Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. You may order reports from each of the three credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your requests throughout the year.
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.
The key point here, however, is that you can’t go into repair expecting to improve your score by a certain amount. Scores are highly specific to an individual, so changes vary based on your credit history, the number of other penalties you have and where your score was before the item was removed. This is why score improvement guarantees typically indicate a scam.
The only way to instantly fix your credit to escape even legitimate items is to create a new credit identity. These fraudulent credit repair companies will charge you exorbitant fees to help you set up a new credit profile under a different Social Security number. Then they take your money and disappear. Everything seems fine until the feds show up at your door because you committed criminally-liable identity fraud. You can actually go to jail or face serious fines for taking this bad advice.
One of the best ways to quickly build a payment history is to use a credit card. A secured credit card can help with this step if your poor credit precludes you from qualifying for a “regular” credit card. A secured card requires that you keep money in a linked savings account as collateral. Because the money is already there, it is easier to get approval for a secured card — especially when you have poor credit. In either case, your payments are reported to the bureaus every month, so it makes a big difference in showing that you pay regularly — and on time. (See: Wise Bread's review of the 5 best secured credit cards.)
Credit card debt tends to be more damaging to credit scores than a personal loan, which is considered installment debt. The credit utilization ratio (see previous section) does not take installment debt into account. This strategy would result in zero dollars of credit card debt on the borrower’s credit report, which could boost their score by 100 points or more, says Ulzheimer.
If you don’t want to go through the effort of fixing errors yourself, you can also hire a credit repair company to send fix requests on your behalf. Keep in mind that credit repair companies might try to convince you to try other ways to fix your credit, but you are paying by the month, so make sure they are focusing on your errors. Here are the two best credit repair companies compared side by side.
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.