Step 1: Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Use our sample letter to help write your own. Include copies (NOT originals) of any documents that support your position. In addition to including your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your report that you dispute; state the facts and the reasons you dispute the information, and ask that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report, and circle the items in question. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document that the credit reporting company got it. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have (loans, credit cards, etc.), their status (open/closed, in collections), balances, credit limits and payment details. This may also include dates of missed payments or late payments, or when the accounts were sent to collections. From these details, your credit scores will be formed.
Your goal with a balance transfer should be to get out of debt. If you start spending on the credit card, there is a real risk that you will end up in more debt. Additionally, you could end up being charged interest on your purchase balances. If your credit card has a 0% balance transfer rate but does not have a 0% promotional rate on purchases, you would end up being charged interest on your purchases right away, until your entire balance (including the balance transfer) is paid in full. In other words, you lose the grace period on your purchases so long as you have a balance transfer in place.
Rapid rescoring is a little-known strategy explained by credit guru Liz Pulliam Weston in her book, "Your Credit Score: Your Money and What's at Stake." Unlike credit repair services, which are almost always a scam, rapid rescoring is a legitimate way to improve your credit score in as little as a few hours – if there are verifiable inaccuracies on your credit report. For rapid rescoring to work, you must have proof that negative items on your credit report are incorrect.
One of the sneaky-quick ways to increase your score is to add yourself as an authorized user on someone else’s. According to FICO, 35% of your score is based on your history of on-time payments, so when you become an authorized user on a friend or family member’s credit card, car loan, or installment loan, etc. you automatically “assume” the same positive history of payments on your credit report. Viola! Your score will go up as well. You do need to make sure the lender registers your social security number and will start reporting the change, and it can take 30 days to reflect on your own credit report (unless you do a Rapid Rescore—see below). But becoming an authorized user is a fantastic way to benefit from a great payment history that’s not even yours.
Next, pay the balances due on any collection or charged-off accounts. Paying what you owe will not immediately cause a significant improvement in your credit score, but anyone considering granting you a loan or new credit will want to see that you did pay what you owed, even if it was late. Lastly, pay down balances on your open credit card accounts to between 30 and 50 percent of your credit limit. Even better, pay them off in full, and pay them in full each month thereafter. Low balances relative to your limit will add points to your score.
Checking your credit report on a periodic basis, at least annually, is a good way to catch any instances where you might be the target of identity theft – or the credit bureau has accidentally mixed up your history with someone of a similar (it happens more than you'd think). If you are concerned about others accessing your credit report without your permission, you can freeze it, which will limit who can access the information and under what circumstances. If you think you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement authority immediately.
Bad credit is not a life sentence, which is good news for the roughly one-third of people with credit scores below 620. So if your credit is damaged, there are indeed steps that you can take to rebuild. After all, rebuilding credit is a process that takes time and requires focus on the fundamentals. And we’ll explain exactly what you need to do below.
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.
The deal is you get the prime rate for 3 years with no intro balance transfer fee. That’s currently 4.75% variable, though your rate will change if the prime rate changes, either up or down, and you have 60 days to complete your transfer with no fee. After that, it’s $10 or 3% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater. Also beware the prime rate deal isn’t for new purchases, so only use this card for a balance transfer.
Ultimately, the best way to consolidate credit card debt depends on your financial situation. If you want a quick application process and the potential for no fees, you may choose a balance transfer credit card. Meanwhile, if you don’t have the good or excellent credit needed for a balance transfer credit card, you may look toward loans. If that’s the case, the question becomes whether you’re willing to put your home up for collateral to get a potentially higher loan amount, or withdraw from your 401(k) or simply receive cash from an unsecured option like a personal loan. And, if you struggle with managing payments for various credit card debts, you may lean toward a debt management plan. Whichever option you settle on, make sure you have an actionable plan that allows you to fully repay the loan during the term and maintain a debt-free life.
We agree that it is very important for individuals to be knowledgeable of their credit standing. When you have a credit-monitoring tool like freecreditscore.com on your side, you get e-mail alerts whenever there’s a change in your credit score–and you can also see your credit score whenever you want. With the free credit report from the government, you only see your report once a year. If you monitor your credit score regularly, it’s easier to catch inaccuracies before it’s too late.