It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked. That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 1 in 5 Americans have at least 1 error on their credit report, and 1 in 20 have a critical error that leads banks, card issuers and lenders to overcharge them on mortgages, car loans and credit cards. The first step to fixing errors on your credit report is to find them by ordering a free copy of your report. The next step is to dispute the errors with the 3 major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. The FTC offers a sample dispute letter you can use, and reporting agencies have dispute forms online. Be sure to state your case clearly and include documentation to support your position.
The accounts section contains a detailed history of all accounts (open and closed), your balance, and your payment history associated with each account. You should be able to see month-by-month payment information for 7 years of history. Each month will have a symbol next to it that indicates whether the account was paid as expected or if it was late.
A quick Google search yielded this terms and conditions sheet, which may be slightly different than the one you’d receive if you applied for a card. According to the one we found, Credit One charges an annual membership fee from $0 to $99. Credit line minimums are between $300 and $500. So you could be paying $99 for a $300 credit limit. APR is relatively standard, but on the high side, with variable 19.15% to 25.24%. Given the high annual fees, we recommend saving your money and using a secured card with no annual fee to begin rebuilding your credit score.
If you’re going to be hiring one of these services, you probably want to know what you’ll be receiving for your money – right? Companies that claim to help fix your credit should be completely upfront with what they can and can't do for your situation. A good company can remove negative items from your credit report and help improve your FICO score, making it easier to obtain a home, vehicle, mortgage, or insurance.
However, don’t believe a collector if they say they have ways of ruining your credit game forever. That’s just not true. Nothing you do can get you kicked out of the credit game forever. Any penalty you encounter will only set you back. But you can offset these setbacks by taking positive actions that help you move forward. So even if your period of financial distress puts you back at Square One, you can start again and get right back in the game.
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If you have legitimate errors on your credit report: The main function of any credit repair service is to remove errors from your credit report. These could range from errors in reporting from lenders to simple errors in your personal information. A good amount can actually effect your credit, so if you believe there are errors in your credit report, you can benefit from one of the best credit repair companies correcting those errors for you.
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You could consolidation the loans with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. The Department of Education will issue you a new loan and use the money to pay off your existing loans. If you include your defaulted loan, that loan will be paid off, and your new consolidation loan will be current. To be eligible, you must agree to either repay the consolidation loan with an income-driven repayment plan or to make three monthly payments on your defaulted loan before applying for consolidation.
You will also need a big lump sum of cash. Borrowing from your 401(k) retirement plan is an option if you have no alternatives. It isn’t considered an actual loan, so it doesn’t show up on your credit report. You can borrow up to 50% of your plan balance without penalty. However, before taking that route, see if a wealthy family member may consider giving you a loan instead, as dipping into your retirement savings can be disastrous in the long run.
Most companies offer a free evaluation to answer any questions you have. Use this to your advantage to get a feel for the company and make sure they’re the right fit. If you don’t get a good read, thank them for their time and say you need some time to decide. Then you can continue to research your options and talk to other companies. Don’t make a decision unless you feel comfortable.
Keep in mind that if you have no history at all, it will take an estimated three to six months from the beginning date to see any kind of activity being reported on your credit reports. If you have recently acquired a credit card, you should make small purchases you will be able to pay off by the due date to begin to establish credit and show that you can manage a monthly payment.
“A good credit repair company will scrub questionable credit report items against other laws — like the Fair Credit Billing Act, which regulates original creditors; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which oversees collection agencies; and others that address medical illness, military service, student status and other life events,” Padawer said.
What can and DOES change is whether you have a collector pursuing you for the debt. If you are talking about a dormant account that has been in collections and has finally been left alone with no collections activity for a few years, messing with it can be problematic from the point of view that the collections people will start pestering you again to see if they can get money and if the SOL isn't up, they can start reporting on it again which can affect your score or they could even file suit if your state SOL isn't up.
A report by FICO® showed that younger consumers can earn high credit scores with excellent credit behavior. 93% of consumers with credit scores between 750 and 799 who were under age 29 never had a late payment on their credit report. In contrast, 57% of the total population had at least one delinquency. This good credit group also used less of their available credit. They had an average revolving credit utilization ratio of 6%. The nation as a whole had a utilization ratio of 15%.39
When possible, avoid closing credit card accounts. The longer your credit history, the better your score. However, if you are very far behind in your payments, you may not have a choice. A payment plan may require you to cancel your credit card. If possible, though, keep your older accounts so that you have a substantial credit history on your side. (See also: How to Avoid Getting Your Credit Card Cancelled)
The scoring system wants to make sure you aren't overextended, but at the same time, they want to see that you do indeed use your credit. 30% of the available credit line seems to be the magic "balance vs. credit line" ratio to have. For example; if you have a Credit Card with a $10,000 credit line, make sure that never more than $3000 (even if you pay your account off in full each month). If your balances are higher than 30% of the available credit line, pay them down. Here is another thing you can try; ask your long time creditors if they will raise your credit line without checking your Credit Report. Tell them that you're shopping for a house and you can't afford to have any hits on your credit report. Many wont but some will.
Serious financial distress can have a lasting impact on your credit. Chapter 7 bankruptcy penalties on your credit report stick around for 10 years. Foreclosure, Chapter 13 bankruptcy and collection accounts remain for 7 years. And if your financial distress led to tax debt, unpaid tax liens can haunt you up to 15 years. But no one wants to wait that long to rebuild their credit. Are you just supposed to put your life on hold?
This is easier said than done, but reducing the amount that you owe is going to be a far more satisfying achievement than improving your credit score. The first thing you need to do is stop using your credit cards. Use your credit report to make a list of all of your accounts and then go online or check recent statements to determine how much you owe on each account and what interest rate they are charging you. Come up with a payment plan that puts most of your available budget for debt payments towards the highest interest cards first, while maintaining minimum payments on your other accounts.