How to Fix A Bad Credit Score And Start Rebuilding Your Credit
When people seek professional help for credit repair, one of the most common things they ask is how long it will take to improve their credit.
Here’s the short answer: with the right approach, you can begin to see significant improvement in your credit score in as little as 90 days.
But in reality, increasing your credit score won’t happen overnight. Of course, how long it will take depends on just how bad your credit score is. Typically, the more severe your financial issues, the longer it takes to fix.
For example, someone with late payments or a collection account is going to be able to fix their credit in a much shorter timeframe than an individual who has gone through bankruptcy, has judgments, repossessions, or tax liens on their credit report.
In This Article:
- What Does My Credit Score Mean?
- Where Do I Start To Improve My Credit Score?
- How Can I Clean Up My Credit Report?
- How Hard Is It To Get An Item Removed From My Credit Report?
- My Negative Items Were Verified – How Long Will They Stay On My Credit Report?
- How Can I Start To Build New Credit?
- Should I Hire A Professional Credit Repair Service?
WHAT DOES MY CREDIT SCORE MEAN?
We know the concepts around credit can be difficult to understand, so let’s start with the basics. If you can gain a better appreciation for how your credit score is calculated, you will be better equipped to know how to fix it.
Your credit score is a report of your credit history. Most commonly, Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) provides the scores, and they range from 300 to 850. The higher your credit score, the better your rating is and the more likely you are to be approved for loans or credit. Although creditors have different standards for lending, generally a score of 700 or above is usually considered to be a good credit score.
Your credit score is made up of 5 factors, some of which impact your score more than others. However, keep in mind, these percentages are only approximate, as some creditors will weigh them slightly differently.
Here is a brief description of these factors:
- Payment History (35%) – paying your bills on time
- Credit Utilization (30%) – how much you owe on loans, credit cards, or other types of accounts; your debt-to-credit ratio
- Length of Credit History (15%) – how long you have had your accounts for
- Types of Credit (10%) – the mix of the kinds of credit you have, such as credit cards, a mortgage, and a car loan
- New Credit (10%) – the number and types of accounts you have asked for or opened recently
The bottom line is this: paying your bills on time and avoiding maxing out your line of credit and credit cards have the most influence (approximately 65%) on your credit score.
WHERE DO I START TO IMPROVE MY CREDIT SCORE?
When you have blemishes on your credit report, you can do one of two things. You can do nothing and hope that the negative entries will be automatically deleted from your credit reports (which, if removed on time, is typically 7 long years!). Or, you can take matters into your own hands and work towards getting the negative items removed.
But before you make your decision, there are a few key things you need to know: most people end up having these negative items on their credit reports a lot longer than the maximum time that is technically allowed. In fact, the credit system is not even designed to protect the basic rights of consumers. From aggressive debt collectors to creditors who side-step rules, consumers need to be aware of their rights, so they don’t get taken advantage of. As much as the government tries to crack down on the rule-breakers, ultimately it is the consumers who must look out for themselves.
With this is mind, it is paramount to take steps to clean up your credit mistakes of the past, including removing any negative entries from your credit reports. A history of late payments, collections, charge-offs, judgments, and liens, can kill your credit and cause your credit score to plunge. This is why it’s so crucial to remove these credit report impairments as soon as possible!
HOW DO I CLEAN UP MY CREDIT REPORT?
As a consumer, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) legislation gives you the right to dispute any item on your credit report that you believe to be wrong or misleading.
Start by getting a free copy of your credit report and carefully review it for any errors, omissions or unusual activity. If you see anything that looks amiss, including outdated or incorrect information, you will need to dispute the entry with the credit reporting company immediately to have it resolved.
You can begin your dispute by contacting the credit bureaus via phone, online, or by mail. Once your request is received, and you are found to have cause, they are legally required to conduct an investigation (often called a re-investigation). The credit bureau will then request verification from the company reporting the information. If it can’t be verified, the credit bureau must remove the negative item from your credit report. If verified, the item will remain, and the information will be updated on your credit report as necessary.
Keep in mind the credit “ecosystem” is vast and extends beyond credit cards and loans. There’s many other sources a potential grantor of credit or other services may look at before either accepting you as a customer or determining what your rate will be. For example, sites like ChexSystems may be used to determine whether you’ve ever bounced a check and the CLUE Report which looks at insurance claims. These are just a couple of sites that most DIY credit repair efforts completely miss. A legitimate professional credit repair service is aware of the various sites and services like these, and will provide a more comprehensive effort to help you achieve your financial and credit goals beyond simply improving your score.
