Your credit history and the scores based on it are important financial tools. Depending on what’s on your credit report, it can cause financial doors to be opened or closed. But what if your credit score is less-than-ideal? Credit repair is one path to a positive impact on your credit history. Find out how to repair your credit in this guide.
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In This Piece:
- How to Repair Your Credit Yourself in Six Steps
- How to Repair Your Bad Credit with Professional Help
- Work on Credit Repair Now
How to Repair Your Credit Yourself in Six Steps
Before we delve in, a quick note: improving or repairing your credit can’t just happen overnight. If you’re committed to getting your credit where you want it to be, consistent and dedicated work is key. It might even require you to change a few habits. But if you’re ready to repair your credit, here are six steps:
1. Get a look at your credit reports
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. You can get those reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. And due to the pandemic, for a limited time, you can get each of your credit reports weekly for free.
You can also get your credit reports via mail. Download the official request form, print it and fill it out according to the instructions. Then mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If you want anytime access to your report, you can also subscribe to a service like ExtraCredit®. You can get access to 28 of your FICO scores and your credit reports, so you can keep tabs on exactly where you are with credit. Just a quick note: your credit score won’t be on your credit reports.
2. Go Over Your Reports
Your credit report is a summary of your accounts, payment history and other information reported by lenders and creditors. To help make sense of all that content, let’s break down what appears in a credit report.
- Personal information: Identity-related information like your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth starts off the report.
- Account information: These are records related to your credit accounts. Broadly, this category covers the type, age, ownership and payment status of accounts.
- Inquiry information: Hard and soft inquiries are listed on your report. Soft inquiries don’t impact your score, but hard inquiries do. They can remain on your report for up to two years but typically only impact your score for one.
- Bankruptcies: Any public records related to bankruptcy type and filing date appear here.
- Collections: Past due accounts that are with collection agencies will be noted.
3. Look for Mistakes on Your Credit Report
In 2021, a study by Consumer Reports found that 34% of participants had at least one error on their credit report. You might have an error on your own credit report—and you can find it, if you know what to look for.:
- Negative items that are outside the statute of limitations.
- Misspellings in your name or inaccurate personal information.
- Accounts that don’t belong to you or are mistakenly attributed to you.
- Closed accounts reported as open.
- On-time payments that were marked as late.
- The same debt that’s listed more than once.
- Accounts that were opened as a result of identity theft.
- Inaccurate or unapproved inquiry information.
- Wrong credit limit or paid balance amounts.
Your credit repair to-do list should, at the least, include the following:
- Making sure your personal information is all correct and your file isn’t mixed with someone else who shares a similar name.
- Taking a fine-tooth comb to your account information, specifically looking at:
- Account number
- Individual vs. joint responsibility
- Open/close dates
- Credit type
- Highest and current balances
- Credit limit
- Monthly payment
- Late payments and statements or remarks.
- Verifying the origin of hard inquiries to confirm you gave your consent for each.
- Looking for bankruptcy information that is older than 10 years.
4. Dispute Errors with Credit Bureaus
A formal dispute consists of a letter you write to the credit bureau officially notifying it of the belief that there are errors on your credit. It helps to use a credit dispute letter template so you can make sure everything is in the right place. Your letter should include the following:
- Your contact information, including name, address, email address and phone number.
- A listing of each mistake you found and the outcome you want, like removal or correction of inaccurate information.
- Copies of records, documents and other evidence showing credit report information is inaccurate or outside the statute of limitations. Never send originals!
- A copy of your credit report with incorrect information circled in red or otherwise noted.
Once the credit bureau receives the letter, an investigation begins. If the original reporting agency can’t document and support what it reported, the credit bureau typically has to remove the information or correct it.
Typically, investigations must occur within 30-45 days of receiving your dispute letter. Once the investigation is completed, the bureau has to notify you in writing. If you send additional information during the investigation period, the bureau gets an additional 15 days to investigate to account for the new information.
You can find all three credit bureaus’ contact information here, plus options for getting the dispute process started. Here are all their addresses, plus their phone numbers:
Equifax Information Services LLC
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348
Visit this page or call 866-349-5191
PO Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Visit this page or call 888-397-3742
Consumer Dispute Center
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Visit this page or call 800-916-8800
5. Dispute Errors With Lenders
You may need to dispute inaccuracies with your original creditors. This entails contacting the furnisher of the inaccurate data—usually the lender or creditor associated with an account. If you don’t dispute the information with the creditor, they may end up re-submitting the errors to the credit bureaus, resulting in it being re-added to your credit report.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has some helpful resources on this front, including a sample letter you can send to businesses that supplied the information.
This step is very similar to disputing errors with credit bureaus. You’ll want to cover all the bases in your formal letter, including your contact information, clear identification of mistakes and copies of supporting documents. These companies are required to respond to disputes, so they often have a dedicated address for sending letters.
6. Build Your Credit
Credit repair isn’t a magic wand. While you might experience positive results from credit repair, depending on the errors that are corrected and your overall credit history, your score may not be impacted much overnight. And it can take a while for this effort to have a positive impact.
During that time, you can take more steps to build credit yourself. Monthly budgeting, making timely payments and keeping your credit card debt low are all good strategies for smarter personal finances. Understanding the factors that affect your credit—payment history, credit utilization, account mix, inquiries and age of accounts—can also help you target areas for improvement.
How to Repair Your Bad Credit With Professional Help
If you’re thinking that the steps above sound like a lot of work, you’re not wrong. DIY credit repair can be difficult, but it can be especially tedious. You have to go through a lot of information, gather a bunch of documents and write letters. Then you have to be willing to follow up and even provide support for your claims.
A lot of people simply don’t have the time, energy or skills to repair their own credit. And that’s okay! You can work with an experienced service such as Lexington Law Firm or CreditRepair.com to help you handle all of the above steps.
Some benefits of working with a credit repair service include:
- Experienced personnel pulls your credit reports to review with you.
- You get a detailed report about what’s on your reports and they work with you to identify inaccurate items that can be challenged.
- The credit repair company creates and sends dispute letters on your behalf.
- Reps with the credit repair service follow up on the disputes, even potentially working with you to see if a decision can be appealed, and then doing so on your behalf if necessary.
Credit repair companies can’t promise they’ll bring up your credit score. But they can make a tedious process much less of a burden on you and provide actionable tools to help you positively impact your credit in the future.
Work on Credit Repair Now
How do you repair bad credit? You learn what’s on your credit report, ensure it’s all accurate and then you manage credit and money responsibly moving forward. If you’re ready to get started but want some help, consider reaching out to a credit repair firm today.
Disclosure: Credit.com and CreditRepair.com are both owned by the same company, Progrexion Holdings Inc. John C Heath, Attorney at Law, PC, d/b/a Lexington Law Firm is an independent law firm that uses Progrexion as a provider of business and administrative services.]
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