep you motivated and laser-focused on eliminating your debt, it isn’t always the most cost effective, since it doesn’t take into account interest rates.

The Avalanche

The debt avalanche method encourages you to focus on your highest-interest debts first.

•   Prioritize debts with the highest interest rates by putting any extra cash towards them.

•   Continue to make the minimum payments on all of your other debts.

This technique could help save money in interest in the long run. And it could even help you pay off your debts sooner than the snowball method.

The Fireball

The fireball method combines the snowball and avalanche methods in a hybrid approach designed to help you blaze through costly debt so you can focus on the things that matter most to you.

•   The first step in this method is to go through all of your debts and categorize them as either “good” or “bad.”

•   “Good” debts are those that tend to contribute to your financial growth and net worth; they also tend to have relatively lower interest rates. Good debt might be a student loan that helps you launch your career or a mortgage that allows you to own a home.

•   Debts with high interest rates that don’t go towards building wealth (such as credit card debt) are often considered “bad.” With this method, you can list your “bad” debts from the smallest amount to the largest amount.

•   Then you’d take a look at your budget and see how much money you have to funnel toward making extra debt payments. While making the minimum monthly payment on all outstanding debts, you’d direct the extra funds toward the bad debt with the smallest amount due.

•   When that smallest balance is repaid in full, you’d apply the total amount you were paying on that debt to the next smallest debt. Then you’d continue this pattern, moving through each outstanding bad debt until they are all paid in full.

An important note: While you are moving through your higher-interest debts, you would still follow the normal payment schedule on your lower-interest debts.

By focusing on the debts with the highest interest rates first, this method could save you some change when compared with the snowball method. And, since you’re then targeting bad debt from the smallest balance to the largest, you could still benefit from the same psychological boost as you see your debt shrink, one payment at a time.

Create a Goals-Based Approach

Having financial goals could possibly help you streamline your efforts. If you’re actively working toward saving for, say, a down payment, you may feel less inclined to spend money elsewhere.

You could try setting short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. In the short-term your goals might be as simple as tracking your spending and setting up a budget. Or perhaps saving for a big vacation that’s a year or so away. For mid-term goals, you might think about something a little further out, like buying a house or saving for a child’s education. Long-term goals are often things like (you guessed it) saving for retirement.

Writing down your goals and setting a time for when you’d like to reach them can help you set up your plan.

Consolidate Your Debt

If you are working on building your credit and want to pay down your credit card balances, one option could be a personal loan to consolidate that high-interest debt.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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How Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?

Student loans don’t just help you pay for your college education. They also allow you to build a credit history, which can be useful when it comes time to get a mortgage or take out a car loan. The key, though, is to make regular on-time payment – or you may wind up with the sort of credit history that negatively impacts your ability to borrow money in the future.

Here’s a look at how student loans can affect your credit score.

How Is My Credit Score Calculated?

First, it can be helpful to know how your credit score is calculated. There are several types of credit scores, but FICO scores are the most commonly used by top lenders.

Your FICO score is calculated using five categories of data found in your credit reports, which each category weighted differently.

Category

Weight in Scoring

Payment History 35%
Amounts Owed 30%
Length of Credit History 15%
New Credit 10%
Credit Mix 10%

Based on these calculations, there are a few ways you can build good credit and maintain a good credit score. Paying your bills on time is a big one, since your payment history is the most heavily weighted factor. Paying down existing debt and keeping credit card balances low will also have a big effect. Less impactful, but important strategies, also include diversifying the types of credit you have, avoiding opening too many new accounts at once, and keeping accounts open to lengthen the average age of your credit history.

Serious savings. Save thousands of dollars
thanks to flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.


What Student Loan Factors Affect My Credit Score?

Now that you know how credit scores generally work, you might be wondering how your student loans specifically impact your score.

Again, one of the biggest ways your student loans can affect your credit is whether or not you pay them on time. If you’re a responsible borrower who continually makes on-time student loan payments, you will see positive shifts in your credit score over time.

