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If you’ve got a less-than-stellar credit score and are looking to apply for a loan, chances are you’re going to want to fix those numbers fast. And you just might be able to do it — depending, of course, on what’s weighing your credit down.

Dealing With Disputes

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, once a dispute has been formally filed, credit bureaus generally have 30 days to investigate a claim and remove the item. So, if your score is damaged due to an inaccuracy, you could theoretically fix your credit within a month’s time.

“I have seen questionable items removed within that 30-day time frame,” John Heath, credit expert and attorney with Lexington Law, a Credit.com partner, said in an email. “However, there is no guarantee that those removals will happen.”

The credit bureaus, for instance, could decide that your dispute is frivolous, elect not to remove the information in question and effectively send you back to the drawing board. Plus, even when dealing with an inaccuracy that is ultimately deemed legit, the law provides a little bit of wiggle room for investigations.

There are certain exceptions when the bureaus can take 45 days to update information on credit reports. For instance, they have an extra 15 days whenever you dispute information after receiving your free annual credit report or when you submit additional information relevant to your dispute within the initial 30-day investigation period. (You can go here to learn more about disputing errors on your credit report.)

Recovering From Missteps

Of course, not all dinged credit is due to errors, and if your credit is lackluster because you made some mistakes, it may take longer for your score to rebound. Exact timeframes will vary depending on your full credit profile, but, in general, negative information can take a full 7 years to age completely off your credit reports (some bankruptcies take up to 10 years), though the effects each item has on your credit will lessen with time. (You can go here to find out more about how long things stay on your credit report.)

That’s not to say there aren’t times you can easily bounce back. In fact, if your score is bogged down by high debt, you may be able to fix it by paying down your credit cards. That should adjust your credit utilization rate (how much revolving debt you are carrying versus your total available credit limits), which accounts for about 30% of major credit scores. Experts generally recommend keeping this rate below at least 30%, and ideally at 10%, of your available limits, though if you’re looking to improve your credit, the lower it is, the better.

“If you have high balances or have maxed your accounts, you can pay these down, which can positively affect your credit score,” Heath said.

This boost could happen within a 30-day window, considering most creditors report to the major credit reporting agencies each month.

Getting Back to Good

In order to really bolster your credit, you need to identify what might be plaguing it in the first place. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view two credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

While everyone’s credit problems may differ, you can improve scores in the long run by making all payments on time, keeping those aforementioned debt levels low and adding a mix of credit accounts over time. You can also limit new credit inquiries while you wait for your score to recover. Remember, when you apply for new credit, hard inquiries will appear in your credit report,” Heath said. “These inquiries may negatively affect your score.”

[Offer: If you need help fixing errors on your credit report, Lexington Law could help you meet your goals. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

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