Your credit score has such a big impact on so many aspects of your life. This number is a reflection of how you spend and manage your money and how risky it would be for a lender to give you a loan or a credit card company to provide you with a card.
Your score determines not only if you will qualify for a loan, but it can also play a large role in helping you get things like utilities, a cell phone, or even a job. So when your credit score is subpar, you want to take immediate action.
Please remember that repairing bad credit takes time. There are no quick fixes when it comes to raising your credit scores so be wary of anyone that promises to improve credit scores overnight.
Your FICO Credit Score
Before we talk about ways to improve your credit score, you first need to understand what your credit score is. Your FICO score is the most commonly used score among all financial institutions. It is calculated by using a formula that looks at things like your credit history, total debt, and length of credit.
Roughly, your credit score is comprised of 35% payment history, 30% owed debt, 15% credit length, 10% new credit, and 10% credit account variety.
If any of these subjects is of poor quality, then your score will obviously decrease. Some categories affect your credit score more than others, but repairing any portion will have a positive effect on your credit score.
How to Access Your FICO Score
It usually costs money to access your credit FICO score, but there are ways to get it for free. Many banks and credit card companies, for example, offer members complimentary scores as a perk for being a customer of that particular financial institution.
You can also get a copy of any credit report that was used by a creditor to deny your application for credit. So if you applied for a loan but didn’t get approved, you should get a free copy.
It’s also important to ask the lender why your application was denied, so you know where to begin to improve your credit score. Maybe you have too many late payments listed on your report, or perhaps you are carrying too much debt.
Find out exactly what the lender couldn’t look past and use that item as a starting point for fixing your credit.
Obtaining Your Credit Report
Getting started doesn’t have to cost you anything. You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Simply go to that website, input some personal information, answer a few questions related to your finances, and you can immediately download your copy.
Once you have your credit reports in hand, you can scour each page for potential red flags. That information is priceless because you need to know exactly what is plaguing your credit score before you can do anything about it. Once you know, you can assess your different options to fix that credit for good.
Removing Negative and Inaccurate Information
One of the main things that is done when repairing your credit is removing negative information from your credit report. Negative information can be anything from a tax lien to a late payment to a false account.
It is not uncommon to find negative marks on your credit report but it is important to make sure each piece of information associated with them is correct.
In fact, you should even make sure that basic things like your name and address are correct. You definitely don’t want to have wrong accounts put on your credit report because someone with a similar name as yours was accidentally added to your report.
The credit bureaus make mistakes every day. Unfortunately, it is up to you to make sure that everything is correct.
When reviewing your credit report, pay particular attention to the negative items. Every negative item listed on your credit report has a negative impact on your credit score. It makes sense really; if you have a late payment, then creditors will find you to be riskier to lend to.
However, as you get the negative marks removed, there are fewer things dragging your score down. The way you get negative marks removed is by sending in dispute letters to the credit bureaus.
Credit Dispute Letters
Dispute letters let the bureaus know that you believe that something on your account is wrong. The bureaus will then investigate the entry to determine whether or not the entry is correct.
They have 30 days to respond to your dispute; after that time, they are required by law to remove the entry from your report.
Writing dispute letters to all the bureaus can be tedious and stressful. You will have to keep track of which letters you sent to whom and when those letters were sent.
Where to Get Help
You may even have to send re-dispute letters if the bureaus decided against your dispute. You can hire a credit repair company to do this for you. We have been fond of Lexington Law and Sky Blue Credit Repair.
Using a credit repair service will cost a small fee, but the price is more than worth it when you consider how much time and stress you will be saving. Plus, these reputable firms hire knowledgeable employees like paralegals and lawyers who have specific experience with consumer law.
Even if you have the time to send your own dispute letters, you don’t necessarily have the understanding of the law to make sure you take advantage of everything.
Consumer laws are put in place to protect you, but that doesn’t make them easy to read and interpret. Instead, consider hiring a person who is on your side to make sure you aren’t missing and vital information to your case.
Dealing with Your Current and Future Credit
Another thing that credit repair involves is taking care of your existing and future credit accounts. Because 30% of your credit score is determined by current debt, make sure that you are on top of what you currently owe.
Make your payments on time and in full, if possible. Otherwise, make at least the minimum payment on each and every account you have a balance with. You might be charged a late fee as soon as the day after your due date, so familiarize yourself with each of your creditors’ payment terms to avoid paying hefty fees.
Also, remember that late payments may be reported to the three credit bureaus as soon as 30 days after the original due date, and your credit score will take a huge hit when that happens.
You’ll then get an upgrade for every additional 30 days you’re late with your payment, subjecting your score to even more substantial damage. Bottom line: stay on top of your bills.
Adding Positive Tradelines
Also, look for additional lines of credit, even if it means opening up a secured credit card. The reporting agencies look at how many different types of credit (e.g. loans vs. credit cards) you have when calculating your credit score.
The larger the variety you have, the better your score will be. Plus, if your balances are spread out across multiple accounts rather than having one or two maxed out cards, your score will fare better.
You can also call your existing creditors and ask them to increase your line of credit to help boost your score. Just make sure you don’t spend more simply because you have access to more. It doesn’t make financial sense to pay a ton of money on interest to fuel extraneous spending. Save those accounts for actual financial emergencies (even better, stash away a few bucks for an emergency savings fund each month).
As you can see, credit repair will indeed increase your credit score. By removing inaccurate information and disputing negative items, as well as extending the variety of your credit and keeping up with all your payments, you will see an increase in your score.
You can start today with simple steps like making bill payments on time or putting a little extra towards some of your balances owed. For removing negative items, read up on the dispute process and how to write a good letter to the credit bureaus.
Hiring Professional Help
You can also consider hiring a professional. Credit repair services that know the ins and outs of the legal process. You’ll not only save yourself a fair amount of time and effort, you’ll increase your chances for success by exercising your rights to the fullest extent of the law.
Ready to get started? Check out our reviews of the best credit repair companies operating today. A better financial future awaits you.