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Your ChexSystems Report and Score: What You Need to Know

September 19th, 2017 · Credit Bureaus and Scores

Your ChexSystems Report and Score: What You Need to KnowWhether you have a charged-off bank account or you’ve never bounced a check in your life, ChexSystems needs to be on your radar. This consumer reporting agency not only collects information on your banking activity, but can also show evidence of fraudulent bank accounts opened in your name. This not only affects your ability to open bank accounts in the future, but could impact credit applications, so checking your ChexSystems report and score is an important step in the credit repair process.

How ChexSystems works

ChexSystems is a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency that collects information about banking activity. ChexSystems is similar to the big three credit bureaus in that they:

  • Collect information from data furnishers (in this case, banks)
  • Generate a consumer score from the information on your report
  • Provide your consumer report and score to those with permissible purpose
  • Provide you with a free consumer report every 12 months
  • Provide you with a credit score
  • Investigate disputed items on your report
  • Add a statement to your file if you want to explain negative activity
  • Remove information from your report after a certain number of years (in this case, 5 years)
  • Can place a security alert on your report
  • Can place a security freeze on your report

They are different from the credit bureaus in that they only collect banking activity. There are other consumer reporting agencies that do the same (Early Warning Services, Telecheck), but 80 percent of banks use ChexSystems.

How to check your ChexSystems report and score

There’s no shortage of information out there on the importance of checking your credit reports through Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. What’s often overlooked, though, is the attention that should be paid to your ChexSystems Consumer Disclosure.

As with your credit reports through the big three national bureaus, your ChexSystems report could include inaccuracies or evidence of fraud.

Dealing with these issues is essential for three reasons:

  • To improve your ChexSystems report, which is checked by banks when considering you for checking and savings accounts
  • To improve your ChexSystems score, which is used by some creditors and lenders when considering you for credit lines or loans
  • To avoid liability for fraudulent bank accounts opened in your name

Your ChexSystems report

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free copy of your ChexSystems Consumer Disclosure Report every 12 months. (This is the same law that gives you the right to free copies of your reports from the credit bureaus and other consumer reporting agencies.)

ChexSystems offers four ways you can order your Consumer Disclosure report:

  • Online
  • By phone: 800-428-9623
  • By fax: 602-659-2197
  • By mail:

Chex Systems, Inc.
Attn: Consumer Relations

7805 Hudson Rd, Suite 100

Woodbury, MN 55125

If requesting by fax or mail, use this Consumer Disclosure Request form.

Your ChexSystems score

Though it should not be confused with a credit score, your ChexSystems Consumer Score may be considered by banks, creditors, and lenders. It ranges from 100 to 899, the higher the better.

ChexSystems offers two ways to request your ChexSystems score:

  • By fax: 602-659-2197
  • By mail:

Chex Systems, Inc.
Attn: Consumer Relations

7805 Hudson Rd, Suite 100

Woodbury, MN 55125

Use this form to make your request. Expect to receive it, by mail, within 15 business days.

What you’ll find in your ChexSystems report

As with any other consumer report, the content of your ChexSystems report will depend on your history of activity. In general, though, ChexSystems reports include:

  • Personally-identifying information (name, date of birth, address)
  • Consumer ID number
  • Indication of whether you have a fraud alert on your report
  • Indication of whether you have a security freeze on your report
  • Reported information
    • Source (e.g., name of the bank)
    • Date reported
    • Reason reported (e.g., non-sufficient funds, account abuse, suspected fraud)
    • Charge off amount
    • Charge off statute (paid or unpaid)
    • Account closure date
  • Hard inquiries (initiated by you)
  • Soft inquiries (not initiated by you)
  • Check cashing inquiries (data provided by Certegy Check Services)
  • Retail info, like returned checks and certain collection accounts (data provided by Certegy Check Services)
  • History of checks ordered
  • Social security number validation
  • Additional info provided by Lexis-Nexis Risk Solutions

Take a look at a sample ChexSystems report.

