If you have a low credit score, there are many things you can do to improve it. Sometimes we don’t even realize that our credit report contains errors—errors that can be removed with a little determination and perseverance. Even if your score is low because of your own poor choices in the past, you can still take control of your finances and improve your credit over the long run.
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.
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.
So when talking about fixing bad credit, there is more to it than just trying to increase a credit score. It is about repairing the errors and omissions in your credit reports. Responsibly managing your credit will help you start working towards a better credit score, but truly fixing bad credit requires that you also focus on the source of the problem.
It doesn’t cost anything to dispute mistakes or outdated items on your credit report. Both the credit reporting company and the information provider (the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights, contact both the credit reporting company and the information provider.
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.
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One of the best ways to quickly build a payment history is to use a credit card. A secured credit card can help with this step if your poor credit precludes you from qualifying for a “regular” credit card. A secured card requires that you keep money in a linked savings account as collateral. Because the money is already there, it is easier to get approval for a secured card — especially when you have poor credit. In either case, your payments are reported to the bureaus every month, so it makes a big difference in showing that you pay regularly — and on time. (See: Wise Bread's review of the 5 best secured credit cards.)
If you don't plan on using them all it can help. Keep in mind, applying to multiple credit agencies can negatively impact your credit score. However if you already have multiple accounts that are in good standing, that looks good for credit variety and age of credit. Either way there are pros and cons and a lot of factors to consider when making decisions about your credit.
Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit scores. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.