Since your credit score is based on information in your credit reports, you need to see what’s on them. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus and you can see all of your credit reports from the 3 major credit bureaus at once by going to annualcreditreport.com. Reviewing your credit report will allow you some insight on why your credit score is low.
Amount of Debt: Debt contributes 30% to a FICO Score’s calculation and can be easier to clean up than payment history, according to FICO’s website. (It weighs heavily on other credit scoring models, too.) That’s because if you currently have five maxed out credit cards, creditors worry whether you’ll be able to take on more credit and whether they’ll get paid back first or if your other creditors will.
Credit scores are calculated from your credit report, which is a record of your credit activity that includes the status of your credit accounts and your history of loan payments. Many financial institutions use credit scores to determine whether an applicant can get a mortgage, auto loan, credit card or other type of credit as well as the interest rate and terms of the credit. Applicants with higher credit scores, which indicate a better credit history, typically qualify for larger loans with lower interest rates and better terms.

If you have no credit or can't get a credit card on your own, explore the option of becoming an authorized user on a credit card. What you do is ask a primary cardholder, like a family member or significant other, if you can get an authorized card in your name on their account. Keep in mind that some scoring systems may give less weight to authorized user accounts than they do to primary accounts, but you would still stand to benefit from them.
What those consumer credit counseling businesses won't tell you (but they know all-too-well!) is that their services often do more harm than good! It's true! When they make so-called "special arrangements" with your creditors, all they are doing is making an agreement on your behalf that you will pay off a percentage of the debt! But the bad part is that your credit is still damaged!
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.
By taking a two pronged approach to improving your credit through ongoing management of your credit and through fixing the errors in your credit reports, many people have seen dramatic results in a relatively short period of time. If you simply sit back and wait for your credit score to improve, it may be a number of years before you see a significant shift, but by proactively working to fix your credit, you may see noticeable improvement in your credit score in only a matter of 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.
I do not agree with the secured card info you've provided.  They are great tools when used correctly.  You can find one with no/small annual fee.  The interest rate won't come into play if you pay your balance in full each month.  Even if you don't pay in full, the interest on a very low balance is a non-factor.  Alomst any credit union will allow you to open an account with as little as $5 and secured card with $300/500.  My card is $500 and I never charge more than $150(30%).  It takes will power to not max it out.  You don;t want to fall back into old habits (if that is what got you into this situation in the first place).
To accomplish this, simply get a family member to agree to allow you to be an authorized user on their account. They should have had the account open for at least two years. Then, draft a letter to the creditor to put the agreement in writing. Make sure to define what percentage of the account you’re allowed to use and whether or not you’re responsible for payments on any of those purchases.
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Set a budget and stick to it. A budget is simply a plan to direct parts of your income to specific expenses. Budgets can be simple or detailed. Determine how much you can comfortably set aside for savings and how much you can reasonably afford to pay of your debts. Try to lower your fixed expenses as much as possible so you can put more money towards fixing your credit.[4]
If you’re going to be hiring one of these services, you probably want to know what you’ll be receiving for your money – right?  Companies that claim to help fix your credit should be completely upfront with what they can and can't do for your situation.  A good company can remove negative items from your credit report and help improve your FICO score, making it easier to obtain a home, vehicle, mortgage, or insurance.

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I know. You need a higher credit score because you want to borrow money; if you had the money to pay down your balances, then you might not need to borrow. Still: decreasing your percentage of available credit used can make a quick and significant impact on your credit score. So go on a bare-bones budget to free up cash to pay down your balance. Or sell something.
If you get denied for a major credit card, try applying for a retail store credit card. They have a reputation for approving applicants with bad or limited credit history. Still no luck? Consider getting a secured credit card which requires you to make a security deposit to get a credit limit. In some ways, a secured credit card is more useful than a retail credit card because it can be used in more places.
If you have a number of mistakes that appear in your report, you may want to only include a few disputes at a time. We recommend a maximum of five disputes in a one ltter. This means that you may need to go through several rounds of disputes if you’ve never repaired your credit before. If you do this process regularly, then it typically takes one round, at most.
Besides imposing no annual fee, the card has other perks, like rewarding me with a $20 statement credit when I reported a good GPA (up to 5 consecutive years), letting me earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in rotating categories, and matching the cash-back bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.
Credit bureaus sell the information in your credit report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to make decisions about you. If there’s a lot of negative information in your report, you could have trouble getting a loan, or might have to pay more in interest. You also could be turned down for a job, insurance, or some services.
This [These] item[s] [identify item(s) disputed by type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc., and your account number or another method for the business to locate your account] is [inaccurate or incomplete] because [describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why]. I am requesting that [name of company] have the item[s] removed [or request another specific change] to correct the information.

If you have no credit or can't get a credit card on your own, explore the option of becoming an authorized user on a credit card. What you do is ask a primary cardholder, like a family member or significant other, if you can get an authorized card in your name on their account. Keep in mind that some scoring systems may give less weight to authorized user accounts than they do to primary accounts, but you would still stand to benefit from them.
So if you want -- and I'm not recommending this; I'm just saying it's a strategy you might decide to use -- you can dispute information that you think is accurate in hopes that the creditor will not respond. (This is the strategy many credit repair firms use to  try to improve their clients' scores.) If the creditor doesn't respond, the entry will get removed.

Step 2: Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if the information is found to be inaccurate, the provider may not report it again.