But if you fail to repay a loan or continually make late payments, your credit score will likely see a dip. If you default on your student loan, your credit score could drop significantly. The lender may also send your account to a collections agency, and you may have a more difficult time securing credit in the future.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

How Does a Late Student Loan Payment Affect My Credit Score?

Making payments on time is important, but what you might not realize is exactly how damaging late payments can be. Even if your credit history is pristine, it only takes one report of 30 days past due to change your score. Once a late payment is reported to the credit bureaus, it could remain on your credit report for up to seven years.

To help ensure your payments are on time, you might want to set up an automatic payment plan. Most lenders will even give you a small discount on your interest rate for doing so. If you know you can’t make a payment on time, talk to your lender or loan servicer right away. The Department of Education, which is the lender for four types of Direct Loans, and even some private lenders, offer loan deferment or forbearance. These options allow a borrower to temporarily suspend payments, which will minimize the impact on their credit score.

Does It Hurt to Pay Off Student Loans Quickly?

Repaying student loans quickly will always improve your credit score, right? Not necessarily. In fact, you could even see a small, temporary dip in your credit score right after paying off a loan. There are several reasons for this. If student loans are your primary source of open credit, closing those accounts means you’re no longer building payment history. Prematurely paying off a loan can also change your credit mix or credit utilization.

But credit score is just one factor to consider when deciding how quickly to pay off a student loan. You may want to think about how much extra interest you’d pay by leaving the account open. Carrying a high loan balance could also make it harder to qualify for new loans, which is something to keep in mind when it comes time to buy a home or car.

Notorious Big Bad D’s: Delinquent and in Default

Student loans affect credit scores in a variety of ways, but the worst thing you can do is ignore your monthly loan payment. If you’re even one day late with a payment, you’ll be considered delinquent and may be charged a penalty.

Once a missed payment is more than 90 days delinquent, your loan servicer will report it to the three major national credit bureaus. This could lower your credit score and hurt your ability to get a new credit card or qualify for a car loan or mortgage.

After 270 days of a missed student loan payment, your status changes to default and your student loans are due in full along with any accrued interest, fines, and penalties.

(Note that the on-ramp that’s in place for federal student loan repayment from October 2023 through September 2024 temporarily shields borrowers from the most immediate consequences of delinquency and default.)

Will Rate Shopping Different Student Loan Lenders Hurt My Credit?

When you’re shopping around for the best interest rate possible on a private student loan, lenders may pull your credit file. This is called a hard inquiry, and each one could temporarily knock a few points off your credit score.

To help protect your FICO score, try to finish shopping for rates and finalizing your loan within 30 days. Researching rates and getting quotes ahead of time can give you a good idea of whether you’ll qualify for a loan before you formally apply.

You may also want to ask lenders if they can tell you the interest rate you would receive without doing a “hard” credit pull, which might affect your score. You can’t get a loan without an eventual hard inquiry, but getting prequalified allows you to compare interest rates without impacting your credit score.

Will Refinancing Student Loans Help My Credit?

Because refinancing involves taking out a new loan with new terms to pay off existing debt, refinancing student loans affects your credit score—both positively and negatively.

In the short-term, refinancing will involve a hard credit inquiry and may cause a temporary ding to your credit. Again, as long as you keep your loan shopping to a short period, multiple inquiries will be treated as one, and should have a minimal impact on your score.

In the long-run, refinancing student loans at a lower interest rate can have an indirect positive effect on your credit. For example, if refinancing lowers the amount you pay each month, you may be more likely to make payments on time. You may also pay off your loans faster, which can help you reduce your overall debt and improve your score. (Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.)

If you refinance federal loans with a private lender — in effect, turning your federal loans into a private loan — rest assured that credit bureaus don’t view these two types of loans any differently. However, when you refinance your federal loans, you will lose certain federal protections, such as income-driven repayment plans, deferment or forbearance, and loan forgiveness programs.

