Debt.com has put together a comprehensive Credit Repair Process Guide so you can understand what it is, how it works and the three different options you have for repair. We tell you everything you need to know to decide on the best way to repair your credit. If you still have questions, head over to our Ask the Expert section to get the answers you need from our panel of experts.
If you don’t want to go through the effort of fixing errors yourself, you can also hire a credit repair company to send fix requests on your behalf. Keep in mind that credit repair companies might try to convince you to try other ways to fix your credit, but you are paying by the month, so make sure they are focusing on your errors. Here are the two best credit repair companies compared side by side.
2. First Premier – The bank claims to want to offer people a second chance when it comes to their finances, but its fee structure and fine print prove the exact opposite. First Premier charges you a $95 processing fee just to apply for a credit card. Then it levies a $75 annual fee on the credit cards and most cards only come with a $300 limit. You’re paying $170 for a $300 credit line! The APR is a painful 36%. In year two the annual fee reduces to $45, but then you’re charged a monthly servicing fee of $6.25. And to top it all off, you’ll be charged a 25% fee if your credit limit is increased. Stay away from this card! Use the $170 it would take to open the card and get a secured card instead.
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Write the various reporting bureaus with the explanation of your circumstances and ask for removal of the item. If they are not willing to remove the information, you have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to attach personal statement (up to 100 words in most states) explaining the circumstances. Depending upon the type of information reported by the bureau, your credit record and score may be affected up to ten years.
I wanted to raise my score a nudge, so I decided to get a car loan at a very low rate. I spent a year paying it off just to get a mix in my credit. At first, my score went down a little, but after about six months, my score started increasing. Your credit mix is only 10% of your FICO score, but sometimes that little bit can bump you up from good credit to excellent credit.
Leading up to the credit score crash — You lost your job and used credit cards to pay expenses. You are overburdened with five maxed out credit cards at $5,000 each, for a total debt load of $25,000. You stopped paying them all for six months so they’ve grown to $30,000 with interest included and a balance of $6,000 each. You have 100% utilization and a terrible credit score of 450. As a last resort, you take out a $14,000 loan from your 401(k) and start calling creditors to negotiate.
Check your credit report for errors and fraudulent accounts as well. Errors can bring your credit score down. If something is inaccurate, dispute it, and fix the problem. The FTC offers great information on disputing inaccurate information, as well as a helpful sample dispute letter you can use as a template. This can be one of the easiest ways to give your credit score a little bump higher. Don’t forget to bring fraudulent accounts to the attention of the credit bureau and have them removed. If you are concerned about fraudulent accounts and identity theft, can place a freeze on your credit to avoid further identity theft problems. Each bureau has its own procedures, and you can learn more about how to place a credit freeze on your report by visiting the bureaus’ web sites. Understand that a freeze needs to be placed with each bureau individually.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to give your statement to anyone who got a copy of your report in the recent past. You’ll probably have to pay for this service.
Age of credit matters to your credit report. Interest rates matter to your bank account. If you have $100 a month to put toward paying down balances (over and above the required monthly payments, of course), focus on paying off high interest accounts. Then prioritize those by the age of the account. Pay off the newest ones first; that way you'll increase the average length of credit, which should help your score, but you'll also be able to more quickly avoid paying relatively high interest.
If you are like many consumers and don’t know your credit score, there are several free places you can find it. The Discover Card is one of several credit card sources that offer free credit scores. Discover provides your FICO score, the one used by 90% of businesses that do lending. Most other credit cards like Capital One and Chase give you a Vantage Score, which is similar, but not identical. Same goes for online sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Quizzle.
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.
Much like an Olympian in training, data is essential to tracking your credit-improvement progress. You need to know how things are progressing, where there’s still room for improvement, and when it’s time to trade up for a credit card with better terms. That’s where WalletHub’s free daily credit-score updates come in handy. You won’t find free daily scores anywhere else, and you don’t want to live in the past when you’re running from bad credit.
Because if you already owe nearly the maximum on all of your credit cards, none of the tips below will work. Your utilization is through the roof, and you’re basically debt-poor How to Get Rich: The Fastest Way to Get Out of Debt How to Get Rich: The Fastest Way to Get Out of Debt Imagine being debt free. No overdrawn balances or unpaid bills. There is a foolproof way of getting yourself out of debt. It starts with a plan and some discipline. Let's visit the other ingredients. Read More .
The Discover it® Student Cash Back is our top pick for a student card since it has a wide range of benefits. There is a cashback program where you can earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, plus 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases. Plus, new cardmembers can benefit from Discover automatically matching all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. Another unique perk is the good Grades Reward: Receive a $20 statement credit each school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to five consecutive years.
The way a secure credit card works is simply. You prepay your credit ahead of time to “secure” all of your purchases. Your credit limit for this type of card is exactly the amount of money that you prepay. This basically makes you a zero risk debtor to the bank if you happen to not pay your bill. You can obtain a secured credit card for as little as $200, so there really isn’t any reason to NOT get one.
Perhaps our favorite secured card, Discover it® Secured, has numerous benefits for those looking to rebound from a bad credit score. There is a $200 minimum security deposit that will become your line of credit, which is typical of secured credit cards. Your deposit is equal to your credit line, with a maximum deposit of $2,500. Additional perks include a rewards program (very rare for secured cards) that offers 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
Going forward, pay your bills on time. This includes non-credit bills. Your missed utility payments and late rent payments can be reported to the credit bureaus. Because payment history is so important, establishing a reliable pattern is vital to rebuilding your credit. At the very least, you want to avoid reports that you are missing payments, or paying habitually late. Consider setting up automatic withdrawals in order to avoid missing payments in the future.
Payment history accounts for over one third of your credit score. So, while it may sound too simple to be true, the best thing you can do for your credit is to make payments on time. Every payment you make on time on any debt creates a positive item in your payment history. These payments stack up and offset missed payments that created negative items in the past.
If you’ve settled your accounts because of an illness or job loss, they will likely get closed and your score will drop precipitously low. This is only temporary. Your next job will be to continue paying all of your bills on time and paying all other loans you have (like your auto or mortgage loans). Your credit score will rise again, and when it does after about a month or two, you should start applying for credit again.
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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.
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.
Many of the companies appearing to offer free credit reports sell their monitoring service for a fee. The companies make you sign up for the free report and give a credit card, and then automatically transfer you to a paid service after enrollment and a trial period. If you do not cancel the service within the trial period, your credit charge will be automatically charged each month. Make sure you stop the service.
Keep in mind that if you have no history at all, it will take an estimated three to six months from the beginning date to see any kind of activity being reported on your credit reports. If you have recently acquired a credit card, you should make small purchases you will be able to pay off by the due date to begin to establish credit and show that you can manage a monthly payment.
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When the bureaus and data furnishers receive the dispute and supporting information, they will then work with the credit repair company to determine if the item should be removed from your credit report. The major law dictating your rights when it comes to credit reporting is the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but it isn’t the only law on your side when it comes to credit repair.
You might also be able to ask for a “good-will adjustment.” Suppose you were a pretty good Visa customer until that period of unemployment, when you made a late payment or two – which now show up on your credit report. Write a letter to Visa emphasizing your previous good history and ask that the oopsies be removed from the credit report. It could happen. And as long as you’re reading the report, you need to…
To begin improving your credit score, you should aim to keep your credit card balances on the lower end along with any other type of revolving credit you may have. You should also begin the task of paying down your debt rather than moving it around, and you shouldn’t close any unused credit cards because you are looking for a “quick fix” strategy to improve your credit scores.