Once you have your credit reports, read through them completely. If you have a long credit history, your credit reports might be several pages long. Try not to get overwhelmed by all the information you're reading. It's a lot to digest, especially if you're checking your credit report for the first time. Take your time and review your credit report over several days if you need to.
I know. You need a higher credit score because you want to borrow money; if you had the money to pay down your balances, then you might not need to borrow. Still: decreasing your percentage of available credit used can make a quick and significant impact on your credit score. So go on a bare-bones budget to free up cash to pay down your balance. Or sell something.
It helps to go through your credit reports with a highlighter and pick out any and all inconsistencies. Keep in mind that a credit report from one credit bureau may have an error, while another may not. That’s why it’s so important to check all three of your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies for inaccuracies on each. You may find none, a few, or perhaps many errors on your reports. That’s where the next step to improving your credit comes in.
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"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.
If you’re the parent of a teenager, you might wonder if now is the right time to help them open a credit card. It can be hard to decide if they’re ready to take on the responsibility that comes with having a credit card since you need to trust that your teen has the restraint to limit spending and pay on time. Generally, we recommend introducing your teen to credit as soon as you can since credit is such a large part of life as an adult — you need credit to take out loans, apply for a mortgage and even make certain purchases. Plus, it’s important for your teenager to learn how to manage credit responsibly so they can build good credit.
Once that is done, dispute letters have to be drafted and documentation needs to be gathered before you submit your disputes to the credit bureau(s). The time required for this step varies, depending on the nature of your disputes and how organized you’ve been about keeping financial records. This part of the process can take anywhere from a few hours if you’re organized to a few days if you need to hunt down statements and documentation that proves your case.
It’s important to note that this is positive re-aging. Negative re-aging is related to debt collection. Basically, if a debt collector gets you to admit that a debt is yours and you legitimately owe it, they can reset the statute of limitations on the debt collection clock. This is actually is illegal and violates your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If it happens to you, you should contact a collection harassment agency to fight back!
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.
Even if you are careful about guarding your information, you can still be a victim of identity theft. Anyone who gains access to personal information like social security numbers and addresses can open credit cards or loans in your name with no intention of paying any of the money borrowed back. When this happens, your credit will suffer and it can take awhile to repair the damage. Pull your credit reports on a regular basis and look out for accounts and information that are not yours.