Do I Need a Good Credit Score to Take Out a Student Loan?

Your credit score may be a factor when you’re applying for a student loan. It all depends on the type of loan you’re planning to take out. Most federal loans don’t have a minimum credit requirement, which is why nearly every borrower gets the same interest rate regardless of their financial profile. However, federal PLUS loans for parents require that borrowers do not have an adverse credit history.

Credit scores are typically more of a factor with private student loans. Lenders often consider your score when determining student loan approval and interest rate. In general, the better your score, the better your rate will be.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Which Credit Scores Do Private Lenders Use?

When considering your student loan application, most private lenders look at your FICO® score. This score, which ranges from 300 to 850, helps lenders determine whether to extend credit and at what interest rate.

Because FICO is used widely throughout the lending industry, including by mortgage lenders and credit card providers, it gives lenders an apples-to-apples comparison of potential borrowers.

The Takeaway

Student loans can help borrowers establish a solid credit history, which can ease the way for future borrowing opportunities and attractive interest rates. The key is to pay what you owe on time, every time.

Paying a loan off early or shopping around for rates could cause a small, temporary dip in credit scores. Being late with a payment — or stopping payment altogether — may lower your credit score and hurt your ability to qualify for another loan.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Do student loans help build credit?

Student loans are an opportunity for borrowers to build credit and establish a solid credit history, which can help when it’s time to get a mortgage or take out a car loan. The key is to make regular, on-time payments.

How can I improve my credit score if I have student loans?

Payment history is one factor of your overall credit score, so making regular, on-time payments on your student loans can help you build credit.

How is my credit score determined?

Your credit score is calculated using five different categories of data. These include payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit, and credit mix.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Credit Card Utilization: Everything You Need To Know

Credit Card Utilization: Everything You Need To Know

Imagine you have four credit cards, each with a $5,000 limit, for a total of $20,000. You have a balance of $2,000 on Credit Card A from vacation travel, $1,000 on Credit Card B from buying new car tires, $2,000 on Credit Card C from last holiday season, and $1,000 on Credit Card D from regular monthly bills. Altogether, you owe $6,000. If we calculate that as a percentage, we have your credit card utilization rate: 30%.

In this guide, we’ll focus on credit utilization, determine how much of your credit you should use, and show how credit card utilization affects your credit score and overall financial standing.

What Is a Credit Utilization Ratio?

Your credit utilization ratio is a fancy way of referring to how much of your credit you’re using. Lenders and credit reporting agencies use it as an indicator of how well someone is managing their finances.

A low credit utilization ratio says you live within your means, use credit cards responsibly, and therefore probably manage the rest of your finances well. A high credit utilization hints that your expenses are outpacing your income, a sign that you’re misusing credit cards, and possibly mismanaging the rest of your finances.

The reality of the situation may be different. Perhaps you have temporary cash flow problems due to a job loss. Or you happen to have a pileup of pricey expenses within a short time, such as medical bills, car repairs, and a destination wedding. It happens. That’s why credit utilization is just one factor that goes into calculating your credit score.

Recommended: Types of Personal Loans

How Do You Calculate Your Credit Card Utilization Rate?

In the example above, we saw that if you have $20,000 of credit available to you, and you owe $6,000, your credit utilization rate is 30%. How did we get there? To find out your credit card utilization rate, simply divide your total credit card balances by your total credit line, like this:

Total Balance / Total Credit Line = Utilization Rate

With the numbers from our example, it looks like this:

6,000 / 20,000 = .3 or 30%

Simple, right? You’ve got this.

Recommended: Getting Your Personal Loan Approved

What Counts as “Good” Credit Card Utilization?

As it turns out, just because you’ve been approved for a $10,000 credit card doesn’t mean it makes financial sense to charge $10,000 worth of rosé and seltzer — even if you know you can pay it off over a couple of months. In fact, you might be shocked to learn how little of your available credit you’re supposed to use.

