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.
It’s easy to check your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You’re entitled to a free copy, once a year, of all three of your credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These free credit reports can be accessed via AnnualCreditReport.com, the government-mandated site run by the major bureaus. (You can also view a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)
Credit utilization is the second most important factor in credit score calculations – it’s 30% of your score. It measures the amount of debt you currently hold relative to your total available credit limit. So, if you have $500 in balances and a $5,000 total credit limit, your utilization ratio is 10%. Any ratio higher than 10% starts to drag down your score. That means, maintaining zero balances overall is good for your credit. It also allows you to use credit cards without incurring any interest charges!
The downside of these cards as mentioned above is that you can buy merchandise only through the one website or catalog and you must put down a deposit on whatever you purchase. For example, if you were to buy $1000 worth of merchandise you would have to deposit maybe $300 and then finance the remaining $700 on the merchandise card. This will be reported to one or more of the three credit bureaus and will appear as just another credit transaction on your credit report. This will have three important results:
As I mentioned earlier, excellent credit takes time. One way that you can use time to your advantage is by maximizing the impact of the "new credit" category of information, which makes up 10% of your FICO score. Obtaining or applying for new credit is generally seen as a risk factor by lenders, so the fewer items that can be considered new credit, the better.
You’re entitled to a free credit report if a company takes “adverse action” against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment. You have to ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice includes the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.
Credit repair can involve fixing your bad credit in any way, shape or form, but when most people use the term ‘credit repair’, they’re referring to the process of disputing errors on credit reports. You can go through this dispute process for free with each of the credit bureaus on your own. This involves filing a formal dispute with the credit bureau(s) in question either online or via snail mail.
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.
While a recent late payment will damage your credit score, the effect of the late pay will diminish with time, as long as you make it a point to pay the rest of your bills by the due date. Having a recent perfect pay history can begin to overtake the effects of any late payments you may have had in the past. Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score, so paying on time has a large influence on your credit score.