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.
A good credit repair company will first pull your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies to pinpoint your credit issues. Why all three? Because each credit reporting agency has its own “data furnishers” (aka lenders, credit card companies, debt collectors, etc.), who report your credit information to them. And there may be errors that appear on one of your credit reports, but don’t appear on the others
Get a copy of your credit report: Knowing what is on your credit report is important – you can’t fix it if you don’t know exactly what is wrong. According to a recent survey by Bankrate Inc., 31% of adults do not know their own credit score. Since this is one of the main factors in a bank’s decision to give you a loan or mortgage, it is a good idea to both know and understand this number. Trisha cleaned up her act and her credit report:
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.)
Offer to put an agreement in writing stating how much you can spend and how you will get your share of the bill to the cardholder. Then “do your part and use the card responsibly,” says Beverly Harzog, author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie. In other words, don’t buy more than you can afford and don’t leave your co-signer hanging when the bill is due. The point is to learn to use credit responsibly.
Credit repair refers to the process of disputing mistakes and errors in your credit reports. Each credit bureau maintains their own proprietary version of your credit report. They strive to maintain accurate information, but errors can occur. Credit repair is the process you use to correct those errors by submitting a dispute to the credit bureau that issued that report. If the information cannot be verified within 30 days, the credit bureau must remove the item you disputed.
People get into trouble financially by overextending themselves: taking on too much debt or running up credit cards. When this happens, it becomes difficult to keep one’s head above water and payments become late or even missed and defaulted. Even one late payment can sink a credit score by up to 100 points. Evaluate your financial situation to make sure you can afford any new purchases or loans and make sure you have enough savings to whether any crisis.
Credit utilization is the ratio between your available credit (all of your credit limits) and your total used credit (all of your credit balances). When you divide your balances by your credit limits and multiply by 100%, you should end up with a number under 30%. This represents a “healthy” credit utilization. It also leads to a very high credit score.