The general rule is that you should not exceed a 30% credit card utilization rate. That means that in our example, you would not want to use more than $6,000 of your available $20,000 credit. Even though 30% might seem like a small percentage, keeping below that threshold can ensure that your credit score isn’t being dinged for over-utilization.

Is credit utilization affecting your credit
score? See a breakdown in the SoFi app.


How Can You Lower Your Credit Card Utilization Ratio?

You can lower your credit utilization ratio by paying down your credit card balances. Ideally, you should pay off your credit card balances in full every billing cycle to avoid paying interest. When that’s not possible, pay off as much of the bill as you can.

Whatever you do, don’t make a habit of paying only the credit card minimum payment suggested on your bill.

When trying to pay down your credit cards, focus on the one with the highest interest rate. That way, you’ll save the most money on interest. Or you can pay off your cards with a personal loan. In fact, debt consolidation is one of those most common uses for personal loans.

Another way to lower your utilization rate is to increase your available credit. Ask your bank to raise your credit card limit. If they agree, your utilization will quickly drop. Also, keep open any cards you don’t use rather than closing the accounts. They’re serving a valuable purpose by contributing to your credit limit, even if you’ve cut up the actual cards.

As you can tell, credit utilization is a nuanced topic. Learn all the ins and outs in our Guide to Lowering Your Credit Card Utilization.

How Does Credit Card Utilization Affect Your Credit Score?

Credit card utilization plays a big role in how companies compute your credit score. In fact, about 30% of your credit score is determined by your credit card utilization rate. That means a high credit card utilization rate can adversely affect your credit score. For a deep dive into the topic, check out How Does Credit Utilization Affect Your Credit Score?

How Do You Monitor Your Credit Card Utilization?

Your credit utilization might seem difficult to keep track of. But we live in the 21st century, so it’s actually quite easy to set up account reminders to alert you when you are approaching that 30% credit card utilization mark.

In addition to watching your utilization rate, make your best effort to pay your credit card bills on-time each month. Checking your credit score regularly will also help you keep your financial health in check. Although you don’t want to check your score too often, it’s good to keep tabs to make sure the data being reported is accurate.

The Takeaway

Your credit card utilization ratio is the sum of all your credit card balances divided by the sum of your credit limits. Credit reporting agencies recommend keeping your ratio at 30% or below. Higher ratios can hurt your credit, since credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score. To lower your utilization rate, simply pay down your credit card balances. And think twice before closing a credit card you no longer use. You might also consider consolidating your credit card debt with a personal loan; a personal loan calculator can show you how much you could save on interest.

Have high credit card utilization across multiple cards? Consolidating credit card debt with a low interest personal loan will reduce your utilization rate, which can positively affect your credit score. With SoFi Personal Loans, you can borrow $5K to $100K, with low fixed rates and no fees required.

Compared with high-interest credit cards, a SoFi personal loan is simply better debt.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Strategies for Building Credit

Broadly speaking, the best way to build credit is actually quite straightforward: Be the kind of borrower you’d want to lend to. While that might sound simple, it isn’t always second nature to know exactly how to go about doing that. For instance, you might know it’s critical to make payments on time, but you might not be aware that it’s important to keep your unused credit cards open.

If you’re setting out on your journey toward building credit, here’s a rundown on how to build credit, with 10 strategies you can stick to.

1. Acquire Credit

Perhaps the first crucial step in how to build credit is to acquire credit accounts. For someone who does not have a credit history of their own, getting a co-signer or becoming an authorized user on an established cardholder’s account can help you get started. You might also consider a secured credit card or a credit card designed specifically for students, or look into a credit-builder loan.

In the long run, however, you’ll be in a much stronger position if you can borrow in your name alone. Establishing credit of your own can make it easier to borrow in the future for such things as an auto loan, a personal loan, or even a mortgage.

2. Pay Bills Consistently and On Time

Timely payments are crucial, and making at least the minimum payment each month on a revolving credit line can make a positive impact on your credit score.

