I pay my bills on time now and have been for years, but my credit score is toast because of a collection write off I had about 5 years ago and a maxed out home equity line of credit. It's kind of scary to put all my extra money into paying down my line instead of putting aside anything into savings. I really can only do one or the other. My car note interest rate is astronomical with no way to refinance because of the FICO and my house mortgage is underwater so I can't take advantage of low rates these days. I guess I'll just put half on debt and half in savings and do another credit report in 6 months.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it’s accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who got your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who got a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
Capital One is an odd example of this. I have read many reviews that state that after 18 months with stellar payment history and carrying no balance that users were told they qualified for an unsecured card but would first have to close the secured card (In order to get the deposit refunded) - or you can keep the secured card and open the new unsecured card as well. A few people indicated they were able to graduate without changing the card and it was converted for them - but 95% of reviews speak to how difficult it is to get deposits back - even from them.
Even if the debt has passed the SOL in your state for suit (variable by state) and even the federal SOL for reporting (roughly 7 years from when the debt discharged) a collector may still pursue you for this money if you owe it. They will just never be able to collect it or report it if you don't allow them to, although they will certainly try and hope you are ignorant enough of the law that they get money from you.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, 1 in 5 Americans have at least 1 error on their credit report, and 1 in 20 have a critical error that leads banks, card issuers and lenders to overcharge them on mortgages, car loans and credit cards. The first step to fixing errors on your credit report is to find them by ordering a free copy of your report. The next step is to dispute the errors with the 3 major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. The FTC offers a sample dispute letter you can use, and reporting agencies have dispute forms online. Be sure to state your case clearly and include documentation to support your position.
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 kept claiming it had paid while the providers said it had not, and eventually the accounts ended up with a collection agency. Eventually I decided to pay the providers and argue with the insurance company later, but both collections wound up on my credit report.
If you haven’t yet taken care of all your delinquent accounts, it’s the perfect opportunity to negotiate with your creditors to re-age your accounts. Anytime an account becomes delinquent, the creditor or lender reports that status to the credit bureaus. Then it becomes a negative credit report item that lasts for seven years from the date it was incurred.
Risks: Overall, a student card can be a great asset for your teen to have in college, but there are a few risks to beware of. If your teen overspends so much that they max out their credit limit, they risk harming their utilization rate — which is the amount of credit they use divided by their total credit limit. For example, if your teen has a $500 credit limit and uses $400, their utilization rate would be 80% ($400/$500). That’s very high, and we recommend keeping utilization below 30%.
If you have one of those letters we mentioned earlier that details your credit problems, you have some idea of what’s holding you back. Even though it may seem complex, as we mentioned, your credit score is based on five core factors: payment history, credit utilization, the age of credit accounts, mix of credit accounts and history of applying for credit. They’re not equally weighted, and this information will most likely vary between credit bureaus.
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An unsecured credit card carries more positive weight, but you might not qualify for an unsecured card right now. If this is the case, begin using a secured credit card. Double-check to ensure that the card is truly a credit card. Prepaid debit cards look similar, but they are not the same thing, and your payment history isn’t reported to the credit bureaus. Ask the secured card issuer if your payments will be reported, and only use a card that will report to bureaus.
If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.
Even closing an account won’t make your late payments disappear. Your best bet here is to get yourself back on the right track — set up payment due date alerts with all your credit cards and loans and get organized. You can move credit card payment due dates around pretty easily on your bank or lender’s website. Be sure to check your payment due dates in relation to your paycheck schedule.
To begin improving your credit score, you should aim to keep your credit card balances on the lower end along with any other type of revolving credit you may have. You should also begin the task of paying down your debt rather than moving it around, and you shouldn’t close any unused credit cards because you are looking for a “quick fix” strategy to improve your credit scores.
What can and DOES change is whether you have a collector pursuing you for the debt. If you are talking about a dormant account that has been in collections and has finally been left alone with no collections activity for a few years, messing with it can be problematic from the point of view that the collections people will start pestering you again to see if they can get money and if the SOL isn't up, they can start reporting on it again which can affect your score or they could even file suit if your state SOL isn't up.
If your lenders are willing to work with credit repair agencies: The credit repair agencies that have been doing this for a while know the tricks of the trade, so they have the experience to negotiate with your lenders on your behalf. Does this always work? No. Some lenders don’t like working with credit repair services. Some lenders aren’t willing to negotiate. However, for the lenders who are willing to listen, this is a good way for credit repair services to raise your score.
Thank you. I thought my scores were better than they are and I contacted a mortgage lender who said my scores were much lower than I thought. He said to pay off all negative open accounts. Most are medical bills. He also said that even with a car loan and a secured card and Fingerhut it is not enough trade lines. He suggested I open another secured card. Use one for gas and the other for fun/groceries. He said charge no more than 30% on each only if there is the money present to pay it off when I get home that day. If so, pay all but $5 immediately. He said that plus the debt should help within a few months to raise my score in addition to keeping the existing items current. My husband has a tax lien so I promptly made arrangements for that and have applied for and was approved for a second secured card as well. I just have to wait until payday to fund it and then will work to pay off these debts and build my score. Hoping for some big results in six months.
If you don’t address the exact cause of your bad credit, the damage is likely to worsen the longer it goes untreated. For example, if you’ve missed a few credit-card payments, repaying at least the minimum amount needed to change your account’s status from “delinquent” to “paid” on your credit reports will prevent your score from falling further. The same is true of collections accounts, tax liens and other derogatory marks — at least to a certain extent.
One of the main factors that goes into your credit score is your utilization rate, or how much of your available credit you actually use. If you have an available credit line of $10,000, for example, and you carry a balance of $5,000, your utilization rate is 50%. That's not bad, but not great. Keeping your utilization rate below 30% shows lenders that you're a reliable borrower who doesn't max out your cards. A rate of 10% or less is ideal.
Communicate with your creditors. If you are having trouble paying your bills or if you are really serious about cleaning up your credit report, then talk to your creditors. Be honest and upfront with them and try to make arrangements to reduce your balance or payments to something more manageable. You need to know your rights and options, but you also must remember to be cooperative and professional. State facts, but don’t make threats.
An example of when verification can work against you. Let’s say you missed a mortgage payment that you made on time because of an insurance issue. For example, if your flood insurance isn’t up-to-date with the mortgage lender, they increase your payment requirement. If you have recurring payments set up and don’t pay attention to correspondence, then the payment you make won’t cover the requirement for that month. Then they report to the credit bureau that you missed a payment even though you paid on time. Even if you correct the issue with the lender, the credit bureau may count the information as verifiable because you technically missed the payment, even though it was wrong.
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.