7 Tips to Repair and Improve Your Credit Score

Did you know that bad credit could cost consumers more than $200,000 in extra interest in their lifetimes? Individuals with negative payment histories can also pay more for car insurance and might have to come up with deposits before getting utilities established.

Not using credit at all isn’t the answer because scores only generate upon open charge accounts. Even a good financial history can disappear after favorable accounts have closed. By utilizing the following guidelines, you can repair an unfavorable credit score and improve financial health.

Verify Information

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that approximately 20 percent of users have errors on their reports. That’s why you should obtain a free credit file once a year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These three independent agencies keep separate records from each other. To avoid scams, use the Annual Credit Report website.

Dispute Errors

Checking reports seems tedious but is necessary. If you find discrepancies among the identity or credit data, gather supporting information, and send it to the applicable bureau to request correction. While credit agencies have to reply within 30 days, it can take up to half a year to fix erroneous data, depending on your motivation to gather supporting documents.

Don’t argue anything that’s truthful, even if it’s unfavorable because no changes will be made without proof. However, don’t ignore seemingly trivial gaffes. Simple spelling mistakes in the name or address might not raise scores, but they do need corrected to ensure proper consideration for future applications.

Budget Your Money

Deduct the costs for necessary expenses from your monthly net income. These figures include mortgage or rent, the car payment, utility bills, and home and automobile insurance. To come up with the utility costs, add a year’s worth of expenses and divide by 12. In this context, don’t figure cable, internet and cellphone bills because they are considered entertainment costs.

Food and gasoline count as other expenses that make up the next financial tier. While these are important, they’re flexible. Set a minimum amount for these necessities, subtract them from the previous result, and the remainder counts as your spendable income. If you don’t have enough to clear up credit issues, adjust the entertainment expenses.

Tackle Important Credit Factors First

While all financial issues have significance, some have higher priority. When cleaning up bad credit with limited finances, make sure to pay all bills on time each month. This counts as top priority for improving scores because ongoing positive behavior will bury the negative one. If you’re extremely strapped for cash, pay the most positive accounts first. If you have to decide between two creditors, pay at least the minimum amount for the longest standing one.

The next priority involves dealing with accounts that are late but not yet in collections. See if you can work out payment arrangements to bring them current. Once they’re in collections, even paying them off will not improve scores. Instead, work on decreasing balances before resolving collection items.

Beware of Closing Accounts Early

When you find yourself with an extra lump sum, don’t pay off installment loans that have good standing. That’s because closed accounts can lower scores. Instead, choose the most established credit cards and try to pay them down to zero.

Treat Underlying Issues

Reduced spending habits and increased income can fix many problems. However, not everyone makes impulsive decisions nor has the option for more lucrative employment. In these cases, consult free credit counselors by nonprofit financial education groups. In addition to budgeting advice, they can provide referrals to resources so that you can address underlying money issues.

Understand the Real Purpose of Credit

While credit allows users to make purchases they couldn’t afford otherwise, including a nice car or home, it is not a solution for money problems. When used correctly, it simply shows lenders that you’re financially responsible. Ideally, pay credit cards in full and on time each month, minimize new accounts, and stay below 30 percent of borrowing limits. Following these three simple steps going forward can result in stellar credit scores.

How Long Does It Take?

The timetable to move from bad to good credit varies because it depends on individual scenarios. Scores under 670 count as bad, and numbers below 580 rank poorly. Late payments, collections and charge-offs stay on reports for seven years, even if the accounts have closed. However, their impacts fade over time, and you can move in the right direction by keeping balances low and making payments on time. Since credit scores update every month, you can see progress fairly quickly.

These tips apply to everyone equally, and you can repair bad credit yourself. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a result of lifelong struggles or a temporary setback. While repair efforts require patience, this information can open new doors for a brighter financial future.

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