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When you have bad credit, many doors are closed to you. A poor or bad credit score is one that falls at or below 619 on the FICO score. You might not qualify for loans, or you might have to settle for less-than-desirable terms that cost you thousands of dollars during the loan’s terms. In some cases, poor credit can result in higher insurance premiums, and some employers check credit reports before deciding to hire you.
I play around with my credit all the time. Last run in the Markets for me hit me hard, and I borrowed where I shouldn't have been borrowing for that type of capital. That said, FICO has taken a hit, however, my plan is to buy some solid equity investments (Bonds, etc..) and borrow secured against those to kill down/off any balances on my CC's. Sure, I'll still be paying interest in the long-run, but my belief is the interest will be much lower than the CCs, AND, I should be able to keep the CC accounts open given the borrowing is secured to pay them down/off. No need to close any revolving-accounts if I don't have to.
If you are like many consumers and don’t know your credit score, there are several free places you can find it. The Discover Card is one of several credit card sources that offer free credit scores. Discover provides your FICO score, the one used by 90% of businesses that do lending. Most other credit cards like Capital One and Chase give you a Vantage Score, which is similar, but not identical. Same goes for online sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Quizzle.
To begin improving your credit score, you should aim to keep your credit card balances on the lower end along with any other type of revolving credit you may have. You should also begin the task of paying down your debt rather than moving it around, and you shouldn’t close any unused credit cards because you are looking for a “quick fix” strategy to improve your credit scores.
If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.
Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.
If you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy, be aware that bankruptcy laws require that you get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for bankruptcy relief. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at www.usdoj.gov/ust, the website of the U.S. Trustee Program. That’s the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Be wary of credit counseling organizations that say they are government-approved, but don’t appear on the list of approved organizations.
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What can and DOES change is whether you have a collector pursuing you for the debt. If you are talking about a dormant account that has been in collections and has finally been left alone with no collections activity for a few years, messing with it can be problematic from the point of view that the collections people will start pestering you again to see if they can get money and if the SOL isn't up, they can start reporting on it again which can affect your score or they could even file suit if your state SOL isn't up.
You might also be able to ask for a “good-will adjustment.” Suppose you were a pretty good Visa customer until that period of unemployment, when you made a late payment or two – which now show up on your credit report. Write a letter to Visa emphasizing your previous good history and ask that the oopsies be removed from the credit report. It could happen. And as long as you’re reading the report, you need to…
If you find mistakes on your credit report, like errors regarding your payment histories, or even mistakes in the spelling of your name and incorrect social security numbers, contact the credit bureaus to correct them. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees your right to dispute listings in your credit report, free of charge. All of the major credit bureaus have online systems in which to dispute errors on your credit report. By law, the credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate and correct the errors.