That’s because payment history makes a bigger impact on a person’s credit score than anything else. A borrower’s credit score summarizes their health and strength as a borrower, and payment history makes up 35% of that score on a credit rating scale. So the most important rule of credit is this: Don’t miss payments.

Many lenders will actually allow you to customize due dates so they line up with pay dates, and most let you set up automatic payments from a checking or savings account. Take the time to find what works for you to make your payments in a timely fashion.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

3. Manage Your Credit Utilization Rate

The further away a person is from hitting their credit limit, the healthier their credit score will be, in most circumstances. A borrower’s debt-to-credit ratio, also known as the credit utilization rate, should ideally be no more than 30%. Higher utilization rates can negatively affect a person’s credit score.

Paying revolving credit lines in full each month can have a positive impact on your credit score because doing so essentially lowers your credit utilization rate. Additionally, keeping tabs on your credit utilization rate before continuing to swipe is key to using a credit card wisely.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

4. Keep Unused Credit Cards Open

Lenders want to see accounts maintained in good standing for a long time. As such, a credit history looks better when it has a solid number of accounts in good standing that have been open for a while. When debt accounts are closed, that history ends, and eventually closed accounts drop off your credit report entirely.

To keep this from happening, avoid closing old credit cards — even if you’re not using them anymore. You might consider using these accounts to automate a few bills, like car insurance or a monthly subscription account, to avoid account closure due to inactivity.

5. DiversifyYour Credit Mix

Having a diverse mix of credit products can also have a positive impact on a person’s credit, accounting for 10% of a credit score calculation.

Opening at least one credit card is a good step for most borrowers. Using a personal loan to finance a large purchase with a relatively low interest rate, and paying off that personal loan on time, can also have a positive impact on a person’s credit. Student loan refinancing can be another way to diversify your credit mix, while potentially lowering your interest rate.

However, while having a mix of credit can help your standing as a borrower, it’s not a good idea to open a line of credit that’s not needed just to increase your mix of credit types. Instead, stick to applying only for credit you actually need and that you’re confident you can afford to pay off.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

6. Check Your Credit Report

It’s recommended to check your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus at least once a year. Doing a regular review of your reports is a good way to monitor your overall credit health and understand the impacts of different activities. It’s also important to make sure that everything listed in your credit report is accurate, and to flag any errors or fraudulent activity.

Where Can You Track Your Credit Score?

You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Request your copy online by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Note that you can also request a copy anytime you experience an adverse action based on your credit report (like being denied for a loan), among other circumstances.

Checking your credit score is even easier. While it’s not included in your credit report, you can get your current score from your credit card company, financial institution, or on a loan statement. Another option is to use a free credit score service or site. If you’re tracking changes to your credit score, it’s helpful to know how often your credit score updates and then check in accordingly.

7. Limit Credit Applications

When making major life changes, like starting a job, getting married, or having children, sometimes multiple lines of credit might be helpful to get through it all. Financial institutions understand that, but they also know that, historically, people who borrow a lot of money at once from multiple sources tend to have more difficulty paying them back. Spreading out credit applications over time whenever possible typically has a lower impact on an overall credit score.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit

8. Avoid Overspending

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to ensure you keep building your credit in the right direction is to only spend what you can afford to pay off. This will help you more easily maintain a lower credit utilization rate, and it can prevent you from racking up a balance and falling into a debt spiral.

Plus, if you pay off your balance in full each month, as opposed to only making the minimum payment, you can avoid incurring interest charges. This is a perk that’s foundational to what a credit card is.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

9. Get Credit For Other Bills You Pay

If you’re early in your credit building journey, it can help to get credit for other payments you’re making on time, such as your rent payment, utility bills, or even streaming services fees. For instance, Experian Boost adds on-time payments in other accounts to your Experian credit report. There are also a plethora of rent-reporting services out there that will report your timely rent payments to the credit bureaus.

