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.
Making sure your credit is mortgage-ready is an essential first step in the home buying process. A few percentage points more in a mortgage interest rate can equal out to thousands over the life your loan. A lower interest rate can also lower your monthly payments. That means it’s in your best interest to make sure your credit is as clean as possible. You should review and repair your credit before you prequalify for a mortgage.
This is one of the most overlooked credit repair secrets.  In an effort to make you less desirable to their competitors, some creditors will not post your proper credit line. Showing less available credit can negatively impact your credit score. If you see this happening on your credit report, you have a right to complain and bring this to their attention. If you have bankruptcies that should be showing a zero balance…make sure they show a zero balance! Very often the creditor will not report a "bankruptcy charge-off" as a zero balance until it's been disputed.
Getting negative and inaccurate information off of your credit reports is one of the fastest ways to see an improvement in your scores. Since credit bureaus have to respond and resolve a dispute within 30 days (there are a few exceptions that may extend this to 45 days), it’s a short timeline. Especially when consumers want to buy a house, get a new car, or open up a new credit card soon and don’t have the time to wait to build good credit in other ways.

Hello Your response was very informative.  I have poor credit is well and want to get into my first home. I want to pay off on my creditors I was with a credit company that helps build your credit and I was paying 80 dollars a month. Not sure if you know but I wanted to ask is there away that I can just pay the creditors directly and just pay it.  It would be from three years ago
However, each model weights the information differently. This means that a FICO® Score cannot be compared directly to a VantageScore® or an Equifax Risk Score. For example, a VantageScore® does not count paid items in collections against you. However, a FICO® Score counts all collections items against you, even if you’ve paid them. Additionally, the VantageScore® counts outstanding debt against you, but the FICO® Score only considers how much credit card debt you have relative to your available credit.
Delinquent payments, bad credit, and foreclosures usually mean high-interest rates and difficulty getting loans or mortgages. Lenders will consider you a high risk and will be hesitant to work with you. Changing your spending habits and cleaning up your credit report will help you get better loan rates and save you thousands of dollars in interest.

These services often catch a bad rap, and certainly aren’t for everyone. However, there is something to be said for the years of experience and insider knowledge these businesses have. Those people who are in a good financial standing and need some help increasing their score without all the headaches of doing it on their own can benefit greatly from such a service.
A hard inquiry happens when a financial institution takes a look into your credit history to determine whether or not you are in a good position to take on a loan. These inquiries typically take place when you are trying to obtain a significant loan or credit line such as a mortgage, auto loan or credit card. Each inquiry drops your credit score by a few points and remains on your reports for up to two years.
Becoming an authorized user on someone else's credit card or adding an authorized user to your credit card is an easy way to give your credit score a boost. For married couples and long-term partners, this move is a no-brainer. You can both improve your credit scores just by signing on as an authorized user of each other's credit cards. Lenders look at cardholders who are authorized users differently because they are different. Statistically, cardholders who are trusted by friends, family members and partners are more reliable borrowers, which earns them a small boost to their credit score.
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.

6) After your payment history, the next most important factor is the amount of your credit that you use. Pay down as much of your credit card debt as possible and avoid closing credit cards because what matters is the amount you owe as a percentage of your total amount of credit. However, opening a lot of accounts in a short period of time to increase your available credit could actually hurt your score.

