Your credit history and scores can impact your entire life. Whether or not you can get a loan—and at what interest—often depends on your credit. Credit can also play a role in whether you can rent the apartment you want, get a credit card for use in daily life or enjoy a great deal on car insurance. Good credit improves your chances at these things, while bad credit decreases them.
It’s important to stay on top of your credit report and work to repair your credit when problems arise. You don’t have to pay a fortune to do that, though. Find out more about free credit repair for low-income families and individuals below.
In This Piece
- Your Credit Report Card
- Free Access to Your Credit Reports
- A Free Look at Your Credit Score
- Educating Yourself on Consumer Credit Sites
- Disputing Inaccurate Information on Your Credit Reports
- Creating a Plan to Pay Down Debt
- Working With a Credit Counselor
- Increase Your Credit Limit
Your Credit Report Card
The first step in repairing your credit is understanding where you stand and what might be affecting your credit score. One way to get free credit report help is sign up with Credit.com to view your free credit report card. This free tool:
- Gives you some insight into what might be on your credit report.
- Breaks your credit performance down into five major categories, scoring each with an easy-to-understand letter grade.
- Lets you see which areas are most impacting your credit so you can focus on the biggest issues when you begin to work on credit repair.
Free Access to Your Credit Reports
You can get more details about your current credit situation by getting a copy of your credit reports. You’ll want to get a copy of your report with each of the three major credit bureaus, as the information in each file can be different. Here are some ways to get your credit reports for free:
- Use AnnualCreditReport.com. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — every 12 months via annualcreditreport.com. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit bureaus started offering this perk once a week. As of early 2023, you could still get your free credit report once a week with each of the bureaus, though this option may end at any time.
- Request the report in writing after being denied credit. If you’re denied credit based on something in your credit report, the lender must notify you in writing. The notification must include the name of the bureau that provided the credit report and some general idea of what caused the denial. When you receive that notification, you can use it to request a copy of your credit report from the bureau in question.
- Check your financial accounts for any credit reporting perks. Some credit card and banking accounts come with credit reporting perks. You may be able to see some information about your credit report via the customer service portal for your account, so check with your lender or bank to find out if that’s the case.
A Free Look at Your Credit Score
Credit scores and reports aren’t the same thing. Your free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com, for example, doesn’t come with a credit score. Getting your credit score in addition to your report gives you a fuller picture of your credit performance and helps you understand how much work you may have to do. Here are some ways you might be able to see your credit score for free:
- Sign up for a free credit score service. Some apps and businesses offer free access to one of your credit scores for informational purposes. You can have a number of credit scores, as there are different scoring models and the information in each of your credit reports can be different. Because of that, your informational credit score via these free options typically won’t line up exactly with the score a lender might pull. However, checking your free credit score once a month can help you understand whether you’re moving in the right direction.
- Get your credit score via your lender. Some lenders and credit card companies provide one of your credit scores monthly as a perk. Check your account portal, app, or credit card statement to see if this is the case.
- Start a free trial for a credit score monitoring service. If you want access to more than one informational credit score, consider signing up for a free trial of ExtraCredit. You won’t be charged if you cancel your account within any trial period that might be offered, but many people find the perks and savings available in the app make it worth the monthly subscription.
Educating Yourself on Consumer Credit Sites
When it comes to free credit repair and report help, consumer credit sites are a great resource. You can browse blogs, articles, and how-to tips on these sites to better understand how you can move forward positively with your finances. Some sites to consider include:
- Credit.com. Browse the Credit.com blog for tons of information on how credit works, how to repair or improve yours, and how to save money when dealing with credit or other parts of daily life.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB is a government agency that works to educate and inform consumers on a variety of topics, including credit and debt.
- The Federal Trade Commission. The FTC also provides a lot of consumer advice, including information about dealing with or avoiding fraud and identity theft and learning about your credit. You can also learn about your rights under federal credit and debt laws.
Disputing Inaccurate Information on Your Credit Reports
After educating yourself about what’s in your credit report, where your score stands and what your rights as a consumer are, you can take action on DIY credit repair. This involves disputing inaccurate information on your credit reports. The process includes:
- Finding errors on your report. Review your credit report carefully for errors. Mistakes can include the wrong names and addresses, incorrect balances, past due payments that weren’t past due, or even accounts that aren’t yours.
- Disputing them in writing with the credit bureau. Send a letter or use credit bureau online tools to dispute each error. Include information about what the error is and why you believe it’s wrong. Attach documentation supporting your case whenever possible.
- Following up if necessary. The credit bureaus have 30 days from receipt of a dispute to investigate each matter. When the investigation is concluded, they have 5 days to notify you of the results. Set follow-up reminders so you can make sure you receive responses to your disputes. You can also send a new dispute with additional information or documentation if your dispute is denied.
Creating a Plan to Pay Down Debt
If all the information on your credit report is accurate and you’ve done everything else you can to repair your credit, you may simply need to pay down some debt. If your credit utilization is too high, it can significantly impact your score. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends keeping credit utilization under 30% for the best results.
Working With a Credit Counselor
Not sure how to pay down your debt or get hold of your current financial situation? Working with a reputable, certified credit counselor might help. These organizations provide education and assistance in setting up budgets, managing bills, and understanding what you can do to create a healthier financial picture for you and your family. Check into organizations such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to see if there’s a free credit advisor or credit counselor in your area.
Increase Your Credit Limit
If you can’t afford to substantially lower the debt on your revolving credit accounts to reduce credit utilization, you might consider asking for a credit limit increase. If you have decent credit and have been with a credit card company for a while, they may honor this request.
That automatically decreases your credit utilization percentage, which might offer a temporary positive impact on your credit score, as long as you don’t use this credit. If you can, try not to think of it as available credit, because if you use your new available credit, you lose the advantage of getting more credit in the first place.
Get Started Today
It’s always a good time to start working on your credit. Choose one or more of these free credit repair tips and get started today.
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