A credit score ranges from 300 to 850, with the highest numbers reflecting the best risk. If your score is below 600, you will have a hard time finding lenders and loan products for which you qualify. If you have a 720 score and above, you will generally have access to the best loans and interest rates available. The world of credit scoring is a mysterious one: the formulas are a closely guarded secret and have never been made public. If you don’t have a good credit score right now, you may feel helpless, not knowing what can be done to turn this situation around. There are actually a lot of things that you can do that just require a little discipline. We offer you a few tips.
Know where you are at financially. Check your credit report to see exactly where you need to improve. Do you have a lot of missed or late payments? Is your debt utilization too high? These clues can help you figure out what items to tackle first. You are entitled to a free report from each of the credit bureaus one a year (so, three total). You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com (the official site run by the three credit bureaus) for your free reports. You can also order reports directly from each of the three bureaus:
The last major factor is your history of applying for credit. This accounts for 10% of most credit scores and may be holding you back if you applied for several credit accounts recently. This factor also takes time to correct, but any hard inquiries into your credit will only ding your scores slightly, and as they get older, they will have less of an impact. A year is generally when they begin to stop hurting your credit scores.
Understand your credit score. This number, ranging from 300 to 850, represents your creditworthiness. Software developed by FICO and used by the credit reporting agencies determines the score. The scores between agencies should be similar, but there may be differences. It's important to make sure that your information is correct for each reporting agency.
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.
You're also entitled to a free credit report if you've been turned down for credit because of something on your credit report, if you're currently receiving government assistance, if you're unemployed and planning to look for a job soon, or if you think you've been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft. Some states even have laws that let you get an additional free credit report each year. All these free credit reports should be ordered directly through the credit bureaus.
You have the right to dispute any information in your credit report that's inaccurate, incomplete, or you believe can't be verified. When you order your credit report, you'll receive instructions on how to dispute credit report information. Credit reports ordered online typically come with instructions for making disputes online, but you can also make disputes over the phone and through the mail.
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.
I would like to add a reply to another person’s answer. The answer was a recommendation to use a credit repair service. If the service recommends disputing all derogatory accounts, are they acting in your best interest (not all services recommend this procedure, but many do)? If any derogatory account is accurate, but you have been instructed to dispute, in an attempt to have the item removed, are you doing the right thing? You will be instructed to provide a letter of dispute, with your signature, claiming the account has an error. If you know the account is reporting correctly. There is no error. But, you move forward with a signed letter claiming otherwise, there can be blowback, beware.
FICO, myFICO, Score Watch, The score lenders use, and The Score That Matters are trademarks or registered trademarks of Fair Isaac Corporation. Equifax Credit Report is a trademark of Equifax, Inc. and its affiliated companies. Many factors affect your FICO Score and the interest rates you may receive. Fair Isaac is not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Fair Isaac does not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit record, credit history or credit rating. FTC's website on credit.