If you haven’t yet taken care of all your delinquent accounts, it’s the perfect opportunity to negotiate with your creditors to re-age your accounts. Anytime an account becomes delinquent, the creditor or lender reports that status to the credit bureaus. Then it becomes a negative credit report item that lasts for seven years from the date it was incurred.
As you begin the process of improving your credit score, keep in mind that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, but improving your score is worth the effort. A poor credit score can potentially cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime. It can also become a source of serious stress, making you feel like you just can’t leave the mistakes of the past behind and move on.
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.
Companies that want you to lie about credit history or create a new credit identity can get you into legal trouble. Companies that provide “new” identifying information use stolen Social Security numbers, and if you use this number then you are committing fraud. Likewise using an Employee Identification Number or Credit Profile Number provided by these companies is a crime. Rather than committing fraud, take the steps below to improve credit on your own.
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.
Do yourself a favor and save some money, too. Don’t believe these claims: they’re very likely signs of a scam. Indeed, attorneys at the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, say they’ve never seen a legitimate credit repair operation making those claims. The fact is there’s no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately, but it takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.
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.
Since your credit score is based on information in your credit reports, you need to see what’s on them. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus and you can see all of your credit reports from the 3 major credit bureaus at once by going to annualcreditreport.com. Reviewing your credit report will allow you some insight on why your credit score is low.