Once you resolve issues on your credit report, it’s time to implement a strategy to start improving your credit score. The single best thing that you can do to improve your credit score is to pay current accounts on time and in full every single month. You can picture it as burying negative information under a mountain of positive credit information.

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.
Be persistent. You won't see your credit score dramatically change overnight. Repairing your credit actually means repairing your credit history. The score then reflects this.[15] The best things you can do now, are pay your bills on time and pay down debt. Even then, it will probably take at least 30 days before these actions impact your credit.[16]
When you find yourself with damaged credit, it’s important to catch your breath and begin laying the foundation for a brighter financial future. Testing your financial literacy and educating yourself are part of that. But the centerpiece of this effort should be your emergency fund. With money saved for a rainy day, you’ll be far less likely to miss payments and damage your credit if met by hefty emergency expenses.
When possible, avoid closing credit card accounts. The longer your credit history, the better your score. However, if you are very far behind in your payments, you may not have a choice. A payment plan may require you to cancel your credit card. If possible, though, keep your older accounts so that you have a substantial credit history on your side. (See also: How to Avoid Getting Your Credit Card Cancelled)

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After you’ve resolved the negative items on your credit report, work on getting positive information added. Just like late payments severely hurt your credit score, timely payments help your score. If you have some credit cards and loans being reported on time, good. Continue to keep those balances at a reasonable level and make your payments on time.
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.
If your teen is ready for their own card, a secured credit card is a good place to start.  A secured card is similar to a traditional “unsecured” card, except it requires a security deposit to access credit. Your teen can build credit by charging a small amount each month to their secured card and paying it off in full and on time each month. They can eventually upgrade to an unsecured card, and we’ll explain how below.
Use our sample letter for disputing errors with businesses (see below). Say that you’re disputing an item, and include the same information. Again, include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position. Many businesses specify an address for disputes. If the business reports the item to a credit bureau, it must include a notice of your dispute.
This [These] item[s] [identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.] is [inaccurate or incomplete] because [describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why]. I am requesting that the item[s] be removed [or request another specific change] to correct the information.
The Discover it® Secured isn’t like most secured cards — it offers a cashback program and a simple transition to an unsecured card. Starting at eight months from account opening, Discover will conduct automatic monthly account reviews to see if your security deposit can be returned while you still use your card. Unlike most secured cards that lack rewards, this card offers 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, 1% cash back on all your other purchases. And, Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched. This is a great added perk while you work on building credit.
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.
Many lenders are also wary of those with an “average” credit rating of between 620 and 679. You might qualify for a loan, but you won’t get the best terms; instead, you are likely to pay a higher interest rate, costing you hundreds – or thousands – of dollars over the life of the loan. Until you achieve a good score of 680 to 739, you will likely pay the price. And if you want the best terms on some loans (particularly mortgages), you need an excellent credit score of 740.
We'll start with derogatory marks like collection accounts and judgments. It's not uncommon to have at least one collection account appear on your report. I had two from health care providers I used after having a heart attack; my insurance company was extremely slow to pay and kept claiming it had paid while the providers said it had not,  and eventually the accounts ended up with a collection agency. At that point, I decided to pay them right away and argue with the insurance company later, but both collections wound up on my credit report.

Month 1 — You have a remaining auto loan and mortgage which you make sure to pay on time every month. You have a remaining credit card from creditor five with 24% interest, but they’ve agreed to a payment plan of $200 a month and 17% interest. You also have one old empty credit card that you’ve had for years and never used. Now you start buying only groceries on that single credit card and pay it off in full twice a month.
The cost varies based which path you take through the credit repair process. If you do it yourself, you can repair your credit for free. Professional credit repair services tend to have setup fees plus monthly administration fees. The setup fee is typically around $15-20 to obtain your credit reports and review them. Then you pay a monthly fee while they make disputes on your behalf. This fee is generally around $80-$120 per month. Credit repair software generally has a one-time cost that ranges from $30-$399.

