Need to rebuild your credit completely? Or maybe you just want to clean it up a bit? Here are 11 ideas to help you get back on the good credit wagon.
Schedule a monthly check-up.
Just like you need regular doctor’s visits to monitor your health, you need regular check-ups on your credit health as well. Pencil some time in when you pay your monthly bills to review your credit score and glance over your credit report. This way, you’ll be sure to catch any negative items that have suddenly appeared and take quick steps to correct them. You’ll also be more likely to keep yourself accountable for progress when you know a monthly check-up is approaching.
Keep track of important milestones.
Most negative items stay on your credit report for 7 years before coming off—but your creditors aren’t going to go out of their way to make sure things come off when they’re supposed to! That’s where you come in. If you have an important milestone approaching, like seven years since paying off a tax lien, mark your calendar to pull your credit report to see that it’s been removed. It may require a little action on your part to make sure the negative item does, in fact, come off.
Keep an eye on the small stuff.
When you’re working toward a major goal like paying off debt, it can be easy to lose sight of the minor details. But keep a watchful eye on your credit report to see that the small things haven’t changed, like the spelling of your name or your address. These tiny errors can make a big difference in the accuracy of your report.
Bargain with your debt collectors.
In the eyes of the credit bureaus, it doesn’t matter if you pay off a debt completely or settle with the company to pay a portion of the full amount. So, it’s worth a shot at bargaining with your creditors to see if they’ll agree to a lower payoff. You might save yourself money, and you’ll be able to move on to other important financial goals.
Beware of double jeopardy.
If an account is in collections, sometimes the debt is sold from one collection agency to another. This can result in the same debt showing up multiple times on your report! It may take some time to figure out which collection agency is current, but once you do, you’ll want to dispute the rest and see that they’re removed from your report (and then get to work on paying off that debt!).
Settle your tax liens.
This could be a huge boost for your credit score. If you have a tax lien on your credit report, you may be able to have it removed if you pay it off or settle the debt. The same might be true if you come to an installment agreement with the IRS. Take steps immediately to find out if you qualify, because this is one surefire way to improve your credit fast!
Use a secured card.
Even with poor credit, you should be able to get a secured credit card. A secured credit card works just like a regular credit card, but it’s actually pulling money you’ve prepaid ahead of time. This way, there’s no spending money you don’t have. Using a secured credit card responsibly is a great way to build your credit and show lenders you’re working to improve your financial track record.
Don’t max out your secured card.
Even if it’s a secured card, it dings your score when you carry a high balance. Your goal should be to use no more than 15-20% of your credit limit at all times.
Use credit in a positive way.
If you’ve had problems with credit in the past, you may be wary of jumping in and using credit cards again. The key is to use them responsibly, only for items that are already in your budget and can be paid off immediately. Try using your credit card for one thing each month, like gas, then paying off the balance right away.
When you find a mistake on your credit report, it’s best to dispute it with a physical letter instead of doing it online. This way, there’s a solid paper trail of your request. You’ll want to send a letter to each of the major credit bureaus that are showing the error, along with the creditor involved.
Now that you’re working so hard to repair your credit, you don’t want to screw it all up with one late payment! Stay on top of all your accounts, keeping a calendar showing when each payment is due. You can even pledge to pay all bills one week ahead of time, just to be sure, or better yet, set them up on an automatic payment schedule.