10. Pay Off Any Existing Debt

Another important strategy toward building credit is to pay down any debt you may currently have. Especially important when it comes to the time it takes to repair credit, saying goodbye to existing debt allows you to lower your credit utilization rate, which in turn builds your credit score. There are a number of tactics out there for paying off debt, from a debt consolidation loan to a balance transfer credit card.

What Is a “Good” Credit Score?

A “good” credit score is considered within the range of 670 to 739 under the FICO Score, the credit scoring model most commonly used by lenders. “Very good” is considered anywhere from 740 to 799, while “exceptional” is 800 and above.

Keep in mind, however, that these exact ranges can vary a bit from model to model. For instance, in the VantageScore® range, a score of 661 to 780 is considered “good.” In general though, anything in the upper 600s is generally within the range of a “good” credit score.

How Long Does it Take to Build Your Credit Score?

According to Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, it generally takes anywhere from three to six months of data to generate an initial credit score.

Credit card issuers typically don’t report account activity until the end of the first billing cycle, so it’s worth waiting a month or two before you check in on the status of your score. If you’re anxious to ensure your activity counts, it’s also a good idea to check with your issuer to make sure they report to the credit bureaus.

What Can You Do with “Good” Credit?

The importance of having good credit can’t be overstated. By building credit, you’ll have easier access to borrowing opportunities in the future, whether that’s an auto loan for a new car or a mortgage for a new home. A better credit score also allows you to secure better terms, such as lower interest rates and a higher borrowing capacity.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

The Takeaway

As you can see, there are a number of ways to build credit. First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you’re following the tenets of responsible credit usage, as these are arguably the best ways to build credit. From there, you can consider additional credit building strategies, such as ensuring that your on-time rent and utility payments count.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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What's the Difference Between a Hard and Soft Credit Check?

What’s the Difference Between a Hard and Soft Credit Check?

The main difference between a soft vs. hard credit check is that each hard check knocks a few points off your credit score, whereas soft checks don’t affect your score. Both hard and soft checks pull the same financial data but for different purposes. Hard checks are typically done when you apply for a loan or credit card; soft checks are conducted for most other purposes, such as pre-screening for credit card offers.

It’s important for consumers to understand this difference because too many hard checks — also known as hard pulls and hard inquiries — can significantly lower your credit score. This in turn can hurt your chances of getting the best offers on credit cards and loans. Keep reading to learn more about credit checks and how to prevent unnecessary hard checks of your credit file.

What Is a Soft Credit Inquiry?

As noted above, a soft credit check pulls most of your financial data:

•   The number and type of all your credit accounts

•   Credit card balances

•   Loan balances

•   Payment history for revolving credit (credit cards and home equity lines of credit)

•   Payment history for installment loans (auto loans, mortgages, student loans, and personal loans)

•   Accounts gone to collections

•   Tax liens and other public records

Soft inquiries are not used during loan or credit card applications. Instead, they’re used for most other purposes that require a background check, and do not require the consumer’s permission or involvement. Reasons for a soft check can include:

•   Employment pre-screening

•   Rental applications

•   Insurance evaluations

•   Pre-screening for financial offers by mail

•   Loan prequalification

•   Checking your own credit file

•   When you’re shopping personal loan interest rates or credit cards

Soft credit checks do not affect your credit score, no matter how often they take place. Some soft checks appear on your credit report, but not all — you may never find out they took place.

When they are listed, you might see language like “inquiries that do not affect your credit rating,” along with the name of the requester and the date of the inquiry. Only the consumer can see soft inquiries on their report; creditors cannot.

What Is a Hard Credit Inquiry?

A hard credit inquiry typically takes place when you apply for a credit card, mortgage, or car loan, and give permission for the lender or creditor to pull your credit file.

Each hard pull may lower your credit score — but only by less than five points, according to FICO® Score. All hard inquiries appear on your credit report. While they stay there for about two years, they stop affecting your credit score after 12 months.

