One of the best ways to quickly build a payment history is to use a credit card. A secured credit card can help with this step if your poor credit precludes you from qualifying for a “regular” credit card. A secured card requires that you keep money in a linked savings account as collateral. Because the money is already there, it is easier to get approval for a secured card — especially when you have poor credit. In either case, your payments are reported to the bureaus every month, so it makes a big difference in showing that you pay regularly — and on time. (See: Wise Bread's review of the 5 best secured credit cards.)
Credit and debt go hand in hand. If you’ve faced challenges with debt, then it’s probably affected your credit, too. In many cases, you need credit repair to correct mistakes and errors in your credit report that you may have picked up along the way while getting out of debt. Just by removing these errors, you can raise your credit score instantly with each successful dispute. There are a few ways to repair your credit and a few things you should know before you get started.
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Of course, paying down your debts can be easier said than done. In fact, if you could really pay down $3000 or $4000 of debts quickly, you probably wouldn’t be having a problem with debt in the first place. But there is an alternative. You could contact your creditors and ask them to raise your credit limits. Of course, if you had a debt-to-credit-available ratio of 85%, you might have a hard time convincing them to raise your limits. Some will and some won’t. But what you could do and here comes the sneaky, little trick is to get what’s called a sub-prime merchandise card tied to a line of credit that would allow you to buy merchandise from a single wholesale distributor. The thing is that everyone who applies for one of these cards is automatically approved. The distributor becomes the one who is supplying the financing because it wants your business. Of course, you shouldn’t get the card just so you could start racking up more debt. What you want is a new line of credit that the distributor will report to the credit-reporting bureaus.

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If you are like many consumers and don’t know your credit score, there are several free places you can find it. The Discover Card is one of several credit card sources that offer free credit scores. Discover provides your FICO score, the one used by 90% of businesses that do lending. Most other credit cards like Capital One and Chase give you a Vantage Score, which is similar, but not identical. Same goes for online sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Quizzle.

After you’ve resolved the negative items on your credit report, work on getting positive information added. Just like late payments severely hurt your credit score, timely payments help your score. If you have some credit cards and loans being reported on time, good. Continue to keep those balances at a reasonable level and make your payments on time.
Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.
These services often catch a bad rap, and certainly aren’t for everyone. However, there is something to be said for the years of experience and insider knowledge these businesses have. Those people who are in a good financial standing and need some help increasing their score without all the headaches of doing it on their own can benefit greatly from such a service.
UPDATE: The Alternative Loan Machine is actually fixing the issue for me now. Apparently the problem was during the period when they were switching from beta testing to going live. Their communications were down while they were transferring everything over to their new system. They’ve since contacted me and are assisting in getting my refund back from the vendor I hired through them, so everything’s getting taken care now. They are at this time doing everything they advertise themselves doing.
Of course, credit utilization is simple enough to do yourself with a simple spreadsheet 10 Helpful Spreadsheet Templates To Help Manage Your Finances 10 Helpful Spreadsheet Templates To Help Manage Your Finances Wouldn't it be great if you knew where your money was, at all times? Read More and a little bit of time. Taking the time to figure out where you stand with your credit is a critical first step toward getting it in order.
Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.

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Credit reports can often contain errors, and disputed information in the report will reflect on your score. But the good thing now is that you can check your credit reports through the CIBIL website. If there is more than one mistake, you will have to dispute it with the concerned institution either yourself, or seek help from a credit repair company.
This move presents a chicken-and-egg problem: in order to increase your credit limit by adding a new card, you may need to improve your credit score first. Before trying to apply for a new card, first ask your current card issuers to increase your credit limit. There's often a "magic button" on card issuers' websites you can press to request a credit line increase.
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.
This is one of the most overlooked credit repair secrets.  In an effort to make you less desirable to their competitors, some creditors will not post your proper credit line. Showing less available credit can negatively impact your credit score. If you see this happening on your credit report, you have a right to complain and bring this to their attention. If you have bankruptcies that should be showing a zero balance…make sure they show a zero balance! Very often the creditor will not report a "bankruptcy charge-off" as a zero balance until it's been disputed.
The Island Approach also gives you a built-in warning system for overspending. If you ever see finance charges on an account earmarked for everyday expenses, you’ll know you’re overspending. Separating everyday expenses from a balance that you’re carrying from month to month will help you save on finance charges, too. Interest charges are based on an account’s average daily balance, after all.
The debt-to-credit ratio is definitely considered one of the more important factors that help determine consumer credit. This is also why it is not recommended that you close any unused credit card accounts you have as a way to try and raise your credit scores. Doing so will affect your utilization ratio percentage and can actually do more harm than good.

Scott Dylan is a contributing writer at GET.com and has been to (almost) every country in North, Central and South America with nothing more than a backpack, a laptop and the desire to explore. He speaks Spanish fluently and has logged enough time in planes, trains, rideshares, buses, taxis and rickshaws to know how to rack up rewards and points to get anywhere his heart desires for pennies on the dollar. Email: scott.dylan@get.com.
Your loan balances also affect your credit score in a similar way. The credit score calculation compares your loan current loan balance to the original loan amount. The closer your loan balances are to the original amount you borrowed, the more it hurts your credit score. Focus first on paying down credit card balances because they have more impact on your credit score.

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]
As you begin the process of improving your credit score, keep in mind that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, but improving your score is worth the effort. A poor credit score can potentially cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime. It can also become a source of serious stress, making you feel like you just can’t leave the mistakes of the past behind and move on.
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