First a few things on credit scores: They're important, and you should aim to have a good one, but you shouldn't obsess over the numbers. Fluctuations are normal, but keeping tabs on your score will help you make good financial decisions. Watching your score could even help you spot identity theft, because an unexpected score drop could indicate someone is misusing your information.
I also don’t recommend trying this if you have missed payments with the issuer or have a downward-trending score. The issuer could see your request for a credit limit as a sign that you’re about to have a financial crisis and need the extra credit. I’ve actually seen this result in a decrease in credit limits. So be sure your situation looks stable before you ask for an increase.
The best part about Lexington Law is that it is an actual law firm that specializes in credit law, which means they know what they are doing when dealing with lenders. It also has an “A” rating from the BBB, and has been around longer than most other credit repair services. Lexington Law is on the cheaper end at $59.95 a month, with a $99.95 initial fee, which includes all of the bells and whistles that come along with their credit repair plan, including a guarantee.
Credit bureaus have to investigate the items you question within 30 days, unless they reasonably determine that your dispute is frivolous. The credit bureau will forward all the relevant information you gave it about the error to the business that reported the information. After the business is notified, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit bureau.
Transitioning from a secured to an unsecured credit card: The transition from an unsecured card to a secured card is fairly simple for the cards mentioned below, with many conducting periodic reviews of your account to evaluate if you can move to an unsecured card. And, when you’re transitioned to an unsecured card, you’ll receive your security deposit back. Another way to be refunded the deposit is by paying off any balances and closing the card — though we don’t recommend closing the account since that jeopardizes your credit score.
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.
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.
It is worth knowing that it takes more time to repair a bad credit score than it does to build a good one. Mistakes penalize your credit score and end up costing hundreds or thousands of dollars in higher interest rates when borrowing. A poor credit score also can be a roadblock to renting an apartment, setting up utilities, and maybe even getting a job!
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.
Serious financial distress can have a lasting impact on your credit. Chapter 7 bankruptcy penalties on your credit report stick around for 10 years. Foreclosure, Chapter 13 bankruptcy and collection accounts remain for 7 years. And if your financial distress led to tax debt, unpaid tax liens can haunt you up to 15 years. But no one wants to wait that long to rebuild their credit. Are you just supposed to put your life on hold?
One of the things that determines your score is how many of your credit cards have balances. If you are spending varied amounts on different cards, it doesn’t reflect well in your report. So, the best thing to do is to do away with all the cards with small balances and pay them off. Just keep one or two cards that you use for all your day-to-day needs.
There is a feature that will assist your transition from a secured to an unsecured card. Capital One automatically reviews your account for on time payments and will inform you if you’re eligible for an upgrade. However, there is no set time period when they will review your account — it depends on several credit activities. If you receive notification that you’re eligible, you will be refunded your security deposit and will receive an unsecured card.
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.
However, there is a big myth that you have to borrow money and pay interest to get a good score. That is completely false! So long as you use your credit card (it can even be a small $1 charge) and then pay that statement balance in full, your score will benefit. You do not need to pay interest on a credit card to improve your score. Remember: your goal is to have as much positive information as possible, with very little negative information. That means you should be as focused on adding positive information to your credit report as you are at avoiding negative information.
While credit building loans can be a key step in establishing a strong credit history, it’s imperative that you make all of your payments in full and on time. When you are committed to building a strong financial future with personal budgeting and spending discipline, successfully paying off a credit builder loan can lead to approval for good rates and terms on mortgages, auto loans and other loans in the future.
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.
Remember, though, that any credit card isn’t an excuse to spend more money. Whether you get a secured card or use an unsecured card, getting a card just to “free up” more money that you don’t actually have to spend out of control won’t help you in the long run. You have to keep a tight rein on your spending. If you can’t change your habits so that you are in control of your spending, don’t get a credit card, secured or unsecured.
If you only have one item to dispute, you may be able to save money by learning how to complete the credit repair process for yourself.Remember, that under law you are entitled to a free copy of all 3 credit reports. You can dispute any item on your credit report either by phone, in writing, or online with each of the credit bureaus. Each will give you options to fax or email supporting documentation directly to them. If you have complex credit problems due to identity theft or divorce, you'll want to talk to an attorney that specializes in consumer law before you proceed.
The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® offers qualifying cardholders a lower security deposit compared to other secured cards. You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness. Typical secured cards require you to deposit an amount equal to your credit limit, so this card has added perks for people who qualify for the lower deposits.
Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
Payment history accounts for over one third of your credit score. So, while it may sound too simple to be true, the best thing you can do for your credit is to make payments on time. Every payment you make on time on any debt creates a positive item in your payment history. These payments stack up and offset missed payments that created negative items in the past.
It’s easy to check your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You’re entitled to a free copy, once a year, of all three of your credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These free credit reports can be accessed via AnnualCreditReport.com, the government-mandated site run by the major bureaus. (You can also view a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)
Radio, television and the internet are full of ads for credit-repair services promising to make your credit problems go away. It's not that easy. Be very wary of for-profit-credit-repair services. These ultimately just add to your expenses and, in the case of debt management services, may cause you to lose control of when and whether payments are actually reaching your creditors.
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.
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.