How to get off ChexSystems

There are only two ways to have items removed from ChexSystems:

  • They fall offer naturally. As you may know, it takes 7 to 10 years for negative listings to fall off of your reports through the big three national credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. ChexSystems, however, deletes negative listings from your report after just 5 years.
  • The bank that reported the negative listing requests that it be removed from your report (the same way it works through the big three). But requesting that ChexSystems remove a listing is not something you should expect the bank to do without good cause. And that good cause would be your dispute of inaccurate information that you discover on your ChexSystems report. If the reporting bank cannot prove it is accurate, it must be removed from your report.

This is not to say listings can’t improve. For instance, if you pay what you owe, a closure status could go from unpaid to paid.

How to dispute items on your ChexSystems report

If you discover inaccurate information on your ChexSystems report, you have the right to dispute it (again, the same way it works through the big three national credit bureaus). What sort of information is disputable? All of it.

Specifically, look for inaccurate listings of:

  • Non-sufficient funds
  • Returned checks
  • Charge-offs
  • Unpaid status
  • Account closures
  • Account abuse
  • Suspected fraud
  • Hard inquiries
  • Bank accounts you do not recognize

When looking for inaccuracies, do not rely on your memory alone. The longer you’ve been banking, the harder it will be to remember every account and all of your activity. So dig up your banking records and check them against your ChexSystems report. If you have no records, or they’re incomplete, err on the side of caution and dispute any negative activity that you don’t remember.

ChexSystems offers four ways for you to dispute an item:

  • By mail (which is what we recommend)
  • By fax
  • Online
  • Over the phone (but only if you are not submitting supporting documentation)

You can also dispute items directly through the data furnisher (i.e., bank).

Disputing by mail

Though it’s not as quick and easy as other methods, we recommend you submit your dispute by mail. Be sure and do so via certified mail with return receipt requested. This way you can verify that ChexSystems has, indeed, received your dispute. You can also use the receipt date to count down the 30 to 45 days it should take them to investigate and respond.

Fill out this Request for Investigation form and mail it (certified with return receipt) to:

ChexSystems, Inc.
Attn: Consumer Relations
7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100
Woodbury, MN  55125

Be sure to include any supporting documentation (copies only; hold on to your originals).

How to place a security freeze on your ChexSystems report

While there is nothing you can do to guarantee that fraud will not be committed against you, placing a security freeze on your consumer reports is a pretty effective tactic. When a freeze is in place, this means that no one can access your consumer reports except you.

In the case of ChexSystems, this means that if someone tries to open a bank account in your name, the freeze will prevent the bank from checking your report. The same is true of creditors or lenders who want to look at your ChexSystems score. And without this information, the bank, creditor, or lender will not approve the application. Of course, this also means that when you do want to open a new bank account, you will need to lift the freeze first.

Placing a security freeze on your reports might seem an extreme measure to take, but in the wake of the Equifax hack, it is a step that many credit experts and regulators recommend.

ChexSystems offers four ways for you to place a security freeze on your report:

  • Online
  • By phone: 800-887-7652
  • By fax: 414-341-7445
  • By mail:

ChexSystems, Inc.
Attn: Security Freeze Department

7805 Hudson Rd, Suite 100

Woodbury, MN 55125

ChexSystems does not provide a form for placing a security freeze via fax or mail, so give them a call for instruction on what to include in the request.

Note, it is recommended that you place security freezes on your other consumer reports, particularly your Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovis reports. Each of these freezes must be placed separately with each bureau.

Learn more about security freezes.

How to place a security alert on your ChexSystems report

If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, it’s important to place a security alert (also known as a fraud alert) on your consumer reports. This alert tells potential banks, creditors, and lenders that someone may try and open a fraudulent account in your name. For this reason, they are supposed to contact you before opening a new account, so as to verify that you did, indeed, initiate the application.

That said, a fraud alert isn’t foolproof.

As credit expert Brian Krebs explains, “While lenders and service providers are supposed to seek and obtain your approval before granting credit in your name if you have a fraud alert on your file, they’re not legally required to do this.

This should serve as additional incentive to place a security freeze on your report. There’s no way banks, creditors, or lenders can even access your report without it.

See all of your options for placing a security alert on your ChexSystems report.

