You might be experiencing bad credit if you’ve got an overdue student loan, a high credit card balance, a lot of overdue collections accounts, or even have been foreclosed on. Lack of good credit is a barrier to many of life’s most important milestones. You may be denied a credit card or even forced to seek assistance for an auto loan or mortgage, and the interest rates offered to you may be substantially higher.
Thankfully, a credit repair company can help you get your credit back on track. They will help you negotiate settlements with creditors, remove inaccurate information, contact collection agencies, prepare letters to credit bureaus, offer advice and support to repair your credit, and update your account. They work with credit reporting agencies on your behalf and ensure that positive changes are reflected on your credit reports.
They are experts in credit law and well-versed in consumer protection laws and statutes such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), or the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA).
Keep in mind that bad credit doesn’t have to be a permanent scar on your record. Instead, it can be a life lesson, allowing you to correct your mistakes. If you’re not interested in using a credit repair firm, you can also greatly improve your credit score on your own if you simply have the know-how, the patience, and the determination to stick to your budget.
Here are 10 techniques for dealing with your bad credit.
1. Check Your Credit Score and Credit Reports Regularly.
To begin do-it-yourself credit repair, you must get copies of your full credit report from all three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Credit reports and scores are two separate (but interconnected) things.
Your credit score is used by many lenders to determine how much of a credit risk you are. The higher the number, the less risky you are as a borrower and the more favorable of a loan you can receive. Someone with a high credit score may be able to borrow more money and receive a lower interest rate. Your credit score is used to determine your ability to make payments and your eligibility for loans.
There are five factors that comprise your credit score, and they are weighed in different proportions when calculating the final number:
- Payment history (35%): Always pay your loan on time for a pristine history.
- Credit utilization ratio (30%): Huge balances on your credit cards will hurt your score.
- New credit accounts (10%): You get a hard credit inquiry whenever you apply for a loan or new credit card. This lowers your score temporarily.
- Credit account mix(10%): Having various loan types (e.g. mortgages, auto loans, credit loans, etc.) helps you have optimal credit.
- Length of your credit history (15%): The longer your credit accounts have been open, the better your credit score. The longer you maintain a good credit history, the better your score.
Having a credit score above 700 lets you do pretty much anything a person with a higher score can do. Actually, if you have a higher credit score, let’s say 850, lenders know that they are unlikely to make much money from you, so it can work against you.
Your credit report shows your credit history in detail. You can check if you’ve made any loan payments late or if you’ve had any late payments in the past. It’s important to check your credit report every now and then to ensure that there isn’t an error on your account.
You can check your credit score and credit report for free through reputable free credit score tracking apps such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
2. Dispute Any Errors You Find
The next step in credit repair is to dispute incorrect information on your credit report. While errors aren’t common, they do occur. It’s worth cleaning up any small errors you do see, but don’t try to correct accurate information.
You should also check your identity information (including your Social Security number, the spelling of your name, and address) and credit history to see if there are any problems with your credit.
Make a copy of the report and highlight the errors if you notice any on the list of credit cards, outstanding debts, or major purchases. Make copies of your bank statements next, because the credit bureaus won’t act without proof.
In the letter, notify the credit reporting agency about the error and provide a copy of the report. Share how the report is incorrect and include enough evidence to support the claim. Sending this letter by certified mail is a good idea even though some Credit Bureaus now allow you to submit disputes online.
You must send a letter to the reporting agency asking for a response within 30 days. You can always get the help of a credit repair company to straighten things out for you.
3. Stick to a Budget and Don’t Go Beyond It
Make sure you’re not spending more than you earn, no matter how painful or scary it may be. You need a budget. This may be extra difficult (though maybe even more necessary) for people who don’t get a consistent income throughout the year. For example, if you’re a restaurant server, an Uber driver, or a freelance writer, your income may vary from month to month, so you will need to budget extra.
Review your tax returns for the past two years to get a sense of how much money you take home in a year. Subtract your regular monthly expenses from your current income to get your starting point. Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gasoline, groceries, and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. Resist impulse purchases.
4. Pay Your Bills on Time
Make sure you pay all your bills on time. Missing a payment accounts for 35% of your credit score. That’s heavier than any other factor. Missing a single payment on a credit card can knock down your credit score significantly. To improve your credit score, paying your bills on time is the most important thing you can do. Even if you are only paying the minimum, your credit score will improve.
To prevent damaging your credit score, make as many bills as possible autopay. Even if you normally pay your bills on time, autopay is still a good safety net if you somehow forget.
Some bills might not be eligible for autopay. Make yourself a number of reminders if you fear you will forget about these. For example, you can set a mobile notification a week before the due date asking yourself to pay early—and another late notification on the due date. If you’re really concerned, put sticky notes on your bathroom mirror reminding you to pay. It is critical.
5. Pay Off/Down Credit Card Balances and Other Debts
Avoid being charged high-interest rates by paying off your credit card in full before each due date. You may not always be able to do that, but you must develop a plan to clear your debt across multiple accounts. It is not bad to focus on the debts that cost the most to pay before tackling debts that cost the least.
