You're also entitled to a free credit report if you've been turned down for credit because of something on your credit report, if you're currently receiving government assistance, if you're unemployed and planning to look for a job soon, or if you think you've been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft. Some states even have laws that let you get an additional free credit report each year. All these free credit reports should be ordered directly through the credit bureaus.
As you begin the process of improving your credit score, keep in mind that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, but improving your score is worth the effort. A poor credit score can potentially cost you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime. It can also become a source of serious stress, making you feel like you just can’t leave the mistakes of the past behind and move on.
Stop using credit cards. This is usually the most expensive of debt type, the easiest to use without thinking, and the source of aggressive collection efforts. Keeping zero or low balances on your credit cards will save money and increase your peace of mind. Use cash or your checking account debit card for irregular purchases, keeping your credit cards locked up securely at home.
Here’s a good example of when a reputable credit repair service can help you do something you may not be able to accomplish yourself. If you have a collection account that’s been sold to a few different debt collectors, it may appear on your credit report multiple times. That information is accurate but having that one debt dinging your credit score multiple times may not meet the “fair” standard Padawer mentioned.
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The net result is that disputed accounts are basically suppressed from your credit history in terms of your credit score. For about 30 days or so, while the bureaus are actively investigating disputed accounts, those accounts are not included when your FICO or VantageScore® are calculated. That could prove helpful if you need a fast, legitimate way to quickly improve a credit score weighed down by erroneous, incomplete or outdated information.
Increasing your limit shouldn’t be hard if you pay your bills on time. Just make sure to build your case. Tell the representative that you speak with about your long standing payment history with no late payments. Let them know if you recently received a raise at work. Be honest about how you plan on using the limit increase and how you plan to pay any new purchases off.
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If you find that a hard inquiry was placed on your credit file and you have no knowledge of it, make sure to contact the lender that performed the inquiry to see what it was pertaining to. If it is not accurate or you still have no knowledge of the inquiry, you should expect fraud or identity theft and should promptly alert the credit bureaus of the alleged fraud so that it can be investigated. Doing so may also remove the hard inquiry from your credit report, although it may take some time.
If you download your reports, review and send the disputes that day, you can expect it to take anywhere from 31-40 days. The timing depends on how quickly the bureaus receive your dispute. It will take longer if you need to make disputes in several rounds to the same bureau. If you have more than five disputes to make on one report, you should always send them in rounds, five at a time.
If you have negative information on your credit report, it will remain there for 7-10 years. This helps lenders and others get a better picture of your credit history. However, while you may not be able to change information from the past, you can demonstrate good credit management moving forward by paying your bills on time and as agreed. As you build a positive credit history, over time, your credit scores will likely improve.
Just as one example, the average age of your credit accounts is a component of this category. Let's say that you have four credit cards -- one that's a year old, two that you opened three years ago, and one that you opened 10 years ago but don't use anymore. Currently, your average credit card account is 4.25 years old. If you decided to close your old and unused account, however, this average would drop to just 2.33 years and could hurt your FICO score.
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.