Of the major credit repair organizations, only Lexington Law has received an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. The Credit People and CreditRepair.com received high ratings from their consumers online, but are not rated by the Better Business Bureau. These companies don’t do anything you can’t do yourself, but they may be worth your money if you’ve got a lot of negative information to remove.
When looking to improve your FICO score, you should regularly check your credit report, set up payment reminders, and work to reduce the total amount of debt you owe. Your payment history contributes a staggering 35% to a FICO Score calculation and this category can and will have one of the most significant impacts on how you can improve your FICO score as you will see in the information outlined below.
If you don’t have enough money to make payments, then you’re going to have to consider somehow settling those debts 3 Tips to Beat the Debt Collectors When Facing Bankruptcy (Or Late With Bills) 3 Tips to Beat the Debt Collectors When Facing Bankruptcy (Or Late With Bills) Serious financial problems are among the most stressful situations a person can encounter. Follow these tips to let technology take away some of the burden. Read More , either through a consolidation loan or some form of bankruptcy. Credit counseling services are an option if you want to settle debts but don’t feel comfortable negotiating them on your own.
One of the easiest ways to tell if a financial service is legit is to check with the BBB. If a company is A+ rated, then you can have more confidence that they will provide legitimate help. Unfortunately, this protection isn’t available with credit repair companies. The Better Business Bureau doesn’t rate any company whose primary service offering is credit repair.
Know where you are at financially. Check your credit report to see exactly where you need to improve. Do you have a lot of missed or late payments? Is your debt utilization too high? These clues can help you figure out what items to tackle first. You are entitled to a free report from each of the credit bureaus one a year (so, three total). You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com (the official site run by the three credit bureaus) for your free reports. You can also order reports directly from each of the three bureaus:
The best way to handle these types of information lines on your credit report is to dispute them but you have to remember that if that isn't done correctly, it is like kicking a hornets nest. Just calling them and saying, "hey, I dispute this." is NOT good enough, regardless of what ANYONE says. It has to be done with a certified, return receipt letter that has been properly worded to prevent the sleezy little buggers from using a loophole. You can find a lot of information out there about how to do this on sites from people like Dave Ramsey or with self help books like Weathering Debt (either one works, but I prefer Weathering Debt, it was much more concise and to the point) but whatever you do, DON'T try to wing it and don't pay someone to do something you can do yourself with ease and for free. Besides, you need to know how to stop the problem from happening again, right?
In general, credit repair takes about three to six months to resolve all of the disputes that the average consumer needs to make. Of course, if you only have a few mistakes to correct or you repair your credit every year, it may not take as long; you might be done in just over one month. On the other hand, if you’ve never corrected your credit and have a large volume of things to dispute, it may take longer.
If you pay a charge-off in full, your credit report will be updated to show the account balance is $0 and the account is paid. The charge-off status will continue to be reported for seven years from the date of charge off. Another option is to settle charge-offs for less than the original balance if the creditor agrees to accept a settlement and cancel the rest of the debt.
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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.)
Credit bureaus have to investigate the items you question within 30 days, unless they reasonably determine that your dispute is frivolous. The credit bureau will forward all the relevant information you gave it about the error to the business that reported the information. After the business is notified, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit bureau.
On the other hand, credit repair services are effective only to the extent that they have a good working relationship with lenders, credit card companies, and other debt collection agencies. But be warned, not all lenders work with credit repair companies. Before you spend money on a credit repair company, make sure that your lenders will negotiate and work with them on your behalf. If not, you'll need to know how to work directly with the lender yourself.
9) To help protect your credit from identity theft, consider contacting each credit bureau to put a security freeze on your credit. This prevents opening a new line of credit in your name until you unfreeze it and is generally more effective than using a temporary fraud alert. Depending on your state, freezing your credit would cost just $10 or less per bureau and up to another $10 to unfreeze it. Even a credit freeze isn't fool-proof though so you might also want to purchase a more comprehensive identity theft protection service.
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.
Communicate with your creditors. If you are having trouble paying your bills or if you are really serious about cleaning up your credit report, then talk to your creditors. Be honest and upfront with them and try to make arrangements to reduce your balance or payments to something more manageable. You need to know your rights and options, but you also must remember to be cooperative and professional. State facts, but don’t make threats.
Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit scores. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.