The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® has a straightforward cashback program, ideal if you don’t want to deal with rotating categories or activation. Earn 1% cash back on all purchases; 0.25% cash back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. The bonus you receive is a great incentive to pay on time each month, which you should be doing regardless of rewards. If you receive a low credit limit, the Credit Steps program allows you to get access to a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time.
If that doesn’t work, the Federal Trade Commission offers a sample letter you can use as a template to make disputes. Include copies of any documents that support your dispute (always keep the originals for yourself). State only the facts in your letter and concisely express why you are making the dispute. Send the letter by certified mail with “return receipt requested: to verify when the bureau received your dispute.

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If you’re going to be hiring one of these services, you probably want to know what you’ll be receiving for your money – right?  Companies that claim to help fix your credit should be completely upfront with what they can and can't do for your situation.  A good company can remove negative items from your credit report and help improve your FICO score, making it easier to obtain a home, vehicle, mortgage, or insurance.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it’s accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who got your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who got a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
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.
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It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked.  That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far. 

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.
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.
Credit scores affect your ability to buy a car or home, get insurance, and even get utilities turned on in your name. The ins and outs of credit scoring and reporting remain a mystery to many consumers. As a result, many people feel they don't have the power to remove the bad credit items that prevent them from getting what they need. Credit repair companies know the laws that govern credit reporting. Many have relationships with creditors and lenders where they can negotiate debts on behalf on consumers.

Your best bet is to call and ask to see if they can put you on a payment plan where you can afford to pay them (even if it’s just the bare minimum a month) or if they will possibly settle for less money. A tip: anything that has your name attached (banking account,utility bills, credit cards, anything you finance, student loans, medical bills, car loans, home loans, your apartment, etc) that you miss a few payments on or don’t pay at all can be reported to the credit agencies and sold to collections companies.
We'll start with derogatory marks like collection accounts and judgments. It's not uncommon to have at least one collection account appear on your report. I had two from health care providers I used after having a heart attack; my insurance company was extremely slow to pay and kept claiming it had paid while the providers said it had not,  and eventually the accounts ended up with a collection agency. At that point, I decided to pay them right away and argue with the insurance company later, but both collections wound up on my credit report.
There is one other path through the credit repair process that often gets billed as a “happy medium.” Credit repair software claims to reduce the hassle of free credit repair and avoid the higher cost of a “concierge” credit repair service. Credit repair software has a one-time cost that generally ranges from $30-$399. They generally give you a nice dashboard to track disputes and template letters to use so you can file them.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute anything on your credit report.  If an item cannot be verified, it must be removed.  This is the basic principal of all credit repair.  Even accurate items can also be removed. You just need to learn the rules.  Credit repair specialists know these rules, but it's important to know that there is nothing a credit repair company can do for you that you cannot do for yourself. However, the work can be tedious so this is why credit repair companies flourish. It's a lot of record keeping. Credit Repair Software can make it easier and faster, by guiding you and generating the letters but you can get the job done with Microsoft Word, as well.
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.
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Set up automatic payment reminders. Paying your bills on time is the most important factor in figuring up your credit score. Setting automatic deductions from your banking account for house and automobile payments, utilities, and credit cards will help you make timely payments. If auto payments aren't possible, set payment reminders on your calendar or budgeting software.[2]
There is no company that can wipe your credit report clean and remove all negative marks, no matter how much money you pay them. The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about falling prey to such promises saying that, “only time, a deliberate effort, and a plan to repay your bills will improve your credit as it’s detailed in your credit report.”
Become familiar with the information contained in each of your credit reports. They'll all look very similar, even if you've ordered them from different bureaus. Each credit report contains your personal identifying information, detailed history for each of your accounts, any items that have been listed in public record like a bankruptcy, and the inquiries that have been made to your credit report.
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.
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!

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.