How to open a checking account with a bad ChexSystems report

While most banks (and credit unions) rely on ChexSystems, many offer second-chance checking accounts to those with bad reports.

NerdWallet has compiled an impressive list of these institutions. Nationwide banks with second-chance checking include Wells Fargo, Green Do Bank, MemoryBank, and Radius Bank. You will find many more options, though, if you search by regional bank or search by state.

Shop around for second-chance checking the same way you would for any other financial product. Look at fees, minimum balance requirements, and account features (e.g., debt card access, online bill pay, unlimited checking).

The point is, even if you need second-chance checking, you still have choices. So make sure it’s the best second-chance checking you can get.

How to avoid negative ChexSystems listings

Best case scenario, there is nothing negative for your bank to report to ChexSystems in the first place. To that end:

  • Monitor your account balance closely
  • Don’t spend money that your balance can’t cover, be it check or debit
  • Pay all non-sufficient funds fees and overdraft fees
  • If you have a negative balance, get it out of the red as soon as possible
  • Make sure all of your transactions have cleared before closing an account

Handling problems with ChexSystems

If you have any sort of trouble dealing with ChexSystems, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants to hear about it. This is an especially important option during the dispute process. Just be sure to dispute the listing with both ChexSystems and the data furnisher before bringing the CFPB into it, as they want to know that you have exhausted all other options first. Learn how to submit a complaint to the CFPB.

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Equifax Hack Checklist: 19 Ways to Protect Yourself Long-Term

September 12th, 2017 · Consumer Info, Credit Bureaus and Scores

Equifax Hack Checklist: 19 Ways to Protect Yourself Long-TermSome data breaches have more long-term effects than others. For instance, as frustrating as it can be when your credit card information is stolen, you can cancel the card and get a new number. But when it’s the kind of personal information that was compromised in the Equifax hack, the answer is not so simple and the threat is indefinite. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself long-term (and repair the damage to your credit, need be).

Monitor your credit

The compromised data in the Equifax hack included names, dates of birth, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and credit card account numbers. That’s an awful lot of information that could be used to commit all sorts of fraudulent acts against you, including the opening of fraudulent credit accounts in your name. Fortunately, this type of fraud can be detected through close credit monitoring:

  • If someone tries to open a credit account in your name – and the creditor checks your credit first, as most do – it will show up as a hard inquiry on your credit reports.
  • If someone successfully opens a credit account in your name, it will show up as an open account on your credit reports.

While detection is not prevention, the sooner you discover a fraudulent act, the more quickly you can respond to minimize damage (i.e., notify the credit bureaus, credit card issuer, FTC). Credit monitoring services can help you do just that.

1) Decide whether you want to sign up for free Equifax TrustedID Premier*

The Equifax response to the hack includes 12 months of free credit monitoring. Equifax TrustedID Premier not only covers your Equifax credit, but also Experian and TransUnion. It also includes the ability to lock and unlock your reports, an internet scan for your social security number, and $1 million of identity theft insurance. You can sign up at EquifaxSecurity2017.com.

Unfortunately, as helpful as this might be, there are a few of reasons why consumers may not feel comfortable doing this:

  • It’s hard to share personal information necessary to start this credit monitoring with a company that just had the personal information of 143 million consumers hacked.
  • Language on the Equifax site seemed to suggest that anyone who signed up for the free credit monitoring service would not be allowed to participate in class action lawsuits. Equifax has since stated the following: “In response to consumer inquiries, we have made it clear that the arbitration clause and class action waiver included in the Equifax and TrustedID Premier terms of use does not apply to this cybersecurity incident.”

    Incidentally, as of this writing, 23 class action lawsuits have already been filed against Equifax since the breach was announced. USA Today reports that “the legal complaints cite a range of legal claims, including alleged security negligence by Equifax, the delay in alerting the public and concerns about the free credit monitoring service the company has offered consumers.”

  • It took Equifax over a month to notify the public about the hack, which doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in them.

Fortunately, you have plenty of other credit monitoring options. Plus, even if you sign up for Equifax TrustedID Premier, remember that it’s only free to you for 12 months. After that, you’ll want another alternative, which you may want to go ahead and sign up for now. Because once your credit freezes are in place (covered in the next section), credit monitoring sites won’t be able to access your credit to start the service. You can lift the freezes anytime, but that’s an extra step you can avoid by signing up for all your credit monitoring now.