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET AN ITEM REMOVED FROM MY CREDIT REPORT?
It is fairly common for credit bureaus to find that negative items cannot be verified. Every day, items are removed from consumers’ credit reports due to incorrect information or errors. This could include late payments, collections, charge-offs, tax liens, judgments, repossessions and even bankruptcy items. For this reason, reviewing your credit report carefully for any errors and disputing it if necessary, is the easiest way to work towards improving your credit score legally.
Although this may seem like a relatively easy process, in reality, the difficulty lies in getting the credit bureaus to open a re-investigation. Historically all three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – have been known to be in violation of FCRA guidelines, presumably because the process is time-consuming and costs them money. However, more recently the FCRA has been cracking down when it is felt a credit bureau ignores consumer requests.
Since July 2017, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian have all enforced stricter rules on the public information they collect to ensure accuracy by requiring each citation to include the subject’s name, address and either their Social Security number or date of birth. Interestingly, when these new rules came into play, nearly all civil judgments and about half of tax liens were eliminated from consumer credit reports due to errors and outdated information on file. As a result, roughly 12 million consumers enjoyed immediately higher credit scores. However, these stiffer rules are making it increasingly difficult to dispute items as the information on file is more likely to be accurate.
MY NEGATIVE ITEMS WERE VERIFIED – HOW LONG WILL THEY STAY ON MY CREDIT REPORT?
The FCRA also stipulates how long a negative credit report item can remain on your credit file. In most cases, the maximum time is 7 years. However, what is not mentioned is the minimum time a negative entry must stay on your credit report. With this in mind, it crucial to try to remove the negative items as quickly as possible.
How long a negative item stays on your credit report depends on the account:
- Collection accounts (and charge off accounts under certain circumstances) remain on your credit report for seven years. However, when you add in the 180 days of delinquency before the account is charged off or sent to collections, it adds up to about seven years and six months.
- Judgments – Once a judgment is awarded, it can remain on your credit report for seven years from the date it is filed. However, often judgments can be renewed, revived, and refiled by the creditors before they expire if the debt isn’t paid, which extends the date beyond seven years.
- Tax liens can continue to be reported for seven years from the date of payment. However, the IRS may be able to assist you in removing paid tax liens even earlier through their Fresh Start program. Although unpaid tax liens can stay on your credit report for an unspecified time, most credit bureaus will remove unpaid tax liens approximately 10 years after the filing date.
- Defaulted student loans (private and most federal) can remain on your credit report for a maximum of seven years. The exception to this rule is the federal need-based Perkins loans, which can stay on your credit report indefinitely until they are fully paid.
- Bankruptcy – The length of time a bankruptcy stays on your credit report depends on the type you have filed. Chapter 13 bankruptcy (partial repayment of your debt is required) remains on your credit report for seven years. In comparison, Chapter 7 bankruptcy (no repayment is necessary), stays on your credit report for 10 years from the date it was filed.
- Late payments and any other negative credit entries like a foreclosure will remain on your credit report for a maximum of seven years.
Now that your credit report has been cleaned up and all items that could be removed have been, it’s time to take significant steps towards building your credit.
HOW CAN I START TO BUILD NEW CREDIT?
So the big question stands: how can you improve your credit score starting today? Luckily there’s a number of ways to rebuild credit using your current and any new credit accounts responsibly.
To tackle a bad credit score and see dramatic improvements, it is paramount to adopt a plan of action that attacks the problem from several different angles. This includes building good credit and developing a track record of good payment history.
So how can you do this?
- The obvious place to start is by paying your monthly bills on time, every month without exception to start building a pattern of positive payment history. If you think back to the basics of how your credit score is calculated, repayment makes up approximately 35% of your credit score. Tanking in this area – no matter how good you are at any of the other areas factoring into your credit score – leaves no way for your credit score to go but down. If your budget doesn’t allow you to make your payments on time, you might want to re-examine your monthly bills and see what you can live without (i.e. cable, expensive gym memberships). For some people, the solution is to get a line of credit, (even though taking on more debt seems counter-productive), so that you can show you have current financial creditworthiness.
