It is worth knowing that it takes more time to repair a bad credit score than it does to build a good one. Mistakes penalize your credit score and end up costing hundreds or thousands of dollars in higher interest rates when borrowing. A poor credit score also can be a roadblock to renting an apartment, setting up utilities, and maybe even getting a job!
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.
Scoring models consider how much you owe and across how many different accounts. If you have debt across a large number of accounts, it may be beneficial to pay off some of the accounts, if you can. Paying down your debt is the goal of many who've accrued debt in the past, but even after you pay the balance down to zero, consider keeping that account open. Keeping paid-off accounts open can be a plus in your overall credit mix since they're aged accounts in good (paid-off) standing. You may also consider debt consolidation.
If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.
This is easier said than done, but reducing the amount that you owe is going to be a far more satisfying achievement than improving your credit score. The first thing you need to do is stop using your credit cards. Use your credit report to make a list of all of your accounts and then go online or check recent statements to determine how much you owe on each account and what interest rate they are charging you. Come up with a payment plan that puts most of your available budget for debt payments towards the highest interest cards first, while maintaining minimum payments on your other accounts.