Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and can help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
Like credit builder loans, secured credit cards are an easy way to build or rebuild credit history. The application process is the same, but secured credit cards require a deposit between $50 and $300 into a separate account. The bank then issues a line of credit that is typically equal to the deposit, allowing you to build a credit history without putting the lender at risk.
One of the best ways to quickly build a payment history is to use a credit card. A secured credit card can help with this step if your poor credit precludes you from qualifying for a “regular” credit card. A secured card requires that you keep money in a linked savings account as collateral. Because the money is already there, it is easier to get approval for a secured card — especially when you have poor credit. In either case, your payments are reported to the bureaus every month, so it makes a big difference in showing that you pay regularly — and on time. (See: Wise Bread's review of the 5 best secured credit cards.)
This [These] item[s] [identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.] is [inaccurate or incomplete] because [describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why]. I am requesting that the item[s] be removed [or request another specific change] to correct the information.
It’s easy to check your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You’re entitled to a free copy, once a year, of all three of your credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These free credit reports can be accessed via AnnualCreditReport.com, the government-mandated site run by the major bureaus. (You can also view a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)
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Even closing an account won’t make your late payments disappear. Your best bet here is to get yourself back on the right track — set up payment due date alerts with all your credit cards and loans and get organized. You can move credit card payment due dates around pretty easily on your bank or lender’s website. Be sure to check your payment due dates in relation to your paycheck schedule.
If you have one of those letters we mentioned earlier that details your credit problems, you have some idea of what’s holding you back. Even though it may seem complex, as we mentioned, your credit score is based on five core factors: payment history, credit utilization, the age of credit accounts, mix of credit accounts and history of applying for credit. They’re not equally weighted, and this information will most likely vary between credit bureaus.
Shopping for a private student loan, comparing the pros and cons of different lenders, and submitting multiple applications so you can accept the loan with the best terms is generally a good idea. Hard inquiries usually only have a small impact on credit scores, and scores often return to their pre-inquiry level within a few months, as long as no new negative information winds up on your credit reports.
Over the next decade, credit reporting agencies went from localized companies to the nationwide credit reporting agencies we know today. Almost all lenders and creditors go through the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to get consumer credit reports. That’s good for consumers because it means they only need to worry about three credit reports. As long as you review those three reports regularly and make sure they’re error-free, you can present the best possible credit profile when someone checks your credit.
Some of your creditors and lenders might report only to one of the credit bureaus. And, since credit bureaus don’t typically share information, it’s possible to have different information on each of your reports. Ordering all three reports will give you a complete view of your credit history and let you repair your credit at all three bureaus instead of just one.
Most companies offer a free evaluation to answer any questions you have. Use this to your advantage to get a feel for the company and make sure they’re the right fit. If you don’t get a good read, thank them for their time and say you need some time to decide. Then you can continue to research your options and talk to other companies. Don’t make a decision unless you feel comfortable.
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.
In some cases, it might be difficult to determine what to include as far as supporting documentation goes — that’s another way a credit repair company can help you. For example, if you’re a victim of identity theft and a fraudulent account is appearing on your credit report, it can be tough to prove it isn’t yours since you naturally don’t have any documents relating to the account.
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.
A financial institution such as a credit union, which typically issues credit builder loans, deposits a small amount of money into a secured savings account for the applicant. The borrower then pays the money back in small monthly installments — with interest — over a set period of time. At the end of the loan’s term, which typically ranges from six to 24 months, the borrower receives the total amount of the credit builder loan in a lump sum, plus any interest earned if the lender offers interest.
If your debt feels overwhelming, it may be valuable to seek out the services of a reputable credit counseling service. Many are non-profit and charge small or no fees for their services. You can review more information on selecting the right reputable credit counselor for you from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Credit counselors can help you develop a Debt Management Plan (or DMP) and can negotiate to reduce your monthly payments. In many cases, you'll be responsible for only one monthly payment to the credit counseling service, which will then disburse funds to all of the accounts you owe on.