Know where you are at financially. Check your credit report to see exactly where you need to improve. Do you have a lot of missed or late payments? Is your debt utilization too high? These clues can help you figure out what items to tackle first. You are entitled to a free report from each of the credit bureaus one a year (so, three total). You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com (the official site run by the three credit bureaus) for your free reports. You can also order reports directly from each of the three bureaus:

Despite the rosy national picture, we see regional and age-based disparities. A minority of Southerners still rank below prime credit. In contrast, credit scores in the upper Midwest rank well above the national average. Younger consumers struggle with their credit, but boomers and the Silent Generation secured scores well above the national average.

While the Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal CU has a slightly higher security deposit at $250, it does have one of the lowest APRs of a secured card at 13.99% Variable. This may come in handy if you find yourself carrying a balance month to month — but we strongly encourage you to pay each bill on time and in full to avoid interest charges. This card is available to everyone regardless of residence by joining the American Consumer Council for free during the application process.
Once received, the bureau has 30 days to respond. They will contact the original creditor or issuer of the information to ask them to verify the item. If it can’t be verified, then it must be removed. If that happens, the credit bureau will provide a free copy of your report so you can confirm the item no longer appears. You can also request the credit bureau to notify anyone who inquired about your credit in the past six months. And, you can ask them to send a copy to any employers who checked your report within the past two years.
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students allows you to earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points. This is a simple flat-rate card that doesn’t require activation or paying on time to earn the full amount of points per dollar, like the other two cards mentioned above. If you plan to do a semester abroad or often travel outside the U.S., this card is a good choice since there is no foreign transaction fee. Students with a Bank of America® checking or savings account can experience the most benefits with this card since you receive a 10% customer points bonus when points are redeemed into a Bank of America® checking or savings account. And, Preferred Rewards clients can increase that bonus 25%-75%.Read our roundup of the best student credit cards.
Know where you are at financially. Check your credit report to see exactly where you need to improve. Do you have a lot of missed or late payments? Is your debt utilization too high? These clues can help you figure out what items to tackle first. You are entitled to a free report from each of the credit bureaus one a year (so, three total). You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com (the official site run by the three credit bureaus) for your free reports. You can also order reports directly from each of the three bureaus:
You have the right to dispute any information in your credit report that's inaccurate, incomplete, or you believe can't be verified. When you order your credit report, you'll receive instructions on how to dispute credit report information. Credit reports ordered online typically come with instructions for making disputes online, but you can also make disputes over the phone and through the mail.
Shopping for a private student loan, comparing the pros and cons of different lenders, and submitting multiple applications so you can accept the loan with the best terms is generally a good idea. Hard inquiries usually only have a small impact on credit scores, and scores often return to their pre-inquiry level within a few months, as long as no new negative information winds up on your credit reports.
Scoring models consider how much you owe and across how many different accounts. If you have debt across a large number of accounts, it may be beneficial to pay off some of the accounts, if you can. Paying down your debt is the goal of many who've accrued debt in the past, but even after you pay the balance down to zero, consider keeping that account open. Keeping paid-off accounts open can be a plus in your overall credit mix since they're aged accounts in good (paid-off) standing. You may also consider debt consolidation.
It’s important to be careful with this step, though. If you apply for too many loans, it can damage your score. Instead, you need to plan your credit applications carefully. Start with a small installment loan. You might be able to get a small, low-balance installment loan from your bank. It might also be possible (if you are looking for a car) to get an inexpensive car from a dealer that specializes in customers with poor credit. Your small loan will probably have a relatively high interest rate, so plan to borrow a small amount, and keep the loan term short.
Getting approved at the right interest rate on a mortgage isn’t the only reason you should review and repair your credit regularly. We explain the twelve ways that credit repair makes it easier to get the right financing while saving money on everything from utilities to car insurance. Learn all the ways that fixing your credit can help you get to a better place financially.
Once you’ve filled out the form and requested reports from all three bureaus, you’ll fill out some security questions and be directed into your report, one agency at a time. If the security questions trip you up, the website will lock you out of your report, but it will offer a phone number that you can call to get your credit report via mail. If you get locked out, request the report via mail.
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.
A reputable credit counseling service can help. A good credit counselor will not just negotiate payment plans and take your money. Quality credit counseling services are often non-profit and charge little or no fee for their services. They will offer, and in some cases require, that you complete budget training and money management courses as part of their programs.
You might be used to checking out at a store and being asked if you’d like to open a credit card. While these credit cards come with really high interest rates and are great tools to tempt you into buying items you don’t need, there is a big perk to store credit cards: they’re more likely to approve people with low credit scores. Just be sure to only use the card to make one small purchase a month and then pay it off on time and in full. Unsubscribe to emails about deals and don’t even carry it around everyday in your wallet if you can’t resist the desire to spend. Read more here. 
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.
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