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 kept claiming it had paid while the providers said it had not, and eventually the accounts ended up with a collection agency. Eventually I decided to pay the providers and argue with the insurance company later, but both collections wound up on my credit report.
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According to the Federal Trade Commission, 1 in 5 Americans have at least 1 error on their credit report, and 1 in 20 have a critical error that leads banks, card issuers and lenders to overcharge them on mortgages, car loans and credit cards. The first step to fixing errors on your credit report is to find them by ordering a free copy of your report. The next step is to dispute the errors with the 3 major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. The FTC offers a sample dispute letter you can use, and reporting agencies have dispute forms online. Be sure to state your case clearly and include documentation to support your position.
If you’ve never had a credit card before, your scores may be suffering because of that account mix factor we talked about earlier. Just make sure you make on-time payments — a new credit card account with a bad payment history will hurt you, not help you improve your credit scores. If you have a fair, good or excellent credit score, there are many credit card options out there for you. If you have a poor or bad credit score, read the next tip.
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.

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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.”
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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.
Pay off your debt instead of repeatedly transferring it to new accounts. Contact the debt collector listed on your credit report to see if they’d be willing to stop reporting the debt to each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) in exchange for full payment. This technically violates some of the collectors’ agreements with the credit bureaus, so it may be a non-starter, but it never hurts to try.
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.
The trick here is that you need to batch all of these inquiries into a single two-week period in order to enjoy this benefit. There is a new scoring formula that expands this period to 45-days, but has not yet been adopted by all lenders and bureaus. For now, it’s best to shop around for the best interest rates within 14 business days to avoid an unnecessary decrease to your credit score.
Editorial Disclosure: This content is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank advertiser, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. This site may be compensated through the bank advertiser Affiliate Program. To learn more about our approach to content and product assessments, visit our Editorial Policy and Product Assessment Methodology page.
The scoring system wants to see that you maintain a variety of credit accounts. It also wants to see that you have 3 revolving credit lines. If you do not have three active credit cards, you might want to open some (but keep in mind that if you do, you will need to wait some time before rescoring). If you have poor credit and are not approved for a typical credit card, you might want to set up a "secured credit card" account. This means that you will have to make a deposit that is equal or more than your limit, which guarantees the bank that you will repay the loan. It's an excellent way to establish credit. Examples of an installment loan would be a car loan, or it could be for furniture or a major appliance. In addition to the above, having a mortgage listed will bring your score even higher.

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.
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.
The mix of credit you have is 10% of your credit score. The credit-scoring model favors people who have both revolving lines of credit (credit cards) and installment credit (auto loans and mortgages), or a “mix” of the two types of credit.   If you only have credit cards listed on your credit report, this can hurt your score. Consider applying for an auto loan or a mortgage, and make sure the lender will report the account to the credit bureaus.