Not all loans require a hard credit inquiry — but consider that a red flag. Some small local merchants offer short-term loans, high-interest unsecured personal loans. Borrowers must show proof of income via a recent paycheck, but no credit check is required. The risks of these “payday loans” are so great that many states have outlawed them.

Recommended: How to Get Approved for a Personal Loan

Avoiding Hard Credit Inquiries

Consumers should carefully consider if they really need new credit before applying for an account that requires a hard credit check.

For example, department stores and some chains like to entice you to apply for their store credit card by offering a generous discount on your purchase as you’re checking out. In that situation, ask yourself if it’s worth a credit score hit (albeit a small one).

Another way to minimize hard inquiries is to ask which type of credit check a company intends to run. If, for example, a cable company usually requires a hard credit inquiry to open an account, you might ask if a hard pull can be avoided. Other situations where there may be some flexibility include:

•   Rental applications

•   Leasing a car

•   New utility accounts

•   Requesting a higher credit limit on an existing account

•   Opening a money market account

Disputing Inaccurate Hard Inquiries

A good financial rule of thumb is to review your credit reports every year to check for common credit report errors and signs of identity theft. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees consumers the right to access their credit reports each year for free. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to order reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

To check for inaccurate hard inquiries, look for a section on your credit report with any of these labels:

•   Credit inquiries

•   Hard inquiries

•   Regular inquiries

•   Requests viewed by others

You can dispute hard inquiries and remove them from your credit reports under certain circumstances: if you didn’t apply for a new credit account, you didn’t give permission for the inquiry, or the inquiry was added by mistake.

That said, under federal law, certain organizations with a “specific, legitimate purpose” can access your credit file without written permission. They include:

•   Government agencies, usually in the context of licensing or benefits applications

•   Collection agencies

•   Insurance companies, when certain restrictions are met

•   Entities that have a court order, as in child support hearings

Even so, if you didn’t give permission for a hard credit pull, it’s worth filing a dispute to request that the credit check be removed from your report.

Consumers may dispute hard inquiries online through AnnualCreditReport.com, or by writing to the individual credit reporting agencies.

Recommended: Fixed vs Variable Rate Interest Loans

Hard Credit Checks and Your Credit Scores

As mentioned earlier, hard inquiries appear on your credit report, and each hard pull may lower your credit score by five points or less. Here we’ll go into a bit more detail.

Why Hard Inquiries Matter

Multiple hard inquiries within a short time frame can do significant damage to your credit score. For instance, a 20-point hit from four or five hard inquiries could be enough to move you from the Good credit range down to the merely Fair. Someone in a Fair credit range can pay substantially more over a lifetime in interest and fees than someone with a Good score or higher.

How Many Points Will a Hard Inquiry Cost You?

As noted above, each hard pull will lower your credit score by less than five points. One or two hard inquiries per year may not matter, especially if you’re not planning on applying for a loan.

However, consumers should keep in mind that the impact on their credit score remains for 12 months. The real concern is when you’re shopping around for the best interest rate on a loan, and too many hard inquiries over a short period combine to pull down your score in a significant way.

How Long Do Inquiries Stay On Your Credit?

Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years. But their impact on your credit score lasts only 12 months.

Soft inquiries may remain on your credit report for one or two years, but only the consumer can see them.

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The Takeaway

Soft credit inquiries do not affect a credit score, while hard credit inquiries usually cost you less than five points. In both cases, businesses pull information from your credit reports. Checking your own credit report counts as a soft pull, as do most other situations where the consumer hasn’t given written permission. Hard pulls are typically done only when you’re applying for a loan or new credit account.

If you’re thinking of opening a new credit card or raising your credit limit on an existing account, consider a personal loan instead. With a SoFi Personal Loan, you can borrow between $5,000 and $100,000 for home improvements, credit card consolidation, medical costs, and more. And you can check your rate in 60 seconds without affecting your credit score.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2022 winner for Best Personal
Loan for Good and Excellent Credit and Best Online Personal Loan overall.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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