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 co-signing, you agreed to be the backup payer on the account in case the primary folks defaulted (as it appears that they did). If the debt is past due by six years, check your state's Statute of Limitations for debt collection - many states only give creditors 3-4 years to collect on a debt, after which point they cannot bring you to court. A Partial payment will re-set this clock. You may also hit the 7 year limit for how long it can stay on your report (7 years from the date it was first past due with the cable company).
It helps to go through your credit reports with a highlighter and pick out any and all inconsistencies. Keep in mind that a credit report from one credit bureau may have an error, while another may not. That’s why it’s so important to check all three of your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies for inaccuracies on each. You may find none, a few, or perhaps many errors on your reports. That’s where the next step to improving your credit comes in.
For one thing, the new account could decrease the average age of accounts on your credit reports — a higher average age is generally better for your score. Additionally, if you applied for a private student loan, the application could lead to the lender reviewing your credit history. A record of this, known as a “hard inquiry” or “hard credit check,” remains on your report and may hurt your score a little.
If you are using a great deal of your available credit, it can count against you. Create a plan to pay down your debt a little faster. Honestly evaluate your expenses, and cut back. Use the money you save to reduce your debt. Try to get your credit utilization down to 30% or less. If you can reduce your debt, the credit utilization portion of your score will improve, and help your credit overall.

I would like to add a reply to another person’s answer. The answer was a recommendation to use a credit repair service. If the service recommends disputing all derogatory accounts, are they acting in your best interest (not all services recommend this procedure, but many do)? If any derogatory account is accurate, but you have been instructed to dispute, in an attempt to have the item removed, are you doing the right thing? You will be instructed to provide a letter of dispute, with your signature, claiming the account has an error. If you know the account is reporting correctly. There is no error. But, you move forward with a signed letter claiming otherwise, there can be blowback, beware.
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I was wondering if you could give me a little advice to help raise my credit score within 5-6 months. I have recently paid off all of my collection accounts and was told to get at least two secured credit cards, as I do not have any active credit. The only active credit that I have is my student loans because I am in school all deferred until 2018& 2021, current car loan which I pay on time and a credit card from my credit union (that I pay on time) but it only reports to one bureau (Equifax), bummer!! About a month ago a mortgage broker pulled my credit and my lowest score was about 540 the highest was 590, and he said I needed to increase my score but didn't say how (no advice given). Since having my report pulled I have paid off the collections and have obtained 2 secured credit cards. My credit cards have not been reported to my credit report yet and all of the paid collections have been updated so I'm not sure what my scores are as of know. I am looking to be able to be approved for a home loan in the next 5-6 months with good interest rates. Can someone please give me advice that can possibly help me to raise my score about 80-100 points in this time frame?  Also I would like to say that there is a lending company that will give FHA home loans with a credit score of 580 credit score in my area, but not sure if their interest rates are ridiculously high. Would going with this company be a good option? 

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:
All very good information.... but I am not sure that getting a credit offer with a pre approval doesn't recheck your credit when you actually apply. Every credit card I signed up for did a credit inquiry.... however.... I really like your advice about adding your daughter to your accounts... this doesnt put a hard inquiry on her credit report and it makes it look like the card is hers. She doesn't even have to use it but it will make her score jump. Great advice
Write the various reporting bureaus with the explanation of your circumstances and ask for removal of the item. If they are not willing to remove the information, you have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to attach personal statement (up to 100 words in most states) explaining the circumstances. Depending upon the type of information reported by the bureau, your credit record and score may be affected up to ten years.
This move presents a chicken-and-egg problem: in order to increase your credit limit by adding a new card, you may need to improve your credit score first. Before trying to apply for a new card, first ask your current card issuers to increase your credit limit. There's often a "magic button" on card issuers' websites you can press to request a credit line increase.
If you’ve settled your accounts because of an illness or job loss, they will likely get closed and your score will drop precipitously low. This is only temporary. Your next job will be to continue paying all of your bills on time and paying all other loans you have (like your auto or mortgage loans). Your credit score will rise again, and when it does after about a month or two, you should start applying for credit again.
You can start to resolve identity theft issues by visiting www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. This is an excellent, free website created by the Federal Trade Commission. In addition to reporting identity theft, you will receive a free action plan, and you’ll gain free access to people who can guide you through the identity resolution process.
Creditors A, B, and C accepted a 50% settlement of $3,000 each. Creditor D was tougher and accepted a 60% settlement of $3,600. Creditor E refused to negotiate. You’ve spent $12,600 to get rid of $24,000 of debt. That’s a good first step. You pay the remaining funds back to your 401(k) account. You’ve discovered that after the creditors closed your accounts, your credit score plummeted to 320. The lowest it’s ever been!
A financial institution such as a credit union, which typically issues credit builder loans, deposits a small amount of money into a secured savings account for the applicant. The borrower then pays the money back in small monthly installments — with interest — over a set period of time. At the end of the loan’s term, which typically ranges from six to 24 months, the borrower receives the total amount of the credit builder loan in a lump sum, plus any interest earned if the lender offers interest.
Just to give you an idea of the type of results to expect, Lexington Law claims that their clients have an average of 10 negative items removed from their credit report.  Most companies do offer a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied with their service.  In addition, most services offer a free case evaluation so they can see if they can help your situation before you decide to sign up.
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.
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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