A good credit score can give you access to so much more, such as qualifying for a mortgage, a lower interest rate, and better terms on loans or chances of being approved for credit cards.
If you’re wondering how to fix your credit, there are several ways to go about improving and repairing it over time. The best time to get started on fixing your credit score is now, so by the time you need approval for a new credit card, you won’t have to worry about your score.
All too often, people try looking for ways to raise their score by taking on more than necessary. You may actually only need to fix something that’s broken. The American credit system is messy, but it works. Because of it, millions of people have low credit scores that make them appear riskier than they really are.
This guide will take you through some of the actions you can take to fix your credit, such as getting rid of harmful incidents and errors from your credit report.
How to Rebuild Credit
Get Your Credit Report
When attempting to fix your credit, a generous portion involves rectifying errors and omissions. You may not realize it, but errors, entries that should have never been there, may be lowering your credit score considerably. Let’s take a closer look at some of the steps you can take to fix your bad credit.
How to get a free credit report: You can start by getting a credit report to better understand what needs fixing. Each of the three major credit bureaus will give you a free credit report every year. If you use them wisely, you can get a free credit report every four months.
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742 – www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800 – www.transunion.com
- Equifax: 800-685-1111 – www.equifax.com
Check Your Credit Report for Errors
Every time you check your credit report, review it carefully for potential errors. As many as 25% of all credit reports contain errors severe enough to cause a rejection on a credit application. Being aware of these errors when they appear and responsibly managing your credit will help you improve your credit score.
However, fixing bad credit will require you to center on the source of the issue. When evaluating your credit report for errors, be sure to look out for:
- Inaccurate personal information (misspellings, incorrect addresses)
- Lacking accounts that should be listed on the report
- Accounts that don’t belong to you
- Fraudulent activity
- False public records (bankruptcies, foreclosures)
- Inaccurate account status (still open when that are actually closed)
- Duplicate accounts
- Data management errors
- Derelictions or derogatory marks
- Faulty inquiries
Any of these errors could impact your credit considerably—and whether or not you will be approved for future loans. If you find an error on your report, consider running the same evaluation from the other two major credit bureaus to see if the error appears on the two different reports. By finding and fixing simple errors, many people see a dramatic improvement in their credit status in a relatively short period.
Challenge Errors in Your Report
Upon finding the errors on your credit report, you’re going to need to challenge those errors. Report your errors to the credit bureau. Fortunately, the bureau you use is obligated legally to resolve the mistakes. Simply request a correction online (by mail or phone). You’ll need to prove your identity, the erroneous information, and any documentation that validates the error, such as court documents or credit card statements.
Pay Late or Past-Due Accounts
Besides reporting the errors, the next best thing you can do is pay late balances on your accounts. Payment isn’t considered late until 30 days past due. Once the payment exceeds 30 days, creditors and lenders can report your account to the credit bureaus, impacting your score. The longer the payment is overdue, the more damaging it is for your credit. Late payments can linger on your credit report for up to seven years, so it’s essential to pay them off as soon as you can.
Increase Your Credit Limits
Credit card borrowers each have a credit limit— denoting the maximum amount they can spend before paying off some of it. Your credit limit might be a few hundred or a few thousand dollars depending on the provider and your history. If you request an increase in your credit limit, it could boost your credit score and give you a wider window before you need to pay off some of that balance.
You also want to keep your credit utilization ratio in mind— how much you owe on all of your accounts compared to the total available credit.
Pay Balances on Time
Paying off debt is an integral part of improving your credit score. By making on-time payments, you present yourself as a responsible borrower. Whether it’s your credit card or car, try to pay on time. Set up automatic monthly payments to make this a regular practice.
Fixing your credit score takes time. On average, it may take up from three to six months for a faulty item to be withdrawn from your credit report following a challenge. However, the length of time required to improve your credit score mainly depends on your credit history and the steps you take to resolve the issue.