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.
Set up automatic payment reminders. Paying your bills on time is the most important factor in figuring up your credit score. Setting automatic deductions from your banking account for house and automobile payments, utilities, and credit cards will help you make timely payments. If auto payments aren't possible, set payment reminders on your calendar or budgeting software.
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The Discover it® Secured isn’t like most secured cards — it offers a cashback program and a simple transition to an unsecured card. Starting at eight months from account opening, Discover will conduct automatic monthly account reviews to see if your security deposit can be returned while you still use your card. Unlike most secured cards that lack rewards, this card offers 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, 1% cash back on all your other purchases. And, Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched. This is a great added perk while you work on building credit.
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 find information that is incorrect, you can file a dispute. Remember too, that items on your credit report that you don't recognize could also be potential signs of fraudulent activity — someone working to secure credit in your name for their own use. Make sure you're clear on items that could potentially be fraudulent, versus those that may simply be inaccurate.
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:
“Credit repair leverages your legal right to three standards: Credit reports must be 100% accurate, entirely fair, and fully substantiated,” Padawer said. “Too many lesser credit repair companies skip over those last two standards — which involve communicating with your creditors — in favor of depending upon simple credit bureau disputes by themselves.”
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
If you’re in debt and need help, a reputable credit counseling organization might be able to help. Good credit counselors spend time discussing your entire financial situation with you before coming up with a personalized plan to solve your money problems. They won’t promise to fix all your problems or ask you to pay a lot of money before doing anything.
We agree that it is very important for individuals to be knowledgeable of their credit standing. When you have a credit-monitoring tool like freecreditscore.com on your side, you get e-mail alerts whenever there’s a change in your credit score–and you can also see your credit score whenever you want. With the free credit report from the government, you only see your report once a year. If you monitor your credit score regularly, it’s easier to catch inaccuracies before it’s too late.
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Review Your Credit Report – You are entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three reporting agencies and requesting one has no impact on your credit score. Review the report closely. Dispute any errors that you find. This is the closest you can get to a quick credit fix. Notifying the credit reporting agency of wrong or outdated information will improve your score as soon as the false information is removed.
But make no mistake, this doesn’t do any of work for you. You still need to identify potential errors in your reports. You enter them into the software and then tell it when you file a dispute (in other words, the software isn’t connected to the online dispute portals for the credit bureaus). So, this is basically a high-tech way to track progress.
If you see missed payments that shouldn’t have been there, write it down. Your credit score is negatively impacted when you are 30 days or more past due. If you see a balance on a card that you haven’t used in years, it could be because the account has been stolen. Misinformation in the accounts section harms your credit score, so make a note of all incorrect information.
Beware of scams that tell you to create a new credit file. Some disreputable credit repair agencies will suggest inventing a new credit identity by using an Employer Identification Number rather than your Social Security Number. This is illegal! Besides the fact that it is considered to be credit fraud, this action does not mean that your “real” report no longer exists. Any lender who asks for your Social Security Number will still find this information.
If you haven’t yet taken care of all your delinquent accounts, it’s the perfect opportunity to negotiate with your creditors to re-age your accounts. Anytime an account becomes delinquent, the creditor or lender reports that status to the credit bureaus. Then it becomes a negative credit report item that lasts for seven years from the date it was incurred.
If you have impossibly high interest on those credit cards, then do cancel them. It doesn’t help to have open credit cards if the interest rate makes it nearly impossible for you to get the balance down. In fact, banks currently have hardship programs, where they will reduce your interest rate TO ZERO if you agree that they will cancel your cards. Yes, you wll take an immediate hit on your credit score, but that will quickly improve as you pay down your credit cards, which you can now do because you don’t have those usurious interest rates to pay.
If you have no credit or can't get a credit card on your own, explore the option of becoming an authorized user on a credit card. What you do is ask a primary cardholder, like a family member or significant other, if you can get an authorized card in your name on their account. Keep in mind that some scoring systems may give less weight to authorized user accounts than they do to primary accounts, but you would still stand to benefit from them.
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.
There is one other path through the credit repair process that often gets billed as a “happy medium.” Credit repair software claims to reduce the hassle of free credit repair and avoid the higher cost of a “concierge” credit repair service. Credit repair software has a one-time cost that generally ranges from $30-$399. They generally give you a nice dashboard to track disputes and template letters to use so you can file them.
Use our sample letter for disputing errors with businesses (see below). Say that you’re disputing an item, and include the same information. Again, include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position. Many businesses specify an address for disputes. If the business reports the item to a credit bureau, it must include a notice of your dispute.
Thank you. I thought my scores were better than they are and I contacted a mortgage lender who said my scores were much lower than I thought. He said to pay off all negative open accounts. Most are medical bills. He also said that even with a car loan and a secured card and Fingerhut it is not enough trade lines. He suggested I open another secured card. Use one for gas and the other for fun/groceries. He said charge no more than 30% on each only if there is the money present to pay it off when I get home that day. If so, pay all but $5 immediately. He said that plus the debt should help within a few months to raise my score in addition to keeping the existing items current. My husband has a tax lien so I promptly made arrangements for that and have applied for and was approved for a second secured card as well. I just have to wait until payday to fund it and then will work to pay off these debts and build my score. Hoping for some big results in six months.
If you find an error on all three credit reports, you’ll have to dispute it separately with each credit bureau, as they’re run separately from one another. You’ll also have to file a separate dispute for each error you find. (Here’s more on dealing with multiple errors on credit reports.) You can dispute these errors on your own for free, or you could consider hiring a reputable credit repair company or credit counselor to help.
If you find mistakes on your credit report, like errors regarding your payment histories, or even mistakes in the spelling of your name and incorrect social security numbers, contact the credit bureaus to correct them. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees your right to dispute listings in your credit report, free of charge. All of the major credit bureaus have online systems in which to dispute errors on your credit report. By law, the credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate and correct the errors.