You’ve taken the initiative to fix your credit but you might not be making as much progress as you’d like. Or maybe you’re not making much headway with the credit bureaus or your creditors. Credit repair isn’t a difficult process, but it is easy to make mistakes along the way. We’ve put together a list of the top 5 credit repair mistakes that you may not even realize you’re doing.
By avoiding each of these common errors, you’ll finally get the credit repair results you want to see. If you don’t, you might damage your credit score even more! Don’t let that happen to you. Instead get started on your credit repair process by avoiding the top mistakes. Read on to find out what they are — you just might be surprised at what you find.
Mistake #1: Not keeping a record of your credit repair history.
It’s important to keep a record of everything you do in the credit repair process, from communications with credit bureaus and creditors to formal paperwork you’ve submitted. When you send in dispute letters, always make copies of them to keep records of all the information you’ve provided. Also be sure to always send the letters via certified mail and request a return receipt. That way you will have documented proof of the day you mailed the letters and when it was received.
This is helpful because the credit bureaus are required by federal law to investigate disputes within 30 days of receiving the request. It’s up to you to be able to prove that you initiated the dispute on a certain day so the time limit can be enforced.
If you make phone calls to any third party (especially with your creditors), write down whom you talk to and what you discussed. In fact, you might even choose to record the conversation so there is no gray area or a “he said, she said” situation. When you make a verbal agreement with a creditor, especially a pay-for-deletion, always get the agreement in writing before taking any action.
If there ever comes a time where you need proof of any type of correspondence, these records will be your lifesaver. They’re also helpful pieces of information to provide a credit repair company if you decide to enlist professional help. Keep everything organized in one specific location at your house so you can quickly access your records when you need them.
Mistake #2: Disputing items online.
Everything on the internet is so easy to do, it’s hard to imagine doing anything the “old-fashioned” way. After all, writing out letters and sending them through snail mail takes so much more time and effort. It’s so much faster to tap a few laptop keys or swipe a few times on your smartphone screen. However, when it comes to credit repair, sticking with the basics is your better choice. Why? The main problem with disputing online is that you don’t get any written records of your dispute. The online process does not give you a return receipt that you can use as proof of dispute, so if problems arise, you won’t have any verification that you actually initiated the process.
When you send a dispute letter through the regular mail, that return receipt is your ticket to proving that your letter was received so that you can keep track of how much time has passed during the investigation period. Remember, credit bureaus only have 30 days to process your dispute request, so proof of timing is everything!
Another reason to switch to paper disputes? Disputing online is actually very limited. You won’t be able to dispute information such as name, social security number, or incorrect balances. If what you’re trying to dispute is identifying information, you will still have to send in a written request anyway. That’s why it’s best to stick with standard mail to cover all your bases. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right? Plus, you never have to worry about hitting a brick wall when sending a paper letter.
Mistake #3: Paying collections and charge-offs.
Paying off old debts like collections and charge-offs seems like such an intuitive thing to do to repair your credit, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Once a delinquent account is off your credit report and past the statute of limitations applicable to the state in which you live, making a payment on it would re-open the account. While the damage has already been done to your credit score and subsequently fallen off your report and repaired itself, it will suddenly reappear. Not only that, it opens the statute of limitations and starts over the time requirement on your credit report. So if it’s a negative item that originally stayed on your report for seven years, it will now be on there for another seven years!
This is one area where it’s particularly helpful to work with a credit repair specialist. They’ll know your state’s specific laws and statute of limitations so that you won’t accidentally trigger a renewal of your debt on your credit report. Even if you don’t hire a pro, do extensive research before deciding how to handle old collections and charge-offs. Otherwise your run the risk of making your credit even worse than when you started! Don’t let this happen to you — always tread with caution when it comes to old collections and charge-offs.
Mistake #4: Closing old accounts.
One of the first things that many people do when they start repairing their credit is close credit accounts that they don’t or rarely use. This can help reduce the temptation to spend more if you have trouble controlling your shopping habit or might also feel like good closure while simultaneously organizing your credit report. Although this may seem like a good idea, it’s really not. A huge part of the formula to calculate your credit score includes looking at how many types of credit accounts you have and the length of time each account has existed.
If you close an account, you reduce your credit variety as well as the overall age of your accounts. Think about it: say you have three credit accounts open and their ages are two years, six years, and eight years. You don’t use the eight-year-old account, it actually drops off and lowers your average account age. Now it’s important to note that it won’t drop off for a few years after closing. But when it hits that expiration date on your credit report, you’ll go from an average length of 5.3 years to 4 years. And if you ever decide to open a new card, then those older accounts will help balance out the young accounts that start off as zero-years-old.
Not worried about your long-term credit issues? You should be, but you’ll still do short-term damage to your credit score when you close an account. Credit utilization is an important part of your credit score. If you carry debt on some of your cards and close an account with a low or zero balance, you are shortening your overall available credit. So if you had $1,000 in debt spread across cards with $5,000 in limits, you’re only utilizing 20% of your credit. But if you close one of those cards that has a $2,000 credit line, your available credit drops to $3,000 and you’re suddenly utilizing over 33% of your credit. So remember: closing credit accounts can actually hurt your credit score.
Mistake #5: Using template letters.
A huge part of the credit repair process is sending in all sorts of dispute letters. Because writing dispute letters isn’t usually covered in your basic education, most people don’t know how to properly write them. As a result, many turn to one of the countless template letters online. These templates are excellent tools and guides to use, but the problem comes when people use the templates themselves instead of just using them as guidelines. So while it’s good to use them for inspiration, don’t rely solely on stock letters.
Remember that credit bureau employees see thousands of dispute letters every day, so they can easily recognize when one is straight off a template. When they see template letters, they mark the letter as less important or frivolous because you are showing that you are not willing to put all your effort into it. Once flagged as having a frivolous dispute letter, it will be much more difficult for you to make steady progress. You also run the risk of not properly explaining the details of your particular situation. Tell a story while relating all of the pertinent facts relevant to your case. When you personalize your dispute letter, you have a much better chance of getting your letter noticed.
You don’t have to be a financial expert to figure out an effective credit repair strategy. But if you’re not careful, it’s easy to make a few mistakes along the way, some of which can actually make your credit score worse. Bookmark these tips to help you get your credit back in shape today, tomorrow, and beyond!