2) Sign up for Credit Karma free credit monitoring*

There are numerous free credit monitoring services you can use, but none of them monitor all three credit bureaus, so you will need to sign up for multiple services. One of them is Credit Karma, which monitors both TransUnion and Equifax. This will give you regular access to your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports and scores. You will also be notified of credit report activity that could indicate ID theft.

3) Sign up for Credit.com free credit monitoring*

The best supplement to Credit Karma is Credit.com, which monitors Experian. This will give you regular access to your Experian credit report and score. You will also be notified of credit report activity that could indicate ID theft.

*Note, if you’d rather not use the free credit monitoring through Equifax, Credit Karma, or Credit.com, you can always pay for it. All three credit bureaus offer paid credit monitoring services. In this case, it’s free through Equifax, but you can also sign up for the paid services of Experian and TransUnion.

Beyond that, there are plenty of other paid credit monitoring services. In fact, some security experts recommend you go through an independent third-party service (as opposed to the credit bureaus), like LifeLock or IDShield.

4) Use AnnualCreditReport.com

By law, you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports – from all three of the big credit bureaus – every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com. That said, checking your credit reports once a year simply isn’t frequent enough to catch fraudulent activity quickly enough to minimize damage. So it is highly recommended that you supplement these annual free copies with a service (free or paid) that monitors your reports all year long.

5) Request your Innovis credit report

Though we talk most about the big three national credit bureaus, there is another that warrants attention. Innovis may not be used by creditors nearly as often as Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax, but “the fourth credit bureau,” as it is known, is used enough for you to care what’s on your reports. Because if an identity thief opens an account in your name through a creditor that does use Innovis, you need to know about it and that can only happen if you’re keeping an eye on your Innovis report.

As with Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, you can request a free copy of your Innovis credit report every 12 months.

6) Request your ChexSystems credit report

It’s not just fraudulent credit accounts you need to be worried about in the wake of the
Equifax hack. It’s fraudulent bank accounts, too. They won’t show up in your credit reports, but they could show up in your ChexSystems consumer report. When customers mishandle their accounts, banks report them to ChexSystems. So this could be a good way for you to spot fraudulent accounts opened in your name, assuming, of course, they have been “mishandled” by the fraudster (non-sufficient funds, unpaid feeds, charge-off).

As with credit reports, you can request a free copy of your ChexSystems consumer report every 12 months.

Freeze your credit

While monitoring your credit will help you catch fraudulent activity, freezing your credit can actually help you prevent it. Most creditors will not extend new credit without doing a credit check first. That’s what makes a credit freeze – also known as a security freeze – such a powerful tool.

If you have a credit freeze in place, creditors are denied access to your credit reports, and those reports cannot be used to generate credit scores. So if a fraudster applies for credit in your name, they will likely be denied because the lender has no credit access.

Prior to the Equifax hack, security experts were already recommending that every consumer place a security freeze on their credit files. Post-Equifax hack, it should be a given.

That said, it’s important to go into knowing exactly what to expect. Yes, there are pros, but there are some cons, too.

Pros of a credit freeze

  • Restricts access to your credit reports
  • You can still access your own credit reports
  • It has zero impact on your credit score
  • It will give you peace of mind

Cons of a credit feeze

  • It doesn’t prevent fraudsters from using existing credit accounts (you’ll have to monitor your credit reports and financial accounts to catch that)
  • You’ll have to lift the freeze when you want to apply for credit so that the lender(s) can access your reports
  • You won’t be able register for new credit monitoring while a freeze is in place (so be sure and sign up for credit monitoring before you put the security freezes in place)
  • Fees may apply, to place the freeze and to lift it

The process for placing a credit freeze is usually pretty quick and easy:

  • Use the online request form
  • Provide your personal information
  • Pay any necessary fee (if it’s not free, it could be anywhere from $3-$15 per bureau)
  • Store your PIN in a safe place (you’ll need it to lift the freeze, so don’t lose it)

In some cases, the bureau may not be able to process your request online. Or maybe you’d rather not do it online anyway. In either case, call the bureau or send your request via regular mail. Just remember, once your credit freeze is in place, you’ll have to lift it before applying for credit and you can’t expect it to be immediate. So plan ahead and request it be lifted 3 business days prior to when you need it.