*Clients who are able to stay with the program and get all their debt settled realize approximate savings of 50% before fees, or 30% including our fees, over 24 to 48 months. All claims are based on enrolled debts. Not all debts are eligible for enrollment. Not all clients complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Estimates based on prior results, which will vary based on specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be lowered by a specific amount or percentage or that you will be debt-free within a specific period of time. We do not assume consumer debt, make monthly payments to creditors or provide tax, bankruptcy, accounting or legal advice or credit repair services. Not available in all states. Please contact a tax professional to discuss tax consequences of settlement. Please consult with a bankruptcy attorney for more information on bankruptcy. Depending on your state, we may be available to recommend a local tax professional and/or bankruptcy attorney. Read and understand all program materials prior to enrollment, including potential adverse impact on credit rating.
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You’ve seen the ads claiming to be able to fix your bad credit, but do credit repair products really work? Honestly, many of the companies are a scam. But the best credit repair reviews of services that have been around for a couple decades show that these companies know the rules surrounding credit repair and know how to best navigate those rules to either raise your credit score or give you your money back. That of course doesn’t mean that it works for everyone. There is no magical formula to raise your credit score in a hurry, but there are a few instances where the best credit repair services can help you give your score a deserved bump. We’ll look at the best services and then explain the instances when credit repair actually works.

After you’ve resolved the negative items on your credit report, work on getting positive information added. Just like late payments severely hurt your credit score, timely payments help your score. If you have some credit cards and loans being reported on time, good. Continue to keep those balances at a reasonable level and make your payments on time.


4) Of course, you can't build a positive credit history if you don't have any credit.  The problem is that it takes credit to get credit. A good place to begin would be to see if your bank will allow you to open a secured credit card. These cards require you to deposit an amount of money usually equal to the credit limit into a special savings account that the bank can collect any missed payments from. This helps to minimize the bank's risk so it's relatively easy to get but there's a chance you may still need a co-signer to qualify.
You can order free reports from each of the three credit bureaus from annualcreditreport.com at the same time, or you can stagger your requests throughout the year. Some financial advisors say staggering your requests during a 12-month period may be a good way to keep an eye on the accuracy and completeness of the information in your reports. Because each credit bureau gets its information from different sources, the information in your report from one credit bureau may not reflect all, or the same, information in your reports from the other two credit bureaus.
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.
By the way, don’t use a credit card for a big bill if you plan to carry a balance. The compound interest will create an ugly pile of debt pretty quickly. Credit cards should never be used as a long-term loan unless you have a card with a zero percent introductory APR on purchases. But even then, you have to be mindful of the balance on the card and make sure you can pay the bill off before the intro period ends.
Following these 6 steps people with bad credit are sure to succeed. I would like to add while paying down your credit card debts one option that may help you get ahead is to take advantage of credit card transfers. Normally banks will let you transfer your balance (they’re more than happy to take it) for a small fee. One word of caution however, is that this doesn’t really fix the underlying issue, which as Sarah mentioned budgeting and keeping on top of your payments will.
Negative credit information is any action that causes creditors to consider you a riskier borrower. It includes late payments, accounts in collections, foreclosures, bankruptcy, and tax liens. Once negative credit information is introduced into your credit history, you cannot remove it on your own. However, time heals all wounds. The longer it’s been since the negative information was introduced, the less it will affect your credit score. In time, negative information falls off your credit history.
If you  do not know anything about credit, you will not be sure if the company actually knows what they are doing. You will want to ask about the factors that contribute to a credit rating.  Inquire about age of open credit lines, hard credit inquiries, and the percentage of on time payments. A reputable credit repair company will not only know the right answers, but also how to fix them. 
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To take advantage of this tip, you will need to call each creditor and ask for their official monthly report date. Create a list of these dates and keep them handy. Then, all you have to do is make sure you make your monthly payment prior to each report date (instead of by the due date on your statement). This will ensure that the lowest possible balance for each of your accounts is reported each month. Score!
Each account on your credit report has a rating. A letter followed by a number shows the type of account and the rating. For example, if you have an account, that is rated as an I1 that is an individual account that is paid on time. If you have an account that has a J1, that is a joint account. An I5 could mean trouble. Highlight everything that isn't a 1 and everything that is turned over to collections.
If your debt feels overwhelming, it may be valuable to seek out the services of a reputable credit counseling service. Many are non-profit and charge small or no fees for their services. You can review more information on selecting the right reputable credit counselor for you from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Credit counselors can help you develop a Debt Management Plan (or DMP) and can negotiate to reduce your monthly payments. In many cases, you'll be responsible for only one monthly payment to the credit counseling service, which will then disburse funds to all of the accounts you owe on.
A lot of creditors will easily forgive late payments if you only have 1 or 2.  All you need to do is call their customer service number and talk to one of their representatives.  Tell them what happened that month, that caused the payment to be made late (you were sick, your child was sick, you were out of town, you simply forgot).  As long as you are honest with them, and admit fault to the late payment, most creditors will want to continue to keep your business and remove the late payment for you.
If you see missed payments that shouldn’t have been there, write it down. Your credit score is negatively impacted when you are 30 days or more past due. If you see a balance on a card that you haven’t used in years, it could be because the account has been stolen. Misinformation in the accounts section harms your credit score, so make a note of all incorrect information.
"The long-term benefit to your utilization can far outweigh any short-term loss of points," said Barry Paperno, a four-decade veteran of the credit industry. Paperno cautioned that you should only do this if you don't anticipate needing to apply for a car, home or personal loan in the next six to 12 months. Otherwise, those extra inquiries could hurt you.
“A good credit repair company will scrub questionable credit report items against other laws — like the Fair Credit Billing Act, which regulates original creditors; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which oversees collection agencies; and others that address medical illness, military service, student status and other life events,” Padawer said.

