Understand your credit report. The report is made of of your credit history and other financial information. It's used to create your credit score, which is a number. The annual free credit reports won't give you a score, they'll just provide you the information that goes into calculating the score. This is the information you'll get with your credit report:[8]

Pay down current and past-due debts first. Don’t fall into the trap of paying off old debts by postponing payments of current debt. The late payment accounts are already reflected on your credit report and score. Keeping credit accounts current helps your score by having good credit sources that are older, rather than new.[12] When paying off past debts, explain to your creditor that you are trying to become current and ask for help. Your creditor might:

Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.
The first step is to get copies of your credit reports">get copies of your credit reports from Experian and each of the other national credit reporting companies. If you find anything to be inaccurate, follow their dispute instructions to have it corrected. You can also get your free credit report from Experian and dispute any inaccuracies at any time.

If your credit card balances every month are more than 30% of your credit limits, your score is suffering, even if you’re paying off your balances in full every month by the payment due date. That’s because your statement balance is most likely what’s being reported to the credit bureaus. So, keep an eye on those balances, and consider pre-paying some of the balance if you know you’ll be above that 30% mark this month.
If you have poor credit and need to consolidate your debt, you should know your rights, so you can avoid being bullied by your creditors. Homeowners with poor credit should carefully consider whether or not their credit has improved since the original mortgage was secured. This is essential because mortgage consultants who specialize in obtaining mortgages and re-financing for those with poor credit will likely be very knowledgeable about the types of options available to the homeowners.
Credit utilization is the ratio between your available credit (all of your credit limits) and your total used credit (all of your credit balances). When you divide your balances by your credit limits and multiply by 100%, you should end up with a number under 30%. This represents a “healthy” credit utilization. It also leads to a very high credit score.
Transfer your balance: If you are carrying a balance on your credit cards, you can kill two birds with one stone. If you transfer your balance to a new balance transfer credit card, you can increase your overall credit limit while also being able to pay down your credit card balance. Even better, find a credit card that offers a 0% intro APR for up to 14 months so you will have time to pay down your balance without being charged extra interest on it. These are some good all-around credit cards with a 0% intro APR for balance transfers.
The trick here is that you need to batch all of these inquiries into a single two-week period in order to enjoy this benefit. There is a new scoring formula that expands this period to 45-days, but has not yet been adopted by all lenders and bureaus. For now, it’s best to shop around for the best interest rates within 14 business days to avoid an unnecessary decrease to your credit score.
Delinquent payments, bad credit, and foreclosures usually mean high-interest rates and difficulty getting loans or mortgages. Lenders will consider you a high risk and will be hesitant to work with you. Changing your spending habits and cleaning up your credit report will help you get better loan rates and save you thousands of dollars in interest.
Understand your credit score. This number, ranging from 300 to 850, represents your creditworthiness. Software developed by FICO and used by the credit reporting agencies determines the score. The scores between agencies should be similar, but there may be differences. It's important to make sure that your information is correct for each reporting agency.[9]
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have (loans, credit cards, etc.), their status (open/closed, in collections), balances, credit limits and payment details. This may also include dates of missed payments or late payments, or when the accounts were sent to collections. From these details, your credit scores will be formed.
If you have errors that can’t be verified: A little known fact about your credit report is that every detail in the report needs to be verifiable. For example, if you have a negative item on your credit report from a lender who was bought or went out of business, there is a chance that if the credit bureaus were to call to verify the information on your report, they would get no answer. In that case, they are required to remove it from your credit report. This is a loophole that credit repair services will use to raise your score.
It's important to note that repairing bad credit is a bit like losing weight: It takes time and there is no quick way to fix a credit score. In fact, out of all of the ways to improve a credit score, quick-fix efforts are the most likely to backfire, so beware of any advice that claims to improve your credit score fast. The best advice for rebuilding credit is to manage it responsibly over time. If you haven't done that, then you need to repair your credit history before you see credit score improvement. The following tips will help you with that. They are divided into categories based on the data used to calculate your credit score.
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