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.)
Step 1: Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Use our sample letter to help write your own. Include copies (NOT originals) of any documents that support your position. In addition to including your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your report that you dispute; state the facts and the reasons you dispute the information, and ask that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report, and circle the items in question. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document that the credit reporting company got it. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
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.
Top of the line software offers features like autofill templates. But the cost of this software is comparable to the cost of a credit repair service. This is why we recommend going straight for a service if you’re not confident about making disputes yourself. You can try the software, but you may still find yourself unsure about how to proceed. If you’re going to pay for credit repair, it’s best to get it right the first time!
You have the right to dispute any information in your credit report that's inaccurate, incomplete, or you believe can't be verified. When you order your credit report, you'll receive instructions on how to dispute credit report information. Credit reports ordered online typically come with instructions for making disputes online, but you can also make disputes over the phone and through the mail.

The accounts section contains a detailed history of all accounts (open and closed), your balance, and your payment history associated with each account. You should be able to see month-by-month payment information for 7 years of history. Each month will have a symbol next to it that indicates whether the account was paid as expected or if it was late.

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!
Set up automatic payment reminders. Paying your bills on time is the most important factor in figuring up your credit score. Setting automatic deductions from your banking account for house and automobile payments, utilities, and credit cards will help you make timely payments. If auto payments aren't possible, set payment reminders on your calendar or budgeting software.[2]
There shouldn’t be any reason NOT to increase your limits if you have been in good standing for the past six months to a year. However, being denied a limit increase is a great way to find out about a possible problem before it snowballs into a headache. If you’re denied a limit increase, always find out why and correct the issue as soon as possible.

In general, older consumers have higher credit scores than younger generations. Credit scoring models consider consumers with longer credit histories less risky than those with short credit histories. The Silent Generation and boomers enjoy higher credit scores due to long credit histories. However, these generations show better credit behavior, too. Their revolving credit utilization rates are lower than younger generations. They are less likely to have a severely delinquent credit item on their credit report.
Introducing your teenager to credit as soon as possible is a great way to get them prepared for all the future credit products they’re bound to encounter in life. Practicing responsible credit behavior with a credit card or even as an authorized user can help your teen establish credit, which is necessary for taking out student loans, mortgages and other credit products. Plus, having a good credit score is key to getting the best rates and terms for credit products.
Self Lender, based in Austin, Texas, is designed to help consumers increase their financial health. Working in partnership with multiple banks, Self Lender offers a credit-builder account that is essentially a CD-backed installment loan. In other words, you open a CD with the bank and they extend a line of credit to you for the same amount. When you make payments, they report it to the credit bureaus.
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.
Credit scoring companies analyze consumer credit reports. They glean data from the reports and create algorithms that determine consumer borrowing risk. A credit score is a number that represents the risk profile of a borrower. Credit scores influence a bank’s decisions to lend money to consumers. People with high credit scores will find the most attractive borrowing rates because that signals to lenders that they are less risky. Those with low credit scores will struggle to find credit at all.

