Here are simple steps that you can start doing TODAY to improve your credit score.
Basically, if your credit score is below a 650, you want to start bringing up your score. A few years ago, getting an unsecured personal loan with a great rate only required a 680. But now more banks are looking for a 720 and above with a low credit utilization ratio.
Other signs that you may want to start working on improving your credit are:
- (1) debt collectors calling you,
- (2) card issuers closing your credit cards or reducing your credit limits
- (3) You are up for a management position but are getting turned down, not because of your skills and experience. But because you have a low credit score and your company has a minimum credit score requirement for its management.
You should understand, that none of these steps can help you get rid of accurate negative information in your credit report. Only time, negotiation, and a lot of patience can help you deal with that.
Some people get lucky and get a lot of accurate information removed because of one of the following conditions:
- Orginal creditor did something wrong when they placed it on your credit report and were forced to remove it (usually you are working with a credit repair company or credit attorney to find these) If you need one of these services check out the credit restoration service we recommend to our clients.
- The debt is old and when you sent in your dispute, the original creditor didn’t bother to respond
- The original creditor couldn’t provide proof that the debt was yours
Most people try to fix their credit on their own before turning to a professional. I always recommend you do this first if you fit the following criteria:
- You have the time and you aren’t looking to apply for a home loan or any type of credit for the next 6 months – 1 year
- You are organized. You need to keep on top of your credit repair efforts each month
- You are good at negotiating. For the debts that don’t come off thru the dispute process. You will need to call your creditors and work out a repayment plan along with how the debt will be shown on your credit report. There are some credit statuses that are better than others! To read up about the different credit statuses, click here.
Getting Started With Fixing Your Credit
The first thing you need to do is pull your credit report. There are many reasons besides credit repair that you should make it a habit to check your credit report at least 2 times a year.
With identity theft becoming more common, you should really invest in a service like Lifelock. Even if you have bad credit! Fraudsters need your information to not just open accounts under your name, but to get jobs, sign up for government benefits and so much more! Check out our article 5 reasons to check your credit report regularly.
When checking your credit report look for the things that may be dragging your score down:
- (1) payments: make sure there are no late payments incorrectly listed,
- (2) make sure the amount owed for each open accounts is correct – a lot of outstanding debt will lower your credit score so it’s important to make sure how much you owe is being reported correctly
- (3) look for inaccurate data – like accounts that don’t belong to you, incorrect last payment dates etc
- (4) look for charged off / collection accounts – make sure they are being reported accurately. If you have paid it off and its still showing up in a negative status. Remember to give the credit bureaus 30 – 60 days to update your credit report. If it’s not done in that time file a dispute.
How to improve your credit score in the next 30 days
- Get your credit reports. Make sure you have a credit report from the 3 major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Trans Union, Equifax)
- On time payments. The first thing you have to do and make it a habit. Is to pay your debts on time! On time payments make up the majority of your credit score.
- Dispute letters. You make a list of the negative items and get ready to dispute them. You need to write to all 3 credit reporting agencies. Check out our article on how to write a credit dispute letter. Before you use an online dispute form, READ THE FINE PRINT! Some of them state that if you decide to use the online dispute form, you agree not to sue if they decide not to update your credit report. The credit reporting agencies are FOR PROFIT companies. When they have failed to work w/ consumers, they have been successfully sued by consumers to MAKE them update their credit reports.
- Disputing accurate items. For the items that are accurate, you can try to dispute them (this is a NO JUDGEMENT ZONE) but understand that if you go overboard your disputes can be labeled frivolous and it will hurt you in the future.
- Communicate. Start contacting your creditors. It’s always best to talk with the original creditor and NOT the collection agency. But some companies sell off their “uncollectible” debt to collection agencies and at that point, the collection agency owns the debt. Click here to read our article on How to negotiate with your creditors.
- Negotiate. If you don’t feel comfortable negotiating with your creditors, look for a credit counseling or settlement service. Keep in mind, not all these services are the same. Some will help you with a debt consolidation loan that will pay off your debts with a new loan. While some will negotiate w/ your creditors and set up a repayment plan.
- Set up a budget. You want to start a rainy day fund and you want to start paying off your debt as quickly as possible.
- Start rebuilding your credit! A lot of people focus so much on removing the negative they forget to add new POSITIVE tradelines to their credit report. Here are some resources to help you get started:
- Click here for Unsecured credit cards for bad credit with no deposit – these credit cards are made for people with a low credit score. No security deposit required.
- Click here for Secured credit cards for bad credit – these are GREAT cards to rebuild your credit with! There are a LOT of benefits associated with using secured credit cards. They do require a security deposit.
- Click here for Store credit cards for bad credit – these cards can only be used to buy things in the catalog or online store that issues them. You only want to use the ones that will report your payments to the credit bureaus!
It is important to note that opening a lot of new accounts too rapidly will not help in fixing your credit. If you can, look for soft inquiry credit cards for bad credit. These are credit cards that use a soft inquiry instead of a hard one. A hard inquiry can drop your credit score. A soft one doesn’t affect your credit score.
Once you have addressed the issues that are making your credit score low. You need to work on adding new, positive trade lines to your credit report and get in the habit of ALWAYS paying your debts on time.