If you have a low credit score, there are many things you can do to improve it. Sometimes we don’t even realize that our credit report contains errors—errors that can be removed with a little determination and perseverance. Even if your score is low because of your own poor choices in the past, you can still take control of your finances and improve your credit over the long run.
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.
Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. You may order reports from each of the three credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your requests throughout the year.

I had a $10,000 surgery when my medical insurance lapsed. I had to fill out a form with the hospital that stated I could not afford to pay it and they forgave it/never went on my credit. If you make under a certain income, the hospital should help you get those off, call the hospital and ask. It may be too late since it’s in collections already, if that’s the case, don’t pay it because it won’t change the negative impact since it’s already in collections. Wait for it to fall off.


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.
I do not agree with the secured card info you've provided.  They are great tools when used correctly.  You can find one with no/small annual fee.  The interest rate won't come into play if you pay your balance in full each month.  Even if you don't pay in full, the interest on a very low balance is a non-factor.  Alomst any credit union will allow you to open an account with as little as $5 and secured card with $300/500.  My card is $500 and I never charge more than $150(30%).  It takes will power to not max it out.  You don;t want to fall back into old habits (if that is what got you into this situation in the first place).
Here’s a good example of when a reputable credit repair service can help you do something you may not be able to accomplish yourself. If you have a collection account that’s been sold to a few different debt collectors, it may appear on your credit report multiple times. That information is accurate but having that one debt dinging your credit score multiple times may not meet the “fair” standard Padawer mentioned.

It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked.  That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far. 
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.
A hard inquiry happens when a financial institution takes a look into your credit history to determine whether or not you are in a good position to take on a loan. These inquiries typically take place when you are trying to obtain a significant loan or credit line such as a mortgage, auto loan or credit card. Each inquiry drops your credit score by a few points and remains on your reports for up to two years.
You could consolidation the loans with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. The Department of Education will issue you a new loan and use the money to pay off your existing loans. If you include your defaulted loan, that loan will be paid off, and your new consolidation loan will be current. To be eligible, you must agree to either repay the consolidation loan with an income-driven repayment plan or to make three monthly payments on your defaulted loan before applying for consolidation.
Remember, there are lots of reasons why your credit may be in rough shape. Most are related to your spending habits. So, for instance, if you missed a few payments or your debt levels are too high (think over 30% of your total available credit limits), disputing errors won’t help your case — you’ll have to make some changes to improve your credit scores. And you may have to wait a bit to see an uptick.
When looking to improve your FICO score, you should regularly check your credit report, set up payment reminders, and work to reduce the total amount of debt you owe. Your payment history contributes a staggering 35% to a FICO Score calculation and this category can and will have one of the most significant impacts on how you can improve your FICO score as you will see in the information outlined below.

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.
If you are using a great deal of your available credit, it can count against you. Create a plan to pay down your debt a little faster. Honestly evaluate your expenses, and cut back. Use the money you save to reduce your debt. Try to get your credit utilization down to 30% or less. If you can reduce your debt, the credit utilization portion of your score will improve, and help your credit overall.
If you’re hesitant for your teen to open their own credit card, adding them as an authorized user on your credit card account may be the best option. You can easily monitor their spending through statements and online banking. While they piggyback off your credit, you can continue to benefit from the same perks your card offers and even earn rewards on their purchases — if you have a rewards card.
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.
No! And it’s bad that consumers think that credit repair is bad because of the scams. A few bad apples make it seem like the credit repair process, as a whole, is fraudulent. But credit repair is a federally protected consumer right. And if you avoid credit repair because you’re worried about scams, you could miss out on the chance to easily boost your score.

Otherwise, the advice you have given is great and works well for a quick boost but having the ability to remove lines of information from your credit history is even better because once it is gone, it can no longer affect your score. BTW - don't take my word or anyone elses for that matter, educate yourself! You can find either of the sources I mentioned just by Googling either of them if you want and I promise you, the more information you have, the better!
Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and can help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
Review your credit reports for accuracy. Your report may contain inaccurate information or might be missing important credit information. Contact the credit reporting agency in writing immediately to fix any errors. Be sure to provide complete and necessary information so that the agency can complete an investigation and repair any inaccuracies.[1]

In general, credit repair takes about three to six months to resolve all of the disputes that the average consumer needs to make. Of course, if you only have a few mistakes to correct or you repair your credit every year, it may not take as long; you might be done in just over one month. On the other hand, if you’ve never corrected your credit and have a large volume of things to dispute, it may take longer.
The trick here is that you need to batch all of these inquiries into a single two-week period in order to enjoy this benefit. There is a new scoring formula that expands this period to 45-days, but has not yet been adopted by all lenders and bureaus. For now, it’s best to shop around for the best interest rates within 14 business days to avoid an unnecessary decrease to your credit score.
It's important to note that repairing bad credit is a bit like losing weight: It takes time and there is no quick way to fix a credit score. In fact, out of all of the ways to improve a credit score, quick-fix efforts are the most likely to backfire, so beware of any advice that claims to improve your credit score fast. The best advice for rebuilding credit is to manage it responsibly over time. If you haven't done that, then you need to repair your credit history before you see credit score improvement. The following tips will help you with that. They are divided into categories based on the data used to calculate your credit score.
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