Increase Your Credit Score and Improve Your Credit Report
Written by: Kristy Welsh
Last Updated: September 27, 2017
Increasing your credit score and repairing your credit are a bit like losing weight — it takes time and there is no quick way to get to where you want to be. In fact, if you see any advertisements claiming they can improve your credit score quickly, beware! Some methods used for this "quick fix" may backfire on you. Our best advise for rebuilding your credit is to manage it carefully over time and take the time to do it right.
If you are planning to buy a home or car in the near future, you will need to get your credit cleaned up so you can qualify for that lower interest loan. With a little foresight and due diligence, you can reap giant rewards in the form of a lower mortgage or car payment by qualifying for better loan.
Check Your Credit Report
This really should go without saying — before you start any type of credit repair process you need to get your credit reports and review what is being reported. You can get a free credit report once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com, or you can read our article on how to get your credit reports for free or for a fee. Either way, get your reports first.
Pay Down Your Credit Cards
Paying off your installment loans may can help your score, but typically not as dramatically as paying down, or paying off, revolving accounts like credit cards. The FICO model, and even the Vantage scoring system, weigh credit card debt more heavily. Each individual card as well as your total revolving line should be below 25 percent. If your goal is to increase your credit score, forget about paying down your high interest rate cards first. Work on getting those balances down over higher interest rates to reap the most improvement in credit score.
Don't Max Out Your Credit Cards
Your available credit is averaged over your billing cycle, which is sometimes less than 30 days. If your limit is say, $5,000 and you charge $5,000, even if you pay it off each month, your credit balance is still going to show $2,500 (a 50 percent usage limit), which is going to make your score plunge.
For most small business owners, their credit cards are the way they purchase goods and supplies every month. If the card's limits are used to the hilt this can hurt. But wait you say, these are business cards. Yes, they are and most small business owners still have to personally guarantee their business cards, which means they show up on personal credit reports. If you need to use all of the available credit line on your cards, you may want to consider getting a new card to spread out the credit lines a little.
Make Sure Your Credit Report is Correctly Reporting Your Credit Limits
If not, you can call your credit card issuer and ask them to update the list. You can also challenge the limits with the credit bureaus.
Become an Authorized User
Ask a friend or family member to add you to one of their older credit cards as an authorized user. The older your credit history, the better. If your mother agrees to put you as an authorized user on a card that she has had for 20 years, you could see your score increase dramatically. And with the authorized user plan, you don't even have to have the card in your possession.
Ask a Creditor for Forgiveness
If you've been a good customer for years, but had a rough patch and missed a payment, you might be able to ask your creditor to forgive a negative listing. You can do this with a goodwill letter. There is no guarantee that a lender will do this, but this method has had lots of success.
Get Student Loan Payments Current
If you have a student loan that you have defaulted on or have missed payments, you can enter into a "rehab program" which will get your account back on track after 12 months. Sallie-Mae regularly upgrades your loan status to "Paid as Agreed" if you make a series of 12 on-time payments.
Dispute Old Negatives
Say your insurance company never paid a medical bill and now you have a collections account. You can continue protesting that the charge was unjust, or you can try disputing the account with the credit bureaus as "not mine." The older and smaller a collection account, the more likely the collection agency won't have bothered to update good ole eOscar with the correct info and the credit bureau won't be able to match up computer records.
Remove a Debt By Paying It Off
This method is called pay for delete and it works like a charm on smaller amounts of $500 and under, especially medical collections. Remember to get the agreement in writing before you pay them anything, and only send a money order after you get them to agree. Check here for more info on settling debts.
Dispute with Original Creditor
Our method of disputing with original creditors really works, especially accounts which have been purchased by other banks or are currently with a bank who has gone through some of those massive mergers in the last 10 years. And you have the cases (more common than you think) where some banks just don't keep good records at all. This method is relatively quick.
Remove Easy Errors
Target the easy errors on your credit report that have a big bang for the buck.
- Dispute negatives that are not yours such as late payments, charge-offs, or collections.
- Dispute any accounts listed as anything other than "current" or "paid as agreed," if you paid on time and in full.
- Dispute any accounts that are still listed as unpaid that were included in a settled bankruptcy.
- Remove any negative items older than 7 years which should have automatically fallen off your report.
- Dispute any account that is listed as "closed by the credit grantor" when it wasn't and should be fixed as this is definitely a negative.