Credit freeze links

7)  Place an Equifax credit freeze

8) Place an Experian credit freeze

9) Place a TransUnion credit freeze

10) Place an Innovis credit freeze

11) Place a ChexSystems credit freeze

Find more helpful security freeze info here, including bureau phone numbers, mailing addresses, fee breakdowns by state, and the difference between a security freeze and a fraud alert.

Monitor your credit card accounts

Again, some credit card account numbers were among the information compromised in the Equifax hack. So it is essential that you monitor your accounts more closely than ever.

12) Cancel your compromised credit card, need be

If your credit card number was among the 209,000 compromised in the hack, Equifax will notify you by mail. If you receive this notification, contact your credit card issuer so that they can cancel the card and get you a new one with a different account number.

13) Check your online credit card accounts regularly

The sooner you can detect fraudulent activity on your credit card account, the sooner you can report it and minimize the damage. For this reason, it is imperative that you not limit your monitoring of credit card activity to your monthly statements. Use your online access to check your accounts on a regular basis – at least weekly, though daily would be ideal.

14) Set up fraud alerts

If someone has used your credit card account fraudulently, you want to know about it right away. Sure, you may catch it the next time you check your account activity, but why wait? Set up a fraud alert that lets you know – via email or text – when a transaction is made over a certain dollar amount.

Just keep in mind that it’s not just high dollar amounts you need to concern yourself with. Often, fraudsters will charge small amounts to verify the validity of a card then charge a higher dollar amount later. For this reason, you may want to set your alert to zero, giving you the heads up any time a transaction is made to your account.

Report fraudulent activity immediately

If you discover fraudulent activity, act immediately so that you can minimize the damage.

15) Notify the company through which the fraudulent activity took place

They will take steps to protect your account. For instance, a credit card company can cancel your card and issue you a new credit card number.

16) File an Identity Theft Report

The FTC has a user-friendly online process for submitting an Identity Theft Report. Just be prepared to answer how your stolen information was used (i.e., to open a credit card account, bank account, or utility account; file a tax return; to get government services; etc.). You may also want to file a report with your local police.

17) Place fraud alerts on your credit reports

A fraud alert tells potential creditors to check with you before extending new credit, just to verify that you were, indeed, the person who made the credit request.

18) Dispute the fraudulent listings with the credit bureaus

If the fraudulent act has resulted in incorrect listings on your credit reports, let the credit bureaus know about it. Providing a copy of your Identity Theft Report and/or police report should help.

19) File your taxes early

The information compromised in the Equifax hack is enough for a thief to file a tax return in your name. While there is no guaranteed means of preventing them from doing so, you can try and beat them to the punch by filing your tax return early.

Overwhelmed? Prioritize. First and foremost, sign up for some kind of credit monitoring. Then freeze your credit reports and keep a close eye on your credit card accounts. None of this guarantees fraud prevention, but it helps.

Learn more about protecting yourself from identity theft.

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21 Credit Repair Tools We Will Show You How to Use

September 5th, 2017 · Credit Repair

21 Credit Repair Tools You Should Know How to UseYou may not need them all, but the more credit repair tools you know how to use, the more opportunities you have to improve your credit score. Pick and choose what you need from these credit monitoring tools, sample credit repair letters, and tools for credit building and protection.

Credit monitoring tools

The first step to repairing your credit is knowing what’s dragging it down, so checking and monitoring your credit reports and scores is key. Here are several ways you can do that, mostly for free.

1) AnnaulCreditReport.com (FREE)

By law, you are entitled to see your credit reports from all three national credit bureaus every 12 months. The way you request these reports is through AnnualCreditReport.com. Just be sure to request all three, as your reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax will not necessarily reflect the same information. You can request your reports all at once, or you can stagger them throughout the year. But if it’s been a while since you’ve checked your reports, or you’re trying to repair your credit, you should check all three immediately.

