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.)
Every time you pay on time it creates a positive space that stays on your credit forever and pushes you ahead. But each time you pay more than 30 days late, it sets you back 7 years from the date the payment was missed. And the longer a debt goes unpaid, the more it sets you back. If you let it go unpaid too long, the creditor writes off the account and changes the status to charge-off. Charge offs also set you back 7 years.
Despite the rosy national picture, we see regional and age-based disparities. A minority of Southerners still rank below prime credit. In contrast, credit scores in the upper Midwest rank well above the national average. Younger consumers struggle with their credit, but boomers and the Silent Generation secured scores well above the national average.
While multiple hard inquiries can increase score drops, particularly for those who are new to credit, credit-scoring agencies recognize the importance of rate shopping. As a result, multiple inquiries for student loans that occur with a 14- to 45-day window (depending on the type of credit score) only count as a single inquiry when your score is being calculated.
Many people, however, don’t have the time or don’t understand how to make their case, so they look into hiring a credit repair company to dispute errors on their behalf. These companies can charge a fee for their legwork (more on how that works in a minute), but there are times when the extra help can certainly be welcome. (Say you have multiple errors across credit reports or you’ve been the victim of widespread identity theft.)
Just because you have a poor credit history doesn’t mean you can’t get credit. Creditors set their own standards, and not all look at your credit history the same way. Some may look only at recent years to evaluate you for credit, and they may give you credit if your bill-paying history has improved. It may be worthwhile to contact creditors informally to discuss their credit standards.
Borrowing from your 401(k) may be the best option for you, since it won’t count as new debt and you pay yourself back interest rather than paying it to a bank. However, if a 401(k) loan isn’t an option, then you’ll need to select a debt consolidation loan. When it comes to debt consolidation, there are lots of scams out there. Review the following options to make sure you’re making the right choice.
What those consumer credit counseling businesses won't tell you (but they know all-too-well!) is that their services often do more harm than good! It's true! When they make so-called "special arrangements" with your creditors, all they are doing is making an agreement on your behalf that you will pay off a percentage of the debt! But the bad part is that your credit is still damaged!
A trustworthy credit repair company will have no issues supplying you with complete access to all they work they are doing for you. They should be able to give you access to some form of secure online account where you will be able to track the progress they are making.  If you find the company cannot provide something similar to this, chances are they are not equipped to be handling your personal information.
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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.

I applied for a home loan - wasn't approved - the loan company works with people with subpar credit though.  She gave me list of action items that needed to be done. She figured it would take me about a year to take care of it all. Gave me a deadline of 1 year out.  I sat down did all her action items in a week - waited 30 days, credit jumped to 620. She got an approval on a home loan but it wasn't ideal.  Waited another 30 days, credit was 651... she said we could get an ideal approval with a credit score of 640.  I don't know how, but I was so happy. signed on house at 3 months instead of 1 year. The loan officer couldn't believe it!  I now own my home, have lived in it for over a year.  Love my house!
A good credit repair company will first pull your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies to pinpoint your credit issues. Why all three? Because each credit reporting agency has its own “data furnishers” (aka lenders, credit card companies, debt collectors, etc.), who report your credit information to them. And there may be errors that appear on one of your credit reports, but don’t appear on the others

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