Debt Consolidation

Here’s What People Did to Raise Their Credit Scores by an Average 100 Points in 1 Year

For many consumers, the credit reporting system can feel like it’s rigged. If you miss one payment, you suffer a lasting blemish on your credit report. Significant financial events like bankruptcy can have a devastating effect on your credit score.

Despite this, some My LendingTree users were able to raise their credit scores by more than 100 points in the span of just one year. Here’s how they did it, according to our data.

To understand how some people take control of their financial standing, we looked at a sample of My LendingTree users who raised their scores by at least 100 points in the span of a year. Here’s what we found.

Key takeaways

  • Our sample raised their scores by 128 points (22%) from an average of 594 to 722 between August 2018 and August 2019. In other words, they jumped from the low end of “fair” to the high end of “good.”
  • They reduced their debt by an average of $8,627 (6%) in that year.
  • Monthly payments dropped by $192 (11%), excluding minimum payments for credit cards.
  • Average on-time payment rates jumped from 98% to 99%. It takes a while for late payments to fall off credit reports, so that incremental improvement means they probably didn’t miss a single payment in that time, on average.
  • On average, score jumpers paid off $8,966 in credit card debt and cut their credit card utilization rates from 55% to 23%, a change of 57%.
  • 55% cut their credit card debt by at least half and 22% cut it by at least 90%.
  • 59% increased their number of accounts, and 4% went from zero accounts to at least one; 23% decreased their accounts.
  • 51% added new credit cards, which may have helped reduce their credit utilization, while 22% cut back on their cards.
  • 13% took out an auto loan, while 6% took out a mortgage.

4 ways these consumers saw a 130-point bump in their credit scores

1. They improved their on-time payments

A history of on-time payment is the biggest factor when it comes to determining your credit score, so it’s important to make payments by their due date every month. Even just one missed payment can hurt your credit score, and it can remain on your credit report for seven years.

On-time payment rates for the group rose from 98% to 99%. While a 1% increase might not seem that significant, it suggests that those who raised their credit scores made all of their payments on time within the past year. Consumers who make late payments can expect their payment history to drop or stay the same.

2. They significantly reduced credit card debt and utilization

Credit card utilization is another leading factor that goes into determining your credit score. Your credit utilization ratio, or the amount of credit available versus credit used, should be less than 30%.

Fifty-five percent of people who raised their credit rating by 100+ points cut their credit card debt in half. Some people ー 7% of the sample ー even reduced their credit card debt by 100%.


As a group, consumers reduced credit card utilization by more than half, from 54.7% to 23.3%, a drop of 31.4%.

3. They lowered their overall debt ー by a lot

Consumers who raised their credit scores also lowered their debt by an average of $8,627 (6.1%) within the year. Still, of all debt types, consumers lowered credit card debt the most. Consumers in the sample lowered credit card debt by $8,966, or 66%.

4. They lowered their monthly payments

Excluding credit cards, which have variable monthly minimums, monthly payments fell 10.5%, from $1,821 to $1,629. That’s an average of $192 that consumers can spend elsewhere or save. With lower monthly payments, consumers have more disposable income to put toward other debts like medical bills.

These consumers raised their credit scores by a whole range (or more)

The differences between poor, fair and good credit may seem miniscule, but they can mean a lot for consumers who want lower interest rates for loans and credit cards. And while it seems like quite a feat to raise your score from one range to the next, nearly half of our sample raised their score by two ranges, from poor to good or fair to very good.


Roughly the same amount of people who raised their credit scores from poor to fair (19.6%) raised their score two ranges from poor to good (19.7%). Encouragingly, 1 in 4 of those in our sample raised their score from fair to very good.

Higher scores grant the opportunity for lower-cost credit

With the right formula, raising your credit score can be accelerated by a domino effect. Here’s how that works:

  • Improved on-time payments cause scores to rise
  • Higher scores give consumers the opportunity for lower-cost credit and personal loans, particularly balance-transfer cards and debt consolidation loans
  • Opening more accounts lowers utilization, further raising credit scores while consumers pay down debt
  • Even better credit scores allow consumers to pay down more debt with better terms

6% of the sample took out mortgages, and 13% took out auto loans

The data suggests that some consumers who raised their credit scores may have done so to get a mortgage or finance a car. With low credit scores, homebuyers won’t have access to more favorable terms, like lower interest rates and higher loan limits. But when they have favorable credit profiles, homeowners-to-be can secure mortgages that will cost them less money in interest in the long-term.

1 in 4 took out a personal loan, and 51% opened a new credit card

Twenty-five percent of the sample opened a personal loan, possibly to pay down their cards sooner or consolidate other debt. For consumers who opened a credit card, they may have chosen a balance transfer card to consolidate debt with a better interest rate.

Three-quarters of those who took out a personal loan paid down credit card debt by an average of $9,273 (69%), which was $5,289 less than their increased personal loan debt. This suggests that they put the difference toward other expenses and debts.


There are a few reasons why consumers may have prioritized paying down credit cards over other debt. For one, credit cards usually have higher interest rates than auto loans, mortgages and other types of debt. People who are trying to raise their credit scores probably wouldn’t qualify for a credit card with a promotional low-interest or no-interest period.

Plus, lowering credit utilization has an immediate positive effect on scores. So taking out a personal loan to pay off credit cards can raise your credit score even though you’ll still have the same amount of debt taken out in your name.

Methodology

Using an anonymized sample of 932 My LendingTree users who increased their credit scores by at least 100 points between August 2018 and August 2019, researchers calculated changes to their high-level credit reports.

My LendingTree is a financial intelligence platform available to the general public, regardless of their debt and credit histories, or whether they’ve pursued loans on a LendingTree platform. My LendingTree has over 12 million users.

 

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