2) Credit Karma (FREE)

There are numerous, free credit monitoring sites that allow you to see information from your credit reports – as well as credit scores – all year long. Unfortunately, none are going to show you reports and scores from all three credit bureaus. That means you’ll need to subscribe to multiple credit monitoring sites. The most important one is Credit Karma, as it provides reports and VantageScores from both TransUnion and Equifax. (It’s also super user friendly.)

3) Credit.com (FREE)

A number of free credit monitoring sites only show you reports and scores from one credit bureau, usually Transunion (which you can already see through Credit Karma). Credit.com is the exception, through which you can see your Experian report and VantageScore, as well as the Experian National Equivalency Score.

4) Discover Scorecard (FREE)

Again, the credit scores you see through Credit Karma and Credit.com are VantageScores. Though they will give you a good idea of where your credit stands, most lenders use FICO Scores. There are numerous FICO scoring models, the scores for which FICO charges you for. However, you can see your FICO Score for free through Discover Scorecard even if you do not have a Discover card. Also, whatever credit card you do have may include an updated FICO Score on your statement every month. Look for it.

5) FICO Score 3-Bureau Report ($)

In general, you need not pay for your credit reports and scores, as there are so many free options that can get the job done just fine. However, if you are in the market for a big purchase, like a home or a car, it is probably a good idea to pay to see your industry-specific FICO Scores. The FICO Score 3-Bureau Report will give you one-time access to your FICO Scores specific to credit cards, auto, and mortgage lending (from all three bureaus, including your credit reports). The price may change, but as of this writing the one-time fee is $59.85 a month.

6) FICO Ultimate 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring ($)

The one-time access provided by the 3-bureau report may not do the trick. With FICO Ultimate 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring, you get monthly access to the above-referenced information, a monthly subscription that you can cancel at any time. The price may change, but as of this writing the fee is $29.95 a month.

Sample credit repair letters*

7) Dispute letter (FREE)

When you use the credit monitoring tools listed above, you should be doing more than educating yourself about what’s on your reports. You should be looking for opportunities to dispute listings that could be dragging down your credit score. Specifically, look for anything that could be inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable. If and when you find it, send the credit bureaus a dispute letter; it could prove the most powerful of your credit repair tools.

Learn more about credit disputes.

8) Debt validation letter (FREE)

Just because a debt collector says you owe them money that’s no reason to pay them without question. Even if it’s not a scam, they may not have the necessary documentation to validate the debt appropriately. Make them prove it. Within 30 days of receiving the initial communication from a debt collector, send them a debt validation letter. If they cannot validate the debt, then you are not obligated to pay it and the associated listing must be removed from your credit reports. See our sample debt validation letter.

Learn more about debt validation.

9) Zombie debt letter (FREE)

Once debt has passed the statute of limitations (SOL), you are no longer legally responsible for it. Yes, you still owe the debt, but you cannot be sued for it. So if a debt collector is hounding you for old debt, check the SOL in your state. If it’s passed, send the debt collector a zombie debt letter letting them know that the SOL has passed and asking them to stop contacting you about it. Note, statute of limitations should not be confused with the length of time it takes for a listing to fall off your credit reports; it’s not the same thing.

10) Remove inquiries letter (FREE)

There are two types of credit inquiries – hard and soft. Soft inquiries are nothing to concern yourself with, as they’re not seen by lenders and they do not impact your credit score. Hard inquiries, on the other hand, are seen by lenders and can impact your credit. Why? Because hard inquiries happen when you apply for credit. Have too many of these and it makes you look credit-hungry, which classifies you as a risk. Of all the things on your credit reports that might need your attention, this is probably last on the list. When you’re ready, try this remove inquires letter.

11) Goodwill letter (FREE)

If you have late payments on your credit reports, you may not be stuck with them. If they’re inaccurate or unverifiable, you may be able to have them removed via a credit dispute letter, as discussed above. But if that doesn’t work, you still have another option. Provided it’s been a long while since your late payment(s), and you have since created a timely payment history, write the original creditor what’s called a goodwill letter. Acknowledge your past mistake, explain why it happened, and kindly ask if they will remove the late payment listing(s).

