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How to Raise Your FICO Credit Score

Tips to improve your credit score and get your spending back on track

It's important to note that raising your FICO credit score is a bit like losing weight: It takes time and there is no quick fix. The best advice is to manage credit responsibly over time. There are several factors which influence a credit score and if you’re wondering how to increase your FICO score, you’ll want to take steps to improve each of them. Below are a few tips that could help you raise your credit score and boost your borrowing power.

Payment History Tips

  • Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on your FICO score.
  • Get current and stay current if you have missed payments. The longer you pay your bills on time, the more you can improve your credit score.
  • Be aware that paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report. It will stay on your report for seven years.
  • Contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor if you are having trouble making ends meet. This won't improve your credit score immediately, but if you can begin to manage your credit and pay on time, your score will get better over time.

Amounts Owed Tips

  • Keep balances low on credit cards and other revolving credit. High outstanding debt can affect a credit score.
  • Pay off debt rather than moving it around. The most effective way to improve your credit score in this area is by paying down your revolving credit. In fact, consolidating your revolving credit onto fewer open accounts may lower your score.
  • Don't close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score. Keeping these accounts open could help improve your debt to credit ratio and keep your credit score up. Maintaining old accounts can also improve your average account age.
  • Don't open a number of new credit cards that you don't need, just to increase your available credit. This approach could backfire and actually lower your credit score. 

Length of Credit History Tips

  • Avoid opening a lot of new accounts too rapidly.  Rapid account buildup can look risky if you are a new credit user. If you have been managing credit for a short time, new accounts will lower your average account age, which could have a larger effect on your score.

New Account Tips

  • Do your rate shopping for a given loan within a focused period of time. FICO scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.
  • Reestablish your credit history if you have had problems. Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your credit score in the long term.
  • Note that it's okay to request and check your own credit report. This won't affect your score, as long as you order your credit report directly from the credit reporting agency or through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers. 

Types of Credit Use Tips

  • Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed . Don't open accounts just to have a better credit mix — it probably won't raise your credit score.
  • Have credit cards — but manage them responsibly. In general, having credit cards and installment loans such as student or auto loans (and making timely payments) will raise your credit score. Someone with no credit cards, for example, tends to be higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.
  • Note that closing an account doesn't make it go away. A closed account will still show up on your credit report, and may still impact your credit score.

Even when you know how to raise your FICO credit score, it may still take time for your score to improve. Follow the tips above diligently and monitor your score to measure the impact of the steps you’re taking. To help keep you informed, American Express will send you your FICO score monthly, along with specific recommendations to help you improve your credit score.

Why Does American Express Send Me MY FICO Score?

Receiving your FICO score in the mail is the result of new rules in the banking industry. Under the rules, card issuers such as American Express provide credit scores in notices to consumers when a credit score is used to:

  • Decline an application for a credit or charge card
  • Reduce the credit limit on an existing account
  • Cancel an account
  • Set the interest for an account

When you receive a letter like this in the mail from American Express, you will also receive information about how to obtain a free copy of your credit report. Taken together, this information can help you better understand your credit profile.

However, FICO scores are not the full picture. American Express looks at a number of factors when deciding whether to issue cards or make changes to an existing account. For example, we look at your overall debt relative to your financial resources.

The FICO Score I Received from American Express Doesn’t Match the Score I Received from the Credit Agency. Why?

There are two reasons for any possible differences.

1. The date the score was calculated. 

A FICO score is a point-in-time snapshot of your credit worthiness. As your credit profile changes, your credit score may change as well.

2. The type of score. 

The credit score you receive from the credit reporting agency may not be a FICO score, but instead it may be a different score that they issue. An example would be that Experian, one of the credit agencies, has both a PLUS and a FICO score, and Equifax and TranUnion, other credit agencies, have both a Vantage score and a FICO score, and they may not be the same. The scores vary because they use different ranges of numbers and they are calculated using different factors that may weigh information in your credit report differently than FICO scores.

You can learn more about credit bureaus, credit scores and credit reports by visiting the Credit Bureau Resources section of our Web site.


The information provided by Fair Isaac Corporation is used with permission. Copyright © Fair Isaac Corporation. All rights reserved. Further use, reproduction, or distribution is governed by the Fair Isaac Copyright Usage Requirements, which, along with further information on credit, credit scoring, and related topics, can be found at Fair Isaac®, FICO®, myFICO®, and other marks are trademarks of Fair Isaac Corporation.