- Piggybacking Credit (Authorized User) – The idea behind this strategy is that you benefit from someone else’s impeccable credit. In this scenario, another person – a trusted family member or friend who has excellent credit – agrees to add you to their credit account as an authorized user. You then receive your own card for the account and have the ability to use the account if you so wish. Now that you are on the account, the details will be reported to both your credit report and the person you are piggybacking. And, because of the primary account holder’s good credit behaviours, your credit score will improve by impacting your credit utilization, which contributes approximately 30% to your credit score. Your debt-to-credit ratio (how much debt you owe compared to how much unused credit you have) can be significantly reduced with this strategy. For example, if you are an authorized user on $5000 credit card with only a $500 balance, you will have $4500 of credit available to you, and your debt-to-credit ratio is only 10%. This is much better news for your credit score than having just one credit card which is maxed out. Not to mention, the timely monthly payments will help build a good credit history.
- Co-signer – Asking someone to co-sign a loan for you such as a car loan, personal loan or other types of credit line is another way you can build your credit. The person you ask should have good credit and be someone whom you think is likely to help you out. Getting a co-signer when you have lousy credit improves the chances of getting approved for the loan, and you can begin to demonstrate good repayment history. However, one thing to be cautious of is that these loans typically have higher interest rates, which can end up costing you much more. In these cases, it is wise to finance a small amount of money to make the loan worthwhile. High-interest fees and financing charges really only benefit the creditors (why else would they fund a loan to someone with bad credit?) and can dig your financial hole deeper if you aren’t careful.
- Open a New Credit Card – Depending on your financial situation, you may be able to get approved for a typical, non-secured credit card. If you aren’t approved, your next step might be to apply for a secured credit card, which offers lower credit limits and requires you to deposit money with the credit card company to secure your account. Your deposit is fully refundable provided you pay off the card. Secured cards typically have higher interest rates and a fee associated with them. Often the deposit amount equals the credit limit on your card (usually about $500), although Capital One does offer a secured Mastercard with a credit limit higher than the required amount and relatively low fees compared to others. Over time, good payment history is typically rewarded with an increase in limit without additional deposits. A secured credit card can be a good option if you’re looking to improve your credit as long as you are responsible with your card and make timely payments. Once credit improves, most people will close these cards in favor of non-secure cards. If you are going to apply for a secured credit card, ensure that the lender reports to all three credit bureaus monthly. Avoid retail credit cards, pre-paid, re-loadable or debit cards because these accounts are not reported to credit bureaus and thus have absolutely no bearing on your credit score.
It can’t be stressed enough that although these tools can be used to repair your credit, they can also further damage your credit if you don’t use them responsibly. And, if you’ve chosen the authorized user or co-signer route, irresponsibility can destroy your relationships with the people who have trusted you and tried to help you in addition to running up further debt.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The truth is, there is no quick and easy fix to credit repair. Rebuilding your credit is a process which takes time and won’t necessarily happen overnight. The best way to improve your credit is to be patient and develop good credit habits.
Being consistent with your monthly payments and having a solid plan of attack that impacts all of the factors in your credit score can help you see improvements in as little as 90 days. With the right strategy, even someone with terrible credit can see significant improvements over the course of a year. Your dreams are within your reach if you own up to your financial mistakes, make wise choices, and spend responsibly.
SHOULD I HIRE A PROFESSIONAL CREDIT REPAIR SERVICE?
Trying to rebuild credit and overcome a bad credit score can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially if you don’t understand the ins and outs of credit or have big financial goals like paying off debt or buying a home.
The investment is usually well worth it because the better your credit score, the lower your interest rate tends to be. Whether it be for a credit card, car loan or mortgage, you can save hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands. For example, if you were able to get a mortgage loan that’s only 1% lower than with poor credit, you literally save roughly $17,000 on a $220K 15-year mortgage over that period. If it’s a 30-year mortgage, you’re talking close to double that amount. Similarly if your mortgage amount was higher, you’ll pay tons more.
There’s also other benefits, such as needing a lower down payment for a car or house if your credit is better. Many people feel using the money they would otherwise end up paying in extra down payment and instead invest part of that amount into a reputable credit repair company with a successful track record to lower their down payment and/or interest rate.
Additionally, so many businesses use your credit to make certain decisions, from car insurance rates to whether a car rental company will even rent to you, and more. Even potential employers may check your credit (if your state law allows, it IS permitted under federal law).
So it makes sense that you wouldn’t try to cure a medical problem without consulting a health professional like a doctor, so why would you try to cure your financial woes on your own? Why not call upon legitimate credit repair professionals like Great American Credit Repair to help fix your credit?
Our financial experts will thoroughly examine your personal situation and use proven, individualized strategies to get you started on the right path towards financial health and freedom. For more information or to book your FREE consultation, visit us online or call us today at 1-800-603-1943. We give you the fresh financial start you deserve!
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