There is no company that can wipe your credit report clean and remove all negative marks, no matter how much money you pay them. The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about falling prey to such promises saying that, “only time, a deliberate effort, and a plan to repay your bills will improve your credit as it’s detailed in your credit report.”
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.
The trick here is that you need to batch all of these inquiries into a single two-week period in order to enjoy this benefit. There is a new scoring formula that expands this period to 45-days, but has not yet been adopted by all lenders and bureaus. For now, it’s best to shop around for the best interest rates within 14 business days to avoid an unnecessary decrease to your credit score.
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Of the major credit repair organizations, only Lexington Law has received an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. The Credit People and CreditRepair.com received high ratings from their consumers online, but are not rated by the Better Business Bureau. These companies don’t do anything you can’t do yourself, but they may be worth your money if you’ve got a lot of negative information to remove.

The downside of these cards as mentioned above is that you can buy merchandise only through the one website or catalog and you must put down a deposit on whatever you purchase. For example, if you were to buy $1000 worth of merchandise you would have to deposit maybe $300 and then finance the remaining $700 on the merchandise card. This will be reported to one or more of the three credit bureaus and will appear as just another credit transaction on your credit report. This will have three important results:


Pay down current and past-due debts first. Don’t fall into the trap of paying off old debts by postponing payments of current debt. The late payment accounts are already reflected on your credit report and score. Keeping credit accounts current helps your score by having good credit sources that are older, rather than new.[12] When paying off past debts, explain to your creditor that you are trying to become current and ask for help. Your creditor might:

"The long-term benefit to your utilization can far outweigh any short-term loss of points," said Barry Paperno, a four-decade veteran of the credit industry. Paperno cautioned that you should only do this if you don't anticipate needing to apply for a car, home or personal loan in the next six to 12 months. Otherwise, those extra inquiries could hurt you.
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Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.

Opening several credit accounts in a short amount of time can appear risky to lenders and negatively impact your credit score. Before you take out a loan or open a new credit card account, consider the effects it could have on your credit scores. Know too, that when you're buying a car or looking around for the best mortgage rates, your inquiries may be grouped and counted as only one inquiry for the purpose of adding information to your credit report. In many commonly-used scoring models, recent inquiries have greater effect than older inquiries, and they only appear on your credit report or a maximum of 25 months.


If you’ve never had a credit card before, your scores may be suffering because of that account mix factor we talked about earlier. Just make sure you make on-time payments — a new credit card account with a bad payment history will hurt you, not help you improve your credit scores. If you have a fair, good or excellent credit score, there are many credit card options out there for you. If you have a poor or bad credit score, read the next tip.
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