Following the 2007-2008 implosion of the housing market, banks saw mortgage borrowers defaulting at higher rates than ever before. In addition to higher mortgage default rates, the market downturn led to higher default rates across all types of consumer loans. To maintain profitability banks began tightening lending practices. More stringent lending standards made it tough for anyone with poor credit to get a loan at a reasonable rate. Although banks have loosened lending somewhat in the last two years, people with subprime credit will continue to struggle to get loans. In June 2017, banks rejected 81.4% of all credit applications from people with Equifax Risk Scores below 680. By contrast, banks rejected 9.11% of credit applications from those with credit scores above 760.22
Most people don’t realize that it’s not mandatory for creditors to submit information to the credit reporting agencies. Of course, credit cards, mortgage lenders, etc. always will, but some smaller accounts don’t bother because there’s really no upside for them. But that also presents an opportunity for the average consumer that needs a quick credit score increase, as you can ask a variety of creditors or lenders if they will start reporting. For instance, cell phone companies, utility providers, and even landlords can report your history of on-time and in-full payments to the credit bureaus. Once that positive track record hits your credit, your score will go up proportionally!
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.
All U.S. consumers are entitled to see their credit reports. Typically, copies are requested from the “big three” credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian). After obtaining a copy, it’s best to review the report. If you need to raise your credit score in 30 days, note any and all errors in the report. If errors are discovered, work to get them corrected as quickly as possible. A creditor may have erroneously reported late payments, or there may be outdated information on the report, like a defaulted loan that has since been paid in full.*
Dispute any negative items on your credit report that aren't yours or are otherwise reported incorrectly. These could include late payments, charge-offs or collections errors that shouldn't be on your report. You can do this by requesting verification, and if the items cannot be verified, the credit bureaus have to remove them. If items older than seven years (10 years for bankruptcy) have not automatically been removed from your report, you can request that the credit bureaus delete them.
Remember, there are lots of reasons why your credit may be in rough shape. Most are related to your spending habits. So, for instance, if you missed a few payments or your debt levels are too high (think over 30% of your total available credit limits), disputing errors won’t help your case — you’ll have to make some changes to improve your credit scores. And you may have to wait a bit to see an uptick.
One of the biggest pitfalls of debt consolidation is the risk of running up new debt before the consolidated debt is paid off. When you finish paying off credit cards with a consolidation loan, don’t be tempted to use the credit cards with their newly free credit limits. If you think you might, close the accounts. You may have heard that doing so could hurt your credit score, and it might. But you can recover from credit score damage much more easily and quickly than you can recover from crushing debt.
When negative information in your report is accurate, only time can make it go away. A credit reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. The seven-year reporting period starts from the date the event took place. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.
An easier way to pay: If you have debt across multiple credit cards, you might find managing all of the accounts painful. With a consolidation loan, you only have to make one payment. However, this benefit is often over-sold. The APR is still the most important consideration, and you should avoid paying a higher interest rate for the convenience of consolidation.
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.
If you’re financially drowning, of course you can declare bankruptcy. The problem is that bankruptcy is a serious derogatory mark on your credit. It won’t prevent you from getting credit in the future, but for a time some credit products will be unavailable to you and others will come at very steep prices. Also, not all debts can be discharged in a bankruptcy.
A low credit score can affect almost every aspect of your life, and if you've realized that your negative credit is holding you back, you probably would like to do something to change that... and the sooner the better. You'll find plenty of companies that claim they can repair your credit overnight, or guarantee that they can remove any negative item from your credit report, whether accurate or not. If this sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. The truth is that there's no such thing as a quick credit fix.