12) Pay-for-delete letter ($)

If you have an outstanding debt that cannot be removed from your credit reports via credit dispute or debt validation, consider trying a pay-for-delete letter. Just like it sounds, this is an agreement between you and a collection agency in which you pay the debt and they delete the listing from your credit reports. They are under no obligation to do this, but it does happen.

*These are sample credit repair letters, meaning they should not be sent as is. Use them as guidelines and edit them to include information specific to your situation. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have dozens of other sample credit repair letters to meet various needs.

Credit building tools

13) Secured credit card ($)

You don’t need good credit to qualify for a credit card. What you may need, though, is a deposit that you can put toward a secured credit card. Put up $200, for instance, and you get a $200 limit. What’s key is making sure you apply for a card that’s going to get reported to all three national credit bureaus. Use good credit card practices and it will help boost your score. You’ll eventually qualify for a regular credit card, at which point you can get your deposit back.

14) Credit builder loan ($)

As the name implies, you don’t need good credit to qualify for a credit builder loan. They are intended for consumers with bad (or no) credit. They can be helpful on their own, but especially in combination with a secured credit card, as they make for a good credit mix, which accounts for 10 percent of your FICO Score and is “highly influential” on your VantageScore.

15) Rent reporting service ($)

If you pay your rent on time, you should get credit for it. A rent reporting service can help. Each of them works a little differently, but the gist of it is this – you pay on time, it gets reported to the credit bureaus. Only FICO Score 9, FICO Score XD, and VantageScore actually use rent payments in credit score calculations. But if they are reported, all three bureaus will include rent payments in your credit reports. There are numerous rent reporting options, but we recommend RentTrack and eRentPayment, as they report to all three credit bureaus.

Learn more about rent reporting companies in What Does a Landlord Credit Check Show?

16) Credit counseling service (FREE/$)

Whether you’re just struggling with your budget or considering bankruptcy, a credit counseling service may be able to help. The initial consultation, information and resources, and classes and workshops should be free. If you set up a debt management plan, though, or get bankruptcy counseling, expect that to come with a fee.

Apps (FREE/$)

The easier it is for you to plan and track your finances, the easier it will be to build your credit. As you may have already guessed, there’s an app for that. Lots of them, in fact.

17) A banking app can help you schedule payments, check account balances, set fraud alerts for transactions that go over (or under) a certain amount, and more. Check on your bank’s website for a link. If you don’t see one, give them a call and ask if they have one.

18) A budgeting app can help you set budgeting goals and keep track of your transactions. There are numerous budgeting apps out there, but we recommend the free versions of Mint and LearnVest. YNAB is also a good one, though it does come with a fee of $5 a month or $50 a year.

19)
A debt management app can be a helpful supplement to budgeting apps. The best ones – Debt Free for iOS and Debt Payoff Planner – each come with a nominal fee of 99 cents.

You’ll also find apps through subscription credit monitoring sites (e.g., Credit Karma, Credit.com).

Credit protection tools

20) Fraud alert (FREE)

Whether you have been a victim of fraud – or it’s not fraud yet, but you suspect your personal information has been compromised – you can place a fraud alert on your credit reports. When lenders look at your report, they will see the fraud alert, letting them know they should contact you before extending new credit, just to be sure you are, in fact, the person who initiated it.

An Initial Fraud Alert lasts 90 days and can be renewed indefinitely. An Extended Fraud Alert lasts 7 years, but requires an identity theft report. Finally, there is an Active Duty Fraud alert that servicemembers can place on their reports for 12 months.

21) Credit freeze ($)

If you want to take credit protection a step further than a fraud alert, consider a credit freeze. Unlike a fraud alert, a credit freeze prevents anyone from checking your credit at all. This is a stronger safeguard for two reasons: 1) Most lenders won’t extend credit without a credit check first, and 2) though they are supposed to check with you when they see the fraud alert on your reports, there is no guarantee a lender will do so.

Need a plan of action?

Credit repair tools are helpful, but best used within the context of a bigger plan. Check out our comprehensive guide to DIY credit repair.

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