Maybe you only use 20% of your available credit, but you occasionally miss student loan or mortgage payments Best Online Mortgage Calculators & How to Use Them Best Online Mortgage Calculators & How to Use Them Figuring out how much a mortgage will cost you in the long run can be hard, but these calculators make it easy, no matter how much information you have. Read More . Your situation requires a whole different set of actions.
Everyone is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Your credit report contains the information used to compute your credit score. It can be obtained by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com(Opens in a new window) or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Your credit score won’t be included in the free report, but can be purchased at the same time your report is pulled for a small fee.
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.
Of these five components, two make up 65% of your credit score – your payment history and debt vs. credit available. As you might guess, your payment history is based on how well you’ve handled credit – that is have you made all of your payments and on time. Debt vs. credit available, which makes up 30% of your credit score is really the amount of debt you have available versus the amount you’ve used. This is called your debt-to-credit-available ratio. Say that you add up all of your available credit (your total limits) and got $10,000 but had total debts of $8500. In this case your debt-to-credit-available ratio would be 85%, which would be too high and would make you look very risky to any new lenders. So a quick way to boost your score is to pay down your debts, which would immediately improve your debt-to-credit-available ratio.
Studies show that the majority of credit reports contain errors. Whether through clerical errors, mistaken identities, improper accounting, or simple misunderstandings, there are an estimated 200+ million Americans with errors on their credit reports. And in many cases, these errors are significant. As many as 25% of all credit reports contain errors serious enough to cause someone to be denied on a credit application.
After getting approved for refinancing, the new loan may be reported to the credit bureaus, which could lower your average age of accounts. Your other loans will be paid off, but they could stay on your credit reports for up to 10 more years. Your overall installment-loan debt will stay the same, and as long as you continue to make on-time payments, your score may improve over time.
If the dispute is not resolved in your favor, you have the right to add a 100-word statement to your file explaining the issue. This is called a consumer statement. This may not be very helpful, however, since many creditor’s either won’t see or won’t read the statement. You may be better off hiring a consumer law attorney or contacting the Federal Trade Commission.
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.
Getting negative and inaccurate information off of your credit reports is one of the fastest ways to see an improvement in your scores. Since credit bureaus have to respond and resolve a dispute within 30 days (there are a few exceptions that may extend this to 45 days), it’s a short timeline. Especially when consumers want to buy a house, get a new car, or open up a new credit card soon and don’t have the time to wait to build good credit in other ways.
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 you download your reports, review and send the disputes that day, you can expect it to take anywhere from 31-40 days. The timing depends on how quickly the bureaus receive your dispute. It will take longer if you need to make disputes in several rounds to the same bureau. If you have more than five disputes to make on one report, you should always send them in rounds, five at a time.


30% of your credit score is how much you owe on your credit cards. If you are maxed out on your credit cards, even if you make all your payments on time, you will see a dramatic decrease in your credit score. Don’t let your balances go to more than 30% of your credit limit; this is the sweet spot in the credit-scoring model. Even if you pay off your balances each month, the amount of credit you’ve used at the time of your monthly statement is the amount of debt used to calculate your credit score. Keep your balances low at all times during the credit card cycle.
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