When you’re making no progress at all on your five credit cards draining away your bank account in the form of minimum payments and interest charges, it can feel like you’ve got nothing to show for your efforts. Prioritize paying down the smallest loan until it’s finished, then you can focus on the next smallest loan. Your debt decreasing can also help your mental state.
6. Keep Track of Your Credit Utilization Ratio.
Using more than 30% of your total credit is a bad idea. Credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score. In short, 30% of your credit score is based on the amount of credit you are using vis-à-vis the amount of credit that you have available to you. Consider the following example: You have a $10,000 credit line on one credit card and a $5,000 outstanding balance. In this situation, your credit utilization is 50%.
A good credit utilization ratio is 30% or less. If a lender sees you using 90% of your available credit, it may indicate financial trouble. Try to pay off as many of your large purchases as possible to prevent exceeding the 30% credit utilization threshold.
7. Don’t Close Your Old Credit Cards
Even if you don’t use a credit card, it may still be worth keeping an account. Your credit score is determined by the proportion of your debts that are currently outstanding. This is known as your credit score’s “importance factor.” The longer the average age of your debts, the better your credit rating.
For instance, if you opened your first credit card four years ago, the average length of your credit history is four years. If you open another credit card today, the average length of your credit history will be two years. And if you want to close your first card, the average length of your credit history will be one day. The accounts that you close in good standing will remain on your credit report for several years, but the impact on your credit score when the account is removed will be felt.
Don’t just close your credit card if it no longer suits your lifestyle. Keeping it open will help preserve the average age of your loans. It’s smart to keep a credit card around if you don’t have to pay an annual fee. However, if you don’t use your card, it’s probably not a good idea. You can call your bank to switch to a no-annual-fee version of the card.
8. Ask for Help
You can get the help of a professional credit repair company to improve your credit score. Inaccurate data, blemishes, and reporting mistakes can all have a negative effect on your credit score. Also, late payments, collections accounts and charge-offs can have the same dramatic effect. A poor credit score not only affects your ability to get a loan but also get employment in some cases. A credit repair company comes in to help you get everything on track. They are skilled negotiators, who know all credit laws and can offer you ongoing support and advice.
If you must, lean on those with better credit. It still is possible for you to achieve some of the greatest milestones in life even if your credit score is holding you back. Ask family members to assist you in improving your score if you need help buying a house or car.
An authorized user card is one way to get your own good credit history on someone else’s credit report. It’s an injection of healthy credit habits into your credit score. They don’t even have to give you the authorized user card, they can just shred it and allow you to reap the benefits of their good behavior secondhand.
You may want to consider asking a relative with good credit to cosign with you if you want to get a new loan. For instance, if you want to apply for a debt-consolidation loan but are not qualified, a cosigner can help you out. In this case, if you default on the loan, the family member will be responsible for the bill.
9. Do Not Apply for New Credit Cards
Even if you were offered a sign-up bonus for a new credit card, resist the temptation to open one. Each time you ask for a new loan, the lender will scrutinize your credit to determine if you’re worthy. This is known as a “credit check.”
There are two kinds of credit checks: soft and hard credit pulls. A soft credit pull has no adverse effect on your credit score, as it’s used to pre-approve loans for any potential customers. Hard credit pulls, on the other hand, can lower your credit score temporarily. Lenders use this to decide whether they can extend the loan to you.
Credit scores are likely to plummet dramatically if you apply for new credit too frequently, although you might see a rebound within a month or two. Frequent credit inquiries are viewed as a warning sign by lenders. They don’t want to see lots of inquiries because it can reflect that you are desperate for money.
10. Use Credit-Building Tools
To get back on track, use available credit tools to help you. There are unique ways to build your credit on the internet. You can get apps that help you build credit by offering various types of loans—each of which you pay down monthly. You’ll find some that even send you back the initial term of the loan, minus the interest rate and a small application fee, at the end of the term.
When you make a payment each month, good behavior is reported to the Credit Bureau and your credit score and profile may improve. The initial application might lower your credit score, but if you make all payments on time (essentially to yourself), it will increase.
You can also improve your credit by obtaining a secured credit card from a bank. These cards are issued to people with poor credit because they are effectively zero risk for them. To put it simply, you hand over money to the bank and they give you a credit card with a matching credit limit. For instance, if you give the bank $2,000, you’ll receive a credit card with a $2,000 limit. Should you neglect to repay your debts, the bank will keep your money. When you graduate from a secured credit card, the bank will return your money.
It takes tremendous willpower to climb out of debt, but you can do it. Make sure there aren’t any errors on your credit report and dispute them with the credit bureaus. Even if it’s just the minimum payment, make sure you pay all your bills on time. Starting with the smallest credit card balance, focus on eliminating credit card debt as quickly as possible. Keep your credit utilization low, and keep all your credit cards open and in a sock drawer, if you must, to remove temptation (as long as they don’t have annual fees).
There really is no quick credit fix. However, if you plan to take on a big debt or buy a new home, it’s worth the effort. You’ve also got credit repair companies like High Score Now to help you out.
Thank you for reading our article. We hope you learned new ways to battle creditors and banks while protecting yourself.
We would encourage you to become a member of HigherScoreNow.com and start to leverage all the benefits of having good credit. You deserve this.