The last major factor is your history of applying for credit. This accounts for 10% of most credit scores and may be holding you back if you applied for several credit accounts recently. This factor also takes time to correct, but any hard inquiries into your credit will only ding your scores slightly, and as they get older, they will have less of an impact. A year is generally when they begin to stop hurting your credit scores.
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.

Once you’ve confirmed the accuracy of your credit reports, you can begin working on the mistakes that you’re responsible for. One easy way to pinpoint your credit-score weaknesses is to sign up for a free WalletHub account. Your Credit Analysis will include a grade for each component of your latest credit score as well as personalized advice for how to improve problem areas.
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.
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:

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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.
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Introducing your teenager to credit as soon as possible is a great way to get them prepared for all the future credit products they’re bound to encounter in life. Practicing responsible credit behavior with a credit card or even as an authorized user can help your teen establish credit, which is necessary for taking out student loans, mortgages and other credit products. Plus, having a good credit score is key to getting the best rates and terms for credit products.
FICO, myFICO, Score Watch, The score lenders use, and The Score That Matters are trademarks or registered trademarks of Fair Isaac Corporation. Equifax Credit Report is a trademark of Equifax, Inc. and its affiliated companies. Many factors affect your FICO Score and the interest rates you may receive. Fair Isaac is not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Fair Isaac does not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit record, credit history or credit rating. FTC's website on credit.
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