When you find yourself with damaged credit, it’s important to catch your breath and begin laying the foundation for a brighter financial future. Testing your financial literacy and educating yourself are part of that. But the centerpiece of this effort should be your emergency fund. With money saved for a rainy day, you’ll be far less likely to miss payments and damage your credit if met by hefty emergency expenses.
Creditors can instruct credit bureaus to remove entries from your credit report at any time. For example, I hadn't charged anything on a particular credit card for months and didn't notice that I had been charged my annual fee until the payment was late. (Like a doofus, I was just tossing the statements without opening them because I "knew" there were no charges.)
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A quick Google search yielded this terms and conditions sheet, which may be slightly different than the one you’d receive if you applied for a card. According to the one we found, Credit One charges an annual membership fee from $0 to $99. Credit line minimums are between $300 and $500. So you could be paying $99 for a $300 credit limit. APR is relatively standard, but on the high side, with variable 19.15% to 25.24%. Given the high annual fees, we recommend saving your money and using a secured card with no annual fee to begin rebuilding your credit score.
6) After your payment history, the next most important factor is the amount of your credit that you use. Pay down as much of your credit card debt as possible and avoid closing credit cards because what matters is the amount you owe as a percentage of your total amount of credit. However, opening a lot of accounts in a short period of time to increase your available credit could actually hurt your score.
The scoring system wants to see that you maintain a variety of credit accounts. It also wants to see that you have 3 revolving credit lines. If you do not have three active credit cards, you might want to open some (but keep in mind that if you do, you will need to wait some time before rescoring). If you have poor credit and are not approved for a typical credit card, you might want to set up a "secured credit card" account. This means that you will have to make a deposit that is equal or more than your limit, which guarantees the bank that you will repay the loan. It's an excellent way to establish credit. Examples of an installment loan would be a car loan, or it could be for furniture or a major appliance. In addition to the above, having a mortgage listed will bring your score even higher.
I pay my bills on time now and have been for years, but my credit score is toast because of a collection write off I had about 5 years ago and a maxed out home equity line of credit. It's kind of scary to put all my extra money into paying down my line instead of putting aside anything into savings. I really can only do one or the other. My car note interest rate is astronomical with no way to refinance because of the FICO and my house mortgage is underwater so I can't take advantage of low rates these days. I guess I'll just put half on debt and half in savings and do another credit report in 6 months.
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.
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 your teen is ready for their own card, a secured credit card is a good place to start. A secured card is similar to a traditional “unsecured” card, except it requires a security deposit to access credit. Your teen can build credit by charging a small amount each month to their secured card and paying it off in full and on time each month. They can eventually upgrade to an unsecured card, and we’ll explain how below.
Besides the security deposit, a secured card is just like a regular credit card. Purchases and payments your teen makes with their secured card are reported to the three credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You can check that your teen’s credit activity is reported to the bureaus by requesting a copy of their free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. You can request one report from each bureau every 12 months, and we recommend spacing them out over the course of a year — so requesting one copy every four months.
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You can start to resolve identity theft issues by visiting www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. This is an excellent, free website created by the Federal Trade Commission. In addition to reporting identity theft, you will receive a free action plan, and you’ll gain free access to people who can guide you through the identity resolution process.
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.
A lot of creditors will easily forgive late payments if you only have 1 or 2. All you need to do is call their customer service number and talk to one of their representatives. Tell them what happened that month, that caused the payment to be made late (you were sick, your child was sick, you were out of town, you simply forgot). As long as you are honest with them, and admit fault to the late payment, most creditors will want to continue to keep your business and remove the late payment for you.
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.
As you go through life, your credit score will fluctuate. How much it fluctuates depends on how reliable you are at repaying debt on time, especially credit cards and installment loans. When you use credit more often, whether it’s by taking on more credit cards, getting a mortgage, taking out a student loan or auto loan, your credit score changes to reflect how you deal with the responsibility of more debt.
"The long-term benefit to your utilization can far outweigh any short-term loss of points," said Barry Paperno, a four-decade veteran of the credit industry. Paperno cautioned that you should only do this if you don't anticipate needing to apply for a car, home or personal loan in the next six to 12 months. Otherwise, those extra inquiries could hurt you.
On the other hand, credit repair services are effective only to the extent that they have a good working relationship with lenders, credit card companies, and other debt collection agencies. But be warned, not all lenders work with credit repair companies. Before you spend money on a credit repair company, make sure that your lenders will negotiate and work with them on your behalf. If not, you'll need to know how to work directly with the lender yourself.
Transfer your balance: If you are carrying a balance on your credit cards, you can kill two birds with one stone. If you transfer your balance to a new balance transfer credit card, you can increase your overall credit limit while also being able to pay down your credit card balance. Even better, find a credit card that offers a 0% intro APR for up to 14 months so you will have time to pay down your balance without being charged extra interest on it. These are some good all-around credit cards with a 0% intro APR for balance transfers.
Only a portion of the people looking for information about how to fix their credit realize how close to the truth they really are. Even though they may only be looking for a way to raise their credit scores, the fact of the matter is that in many cases, they are actually in need of fixing something that is broken. The credit system in this country is far from perfect and because of it, millions of Americans have credit scores that are not accurate assessments of their credit risk. In a word, their credit score is broken. Fixing their credit is exactly what they need to do.
If you already have a good-to-excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. When you refinance your loans, you take out a new credit-based private student loan and use the money to pay off some or all of your current loans. (The lender will generally send the money directly to your loan servicers.)
You've probably seen advertisements for credit repair on television or heard them on the radio. Maybe even seen credit repair signs on the side of the road. You don't have to hire a professional to fix your credit. The truth is, there is nothing a credit repair company can do to improve your credit that you can’t do for yourself. Save some money and the hassle of finding a reputable company and repair your credit yourself. The next steps will show you how.
Credit utilization is the ratio between your available credit (all of your credit limits) and your total used credit (all of your credit balances). When you divide your balances by your credit limits and multiply by 100%, you should end up with a number under 30%. This represents a “healthy” credit utilization. It also leads to a very high credit score.
Nearly 8 out of 10 credit reports have errors. That means, remove the errors and your score will most likely increase. Go through your credit reports very carefully. Especially look for; Late payments, charge-offs, collections or other negative items that aren't yours, Accounts listed as "settled," "paid derogatory," "paid charge-off" or anything other than "current" or "paid as agreed" if you paid on time and in full, Accounts that are still listed as unpaid that were included in a bankruptcy, Negative items older than seven years (10 in the case of bankruptcy) that should have automatically fallen off your report (you must be careful with this last one, because sometimes scores actually go down when bad items fall off your report. It's a quirk in the FICO credit-scoring software, and the potential effect of eliminating old negative items is difficult to predict in advance). Also make sure you don't have duplicate collection notices listed. For example; if you have an account that has gone to collections, the original creditor may list the debt, as well as the collection agency. Any duplicates must be removed!
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You'll probably have a limited amount of money to put toward credit repair each month. So, you'll have to prioritize where you spend your money. Focus first on accounts that are in danger of becoming past due. Get as many of these accounts current as possible, preferably all of them. Then, work on bringing down your credit card balances. Third are those accounts that have already been charged-off or sent to a collection agency.
The secured credit card is a way to build and establish credit to obtain higher credit scores. If you found that you cannot get approved for a traditional credit card, you’re still likely to get approved for a secured credit card because there is less risk for the lender. The card issuer will report to the credit bureaus about your ability to pay the credit card on time and how you manage and use the balance.