Payment history accounts for the largest factor affecting your credit score. If you are behind on your payments, you won’t be able to improve your credit situation. Try to bring all of your accounts up to date. If you can’t afford to bring everything up to date at once, you can contact your creditors and work out a payment plan. Be up-front when you contact your creditors, explaining your situation and letting them know that you want to pay your obligation. Let your creditors know how much you can pay, and how long you expect to pay it. In many cases, it’s possible to work out an arrangement that all parties can live with.
"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.
The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is another option for those who want to strengthen their credit score. This card offers a potentially lower minimum security deposit than other cards, starting as low as $49, based on creditworthiness. Be aware the lower deposit is not guaranteed and you may be required to deposit $99 or $200. You can deposit more before your account opens and get a maximum credit limit of $1,000.
If you have negative information on your credit report, it will remain there for 7-10 years. This helps lenders and others get a better picture of your credit history. However, while you may not be able to change information from the past, you can demonstrate good credit management moving forward by paying your bills on time and as agreed. As you build a positive credit history, over time, your credit scores will likely improve.
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Of course, paying down your debts can be easier said than done. In fact, if you could really pay down $3000 or $4000 of debts quickly, you probably wouldn’t be having a problem with debt in the first place. But there is an alternative. You could contact your creditors and ask them to raise your credit limits. Of course, if you had a debt-to-credit-available ratio of 85%, you might have a hard time convincing them to raise your limits. Some will and some won’t. But what you could do and here comes the sneaky, little trick is to get what’s called a sub-prime merchandise card tied to a line of credit that would allow you to buy merchandise from a single wholesale distributor. The thing is that everyone who applies for one of these cards is automatically approved. The distributor becomes the one who is supplying the financing because it wants your business. Of course, you shouldn’t get the card just so you could start racking up more debt. What you want is a new line of credit that the distributor will report to the credit-reporting bureaus.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to give your statement to anyone who got a copy of your report in the recent past. You’ll probably have to pay for this service.
However, don’t believe a collector if they say they have ways of ruining your credit game forever. That’s just not true. Nothing you do can get you kicked out of the credit game forever. Any penalty you encounter will only set you back. But you can offset these setbacks by taking positive actions that help you move forward. So even if your period of financial distress puts you back at Square One, you can start again and get right back in the game.
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.
Do yourself a favor and save some money, too. Don’t believe these claims: they’re very likely signs of a scam. Indeed, attorneys at the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, say they’ve never seen a legitimate credit repair operation making those claims. The fact is there’s no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately, but it takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.
If you are a long time customer and it's something simple like a one-time late payment, a creditor will often wipe it away to keep you as a loyal customer. If you have a serious negative mark (such as a long overdue bill that has gone to collections), always negotiate a payment in exchange for removal of the negative item. Always make sure you have this agreement with them in writing. Do not pay off a bill that has gone to collections unless the creditor agrees in writing that they will remove the derogatory item from your credit report. This is important; when speaking with the creditor or collection agency about a debt that has gone to collections, do not admit that the debt is yours. Admission of debt can restart the statute of limitations, and may enable the creditor to sue you. You are also less likely to be able to negotiate a letter of deletion if you admit that this debt is yours. Simply say "I'm calling about account number ________" instead of "I'm calling about my past due debt."
The Target REDcard™ Credit Card offers great perks that are sure to please frequent Target shoppers. You receive 5% off every eligible transaction made at Target and Target.com. The discount automatically comes off your purchase — no redemption needed. Other benefits include free shipping on most items, early access to sales and exclusive extras like special items, offers, and 10% off coupon as a gift on your REDcard anniversary each year.* Recently, cardholders received early access to Black Friday deals. Reminder: This card can only be used at Target and on Target.com.
What to look out for: If you decide to take out this card and become a member of the SDFCU by joining the American Consumer Council, make sure you do not go to the ACC’s website and submit a $5 donation. That fee is waived by the SDFCU when you fill out your credit application. Simply select “I do not qualify to join through any of these other methods:” and select the ACC from the menu to avoid the $5 fee.
 It still could take a little time. I started from zero with a touch of bad but mostly no credit. I got a rediculous card at first with high interest and monthly and yearly fees. Soon as my credit built up with some payments, yours isnt terrible, mine was in the 5's, I was able to get a better card. Dont spend much of your available credit. REALLY try and keep it lower than 30% and your uliliztion will look better and help your score rather quickly. im my case opening a new account with a higher ballance and transfering my debt to it (15 months 0% interest but was a 3% fee to do it) saved a lot of money over paying a couple of cards at 20-24% interest. If you have a good utilization % then you might even close the old account but if you are looking at a big purchase soon then it may be better to keep it open. Either way, my closing that horrible card actually made my score rise because of the newer better replacement card showing up. Again mine was in the 5's so it took a bit for new expanded credit acceptance but once it did it is currently going up very quick and am almost 700's. Id plan on a year though if you have negative stuff but you are ahead of me with your starting score already. 
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]
If following the steps above seems daunting, some organizations specialize in paid credit repair services. Most of the services require a monthly subscription fee between $60-$100 per month, and most reviews report that the negative items are completely removed within 3-5 months. Despite the high cost, legitimate companies provide a valuable service if you’ve been the victim of identity theft and you want someone else to do the work for you.
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.
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.
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