Payment history accounts for the largest factor affecting your credit score. If you are behind on your payments, you won’t be able to improve your credit situation. Try to bring all of your accounts up to date. If you can’t afford to bring everything up to date at once, you can contact your creditors and work out a payment plan. Be up-front when you contact your creditors, explaining your situation and letting them know that you want to pay your obligation. Let your creditors know how much you can pay, and how long you expect to pay it. In many cases, it’s possible to work out an arrangement that all parties can live with.
Write a letter to the specific credit reporting agency that shows the falsehood, whether it is Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Explain the mistake and include a copy of the highlighted report along with your documentation. Although certain bureaus now let you submit disputes online, it’s not a bad idea to send this letter by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself. The reporting agency has 30 days from the receipt of your letter to respond. The Federal Trade Commission provides advice on contacting the credit bureaus about discrepancies. Here are the contact numbers and web sites for the three credit bureaus:
The key point here, however, is that you can’t go into repair expecting to improve your score by a certain amount. Scores are highly specific to an individual, so changes vary based on your credit history, the number of other penalties you have and where your score was before the item was removed. This is why score improvement guarantees typically indicate a scam.
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. When paying off past debts, explain to your creditor that you are trying to become current and ask for help. Your creditor might:
If a company promises to create a new credit identity or hide your bad credit history or bankruptcy, it’s also a scam. These companies often use stolen Social Security numbers or get people to apply for Employer Identifications Numbers from the IRS under false pretenses to create new credit reports. If you use a number other than your own to apply for credit, you won’t get it, and you could face fines or prison.
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.
Satisfying such obligations won’t remove the records from your credit reports, however. They’ll stay there for seven to 10 years, no matter what. But their status will change to show that you no longer owe money. What’s more, the newest credit scores – including VantageScore 3.0, VantageScore 4.0 and FICO Score 9 – stop considering collections accounts once they’ve been paid.
An unsecured credit card carries more positive weight, but you might not qualify for an unsecured card right now. If this is the case, begin using a secured credit card. Double-check to ensure that the card is truly a credit card. Prepaid debit cards look similar, but they are not the same thing, and your payment history isn’t reported to the credit bureaus. Ask the secured card issuer if your payments will be reported, and only use a card that will report to bureaus.
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.
Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit scores. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.