Bad credit can make life much more difficult than it should be. You may have trouble qualifying for loans and credit cards, and if you do get credit cards, they might have high interest rates. Also, your current creditors might raise your interest rates. You might even have trouble getting a job or signing up for utilities.
It’s no fun when your credit haunts you in everything you try to do. But it is possible to get your credit back on the right track. Here are some simple steps you can take to get your credit report back into shape.
- Request a free copy of your credit report from all three reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of these companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com. Currently, this is the only source for getting a free copy of your report as required by law.
Since you can get a free copy of your report from each agency once a year, take the opportunity to do so. Scour each report for errors. If there is something that you don’t recognize, or if a creditor has reported incorrect information, file a dispute with the credit bureau or bureaus that list that information. They are required by law to investigate, and if the information is found to be false, it must be removed.
- Pay your debts down. When you have one or more credit cards that are maxed out, your credit score will suffer. Stop charging for a while and put as much money as possible toward lowering your balances. Soon your credit score will start rising.
- Get caught up on your payments. If you’re currently behind, that will seriously impact your credit score. If you have a past delinquency but are now current in your payments, the delinquencies will have an effect, but they won’t be nearly as serious. If you’re having trouble making your payments, talk to creditors and see if they will accept reduced payments and bring your account current. Many will be willing to work with you.
- Sometimes you can benefit from getting another credit card, as long as you do not use it. This gives you more available credit, lowering your balance-to-credit-limit ratios which improves your credit score. But if the temptation to charge would be too great, you’re better off just trying to pay off the debt you already have.
- If you have a lot of past credit problems that are still haunting you, try getting a secured credit card from your bank or a credit agency. These cards require a deposit to secure your credit line, but they will help you rebuild your credit as long as you keep up with your payments.
There’s no way to instantly improve your credit. But by following these steps, you can improve your credit scores in a few months’ time. Good luck!