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The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is another option for those who want to strengthen their credit score. This card offers a potentially lower minimum security deposit than other cards, starting as low as $49, based on creditworthiness. Be aware the lower deposit is not guaranteed and you may be required to deposit $99 or $200. You can deposit more before your account opens and get a maximum credit limit of $1,000.
Following the 2007-2008 implosion of the housing market, banks saw mortgage borrowers defaulting at higher rates than ever before. In addition to higher mortgage default rates, the market downturn led to higher default rates across all types of consumer loans. To maintain profitability banks began tightening lending practices. More stringent lending standards made it tough for anyone with poor credit to get a loan at a reasonable rate. Although banks have loosened lending somewhat in the last two years, people with subprime credit will continue to struggle to get loans. In June 2017, banks rejected 81.4% of all credit applications from people with Equifax Risk Scores below 680. By contrast, banks rejected 9.11% of credit applications from those with credit scores above 760.22
How it works: Once you choose the secured card you prefer, you’ll open an account under your child’s name. If your teen is approved, the bank will ask for a security deposit. Most secured cards require deposits of at least $200, but there are secured cards with security deposits as low as $49. That deposit typically becomes their line of credit. For example, if the minimum security deposit is $200, the line of credit will also be $200.
An example of when verification can work in your favor. Let’s say you’ve had a debt that’s gone through multiple collectors. It’s been bought and sold several times. In many cases, collectors don’t have complete information about the original debt, which is required to verify that the debt is really yours for the amount they say. If you ask a bureau to verify it and the collector can’t provide all the information required, then it must be removed. This can sometimes get a collection account removed, even if it’s legitimately a debt that you originally owed. Basically, you get off on a technicality because the collector doesn’t have complete records.
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The cost varies based which path you take through the credit repair process. If you do it yourself, you can repair your credit for free. Professional credit repair services tend to have setup fees plus monthly administration fees. The setup fee is typically around $15-20 to obtain your credit reports and review them. Then you pay a monthly fee while they make disputes on your behalf. This fee is generally around $80-$120 per month. Credit repair software generally has a one-time cost that ranges from $30-$399.
An unsecured credit card carries more positive weight, but you might not qualify for an unsecured card right now. If this is the case, begin using a secured credit card. Double-check to ensure that the card is truly a credit card. Prepaid debit cards look similar, but they are not the same thing, and your payment history isn’t reported to the credit bureaus. Ask the secured card issuer if your payments will be reported, and only use a card that will report to bureaus.

Of course, if keeping accounts open and having credit available could trigger additional spending and debt, it might be more beneficial to close the accounts. Only you know all the ins and outs of your financial situation, and like thumbprints, they're different for each person. Make sure you carefully evaluate your situation; only you know what can work best for your financial outlook.


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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.
There shouldn’t be any reason NOT to increase your limits if you have been in good standing for the past six months to a year. However, being denied a limit increase is a great way to find out about a possible problem before it snowballs into a headache. If you’re denied a limit increase, always find out why and correct the issue as soon as possible.
Use our sample letter for disputing errors with businesses (see below). Say that you’re disputing an item, and include the same information. Again, include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position. Many businesses specify an address for disputes. If the business reports the item to a credit bureau, it must include a notice of your dispute.
Serious financial distress can have a lasting impact on your credit. Chapter 7 bankruptcy penalties on your credit report stick around for 10 years. Foreclosure, Chapter 13 bankruptcy and collection accounts remain for 7 years. And if your financial distress led to tax debt, unpaid tax liens can haunt you up to 15 years. But no one wants to wait that long to rebuild their credit. Are you just supposed to put your life on hold?

Write a letter to the specific credit reporting agency that shows the falsehood, whether it is Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Explain the mistake and include a copy of the highlighted report along with your documentation. Although certain bureaus now let you submit disputes online, it’s not a bad idea to send this letter by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself. The reporting agency has 30 days from the receipt of your letter to respond. The Federal Trade Commission provides advice on contacting the credit bureaus about discrepancies. Here are the contact numbers and web sites for the three credit bureaus:


Rapid rescoring is a credit score hack that works super fast, often in just 48 hours, since the credit bureaus prioritize these requests. However, only a lender can initiate this process; you can’t do it yourself. But it is your right to ask for rapid re-scoring when appropriate in order for you to get approved for a home loan or to get the best loan rates and terms available to someone with your credit standing.
While the Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal CU has a slightly higher security deposit at $250, it does have one of the lowest APRs of a secured card at 13.99% Variable. This may come in handy if you find yourself carrying a balance month to month — but we strongly encourage you to pay each bill on time and in full to avoid interest charges. This card is available to everyone regardless of residence by joining the American Consumer Council for free during the application process.
11. Pay your bills twice a month. Using too much of your credit limit at any given moment doesn’t look good. Suppose your limit is $3,000 and a month’s worth of havoc (car repair, doctor bills, plane ticket for kid to get to college) means you’ve charged up $2,900. Sure, you plan to pay in full by the 18th of the month – but until then it looks like you’re maxing out yet another card.
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.
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