2. Negotiate. You can’t deny that you stopped paying a credit card bill when you were unemployed last year. But you can ask creditors to “erase” that debt or any account that went to collection. Write a letter offering to pay the remaining balance if the creditor will then report the account as “paid as agreed” or maybe even remove it altogether. (Note: Get the creditor to agree in writing before you make the payment.)
Write a letter to the specific credit reporting agency that shows the falsehood, whether it is Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Explain the mistake and include a copy of the highlighted report along with your documentation. Although certain bureaus now let you submit disputes online, it’s not a bad idea to send this letter by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself. The reporting agency has 30 days from the receipt of your letter to respond. The Federal Trade Commission provides advice on contacting the credit bureaus about discrepancies. Here are the contact numbers and web sites for the three credit bureaus:
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Over the next decade, credit reporting agencies went from localized companies to the nationwide credit reporting agencies we know today. Almost all lenders and creditors go through the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to get consumer credit reports. That’s good for consumers because it means they only need to worry about three credit reports. As long as you review those three reports regularly and make sure they’re error-free, you can present the best possible credit profile when someone checks your credit.
Credit scoring companies analyze consumer credit reports. They glean data from the reports and create algorithms that determine consumer borrowing risk. A credit score is a number that represents the risk profile of a borrower. Credit scores influence a bank’s decisions to lend money to consumers. People with high credit scores will find the most attractive borrowing rates because that signals to lenders that they are less risky. Those with low credit scores will struggle to find credit at all.
Creditors A, B, and C accepted a 50% settlement of $3,000 each. Creditor D was tougher and accepted a 60% settlement of $3,600. Creditor E refused to negotiate. You’ve spent $12,600 to get rid of $24,000 of debt. That’s a good first step. You pay the remaining funds back to your 401(k) account. You’ve discovered that after the creditors closed your accounts, your credit score plummeted to 320. The lowest it’s ever been!
An unsecured credit card carries more positive weight, but you might not qualify for an unsecured card right now. If this is the case, begin using a secured credit card. Double-check to ensure that the card is truly a credit card. Prepaid debit cards look similar, but they are not the same thing, and your payment history isn’t reported to the credit bureaus. Ask the secured card issuer if your payments will be reported, and only use a card that will report to bureaus.
2. First Premier – The bank claims to want to offer people a second chance when it comes to their finances, but its fee structure and fine print prove the exact opposite. First Premier charges you a $95 processing fee just to apply for a credit card. Then it levies a $75 annual fee on the credit cards and most cards only come with a $300 limit. You’re paying $170 for a $300 credit line! The APR is a painful 36%. In year two the annual fee reduces to $45, but then you’re charged a monthly servicing fee of $6.25. And to top it all off, you’ll be charged a 25% fee if your credit limit is increased. Stay away from this card! Use the $170 it would take to open the card and get a secured card instead.
To accomplish this, simply get a family member to agree to allow you to be an authorized user on their account. They should have had the account open for at least two years. Then, draft a letter to the creditor to put the agreement in writing. Make sure to define what percentage of the account you’re allowed to use and whether or not you’re responsible for payments on any of those purchases.
If you’ve settled your accounts because of an illness or job loss, they will likely get closed and your score will drop precipitously low. This is only temporary. Your next job will be to continue paying all of your bills on time and paying all other loans you have (like your auto or mortgage loans). Your credit score will rise again, and when it does after about a month or two, you should start applying for credit again.
Risks: Overall, a student card can be a great asset for your teen to have in college, but there are a few risks to beware of. If your teen overspends so much that they max out their credit limit, they risk harming their utilization rate — which is the amount of credit they use divided by their total credit limit. For example, if your teen has a $500 credit limit and uses $400, their utilization rate would be 80% ($400/$500). That’s very high, and we recommend keeping utilization below 30%.
While Credit One is not as predatory as First Premier or payday loans, there is really no need to be using it to rebuild your credit score. Credit One makes it a bit tricky to get to its terms and conditions without either going through the pre-qualification process or accepting a direct mail offer. You’ll see this when clicking to look at its credit card option.
As far as templates go, there are plenty of free credit repair letter templates online. Debt.com offers a free credit repair template letter that you can use if you want to repair your credit on your own. Template letter archives just change a few words based on common situations. But if you aren’t confident about making disputes and how to word the important stuff (which is the stuff you must fill in with any templates), then all the templates in the world won’t help.
Amount of Debt: Debt contributes 30% to a FICO Score’s calculation and can be easier to clean up than payment history, according to FICO’s website. (It weighs heavily on other credit scoring models, too.) That’s because if you currently have five maxed out credit cards, creditors worry whether you’ll be able to take on more credit and whether they’ll get paid back first or if your other creditors will.
Be punished for missed payments: Not all late payments are created equally. If you are fewer than 30 days late, your missed payment will likely not be reported to the bureau (although you still will be subject to late fees and potential risk-based re-pricing, which can be very expensive). Once you are 30 days late, you will be reported to the credit bureau. The longer you go without paying, the bigger the impact on your score, ie: 60 days late is worse than 30 days late. A single missed payment (of 30 days or more) can still have a big impact on your score. It can take anywhere from 60 to 110 points off your score.
Communicate with your creditors. If you are having trouble paying your bills or if you are really serious about cleaning up your credit report, then talk to your creditors. Be honest and upfront with them and try to make arrangements to reduce your balance or payments to something more manageable. You need to know your rights and options, but you also must remember to be cooperative and professional. State facts, but don’t make threats.
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Even if you are careful about guarding your information, you can still be a victim of identity theft. Anyone who gains access to personal information like social security numbers and addresses can open credit cards or loans in your name with no intention of paying any of the money borrowed back. When this happens, your credit will suffer and it can take awhile to repair the damage. Pull your credit reports on a regular basis and look out for accounts and information that are not yours.