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How to Clean Up Your Credit Report

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A woman sits in her chair and scrolls on her laptop, learning how to clean up her credit report.

You probably don’t check your credit regularly, but if you have errors on your credit report or are trying to increase your credit score and build your credit, this can be a costly mistake. Ensuring your credit report is accurate and that you’re aware of any issues you may need to address—whether that’s a misreported late payment or a too high credit utilization—can help you take the steps you need to keep bettering your financial footing. Wondering how to clean up your credit report? We’ve got some tips and tricks that can point you in the right direction.

How to Clean Up Your Credit Report

If you have a few errors on your credit, there are some things you can do to clean up your report. Here are six ways to improve your credit score:

1. Pull Your Credit Reports

The Fair Credit Reporting Act lets you get one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you rotate through the bureaus, that means you can get a free credit report once every four months, ensuring you’re aware of any issues or problems that need to be dealt with in a timely manner.

You can pull your credit reports for free each year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

2. Go Through Your Credit Reports Line by Line

It can be tedious work, especially if you have a long credit history, but it’s important to thoroughly check your credit report each time you pull it. Check loan statuses, account balances, your payment history, the list of recent credit inquiries and anything else for accuracy.

You should also pay attention to your personal information even though it doesn’t directly impact your score. Unfamiliar line items, like a wrong address or an incorrect birth date, could be a warning sign for identity theft.

3. Dispute Any Errors

If you find something reported incorrectly on your credit report, you can dispute the error by filing a formal complaint with the bureau. Even if the same error appears on all three of your credit reports, you’ll need to file a separate dispute with each one.

Be sure to include any supporting documentation when you file your dispute. And when you dispute errors on your credit report, you’re making a great towards fixing your credit. If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, that needs to be reported to the local police department.

4. Try to Get Past-Due Accounts Off of Your Report

If you have a past-due account listed on your report, it may be possible to get the creditor to remove it. This usually only works if you were late just one time after a long history of on-time payments and have made your payments as scheduled since. The creditor is also under no obligation to do this for you, but some will if you’ve been a good customer and ask nicely.

5. Lower Your Credit Utilization Ratio

Your credit utilization ratio is the ratio of how much credit you’re using to how much you have available. In general, the lower this ratio, the better. Using up too much of your available credit indicates that you may be relying too heavily on credit cards for daily living expenses, which makes you a bigger credit risk and lowers your credit score. Lower your credit utilization ratio by paying off big balances and not adding any additional debt.

6. Take Care of Any Outstanding Judgments or Loans

If you have loans or judgments that haven’t been paid on your credit report, it could be driving your score down. If you’re already on payment plans for these, make sure you’re making payments on time, and if you’re not, it’s a good idea to call the lenders and see if it’s an option as long as you can afford the payments. Depending on the type of loan, you may also be able to settle with the lender for a lesser amount if you pay in a lump sum.

How Can I Clean My Credit Report Fast?

Outside of purging inaccurate information from your credit reports, cleaning up credit missteps you made in the past can take some time. Getting any accounts you owe out of delinquency or collections can be one way to clean up your report. However, most negative information takes around seven or more years to age completely off of your credit reports, and certain bankruptcies taking up to 10 years, so it’s more of a marathon than a sprint.

How Do You Get Things Removed from Your Credit Report?

To get something removed from your credit report, you either have to talk to the lender or creditor directly or file a formal request with the credit bureau. It’s important to understand that unless something is inaccurate, neither party has to remove anything they don’t want to, and it can be difficult to get them to grant this request otherwise.

How Do You Remove Negative Remarks on Your Credit Report?

In general, once a negative item appears on your credit, it can be difficult to simply have it removed. Asking never hurts, but it’s not likely to result in much. Debt collectors, for instance, have contracts with the credit reporting agencies that can prohibit pay for removals deals, and they’re typically not going to risk those relationships based on a goodwill request or to get paid on a single account. In most cases, you’ll just have to wait for the negative item to age off unless it’s incorrect and you can dispute it.

How Can I Raise My Score in 30 Days?

The quickest way to potentially rebuild your credit is to payoff high credit card balances. Creditors report your balances about once a month, usually around your statement billing date. Those balances heavily influence your credit utilization ratio, which is the second most important factor when it comes to most credit scores. If you can get your balances under 30% of their limits—under 10% is even better—you could see an improvement in your score in 30 to 60 days.

Getting a rapid rescore can also help you boost your credit. You’ll still have to do something to address factors pulling your credit score down, such as paying down a high balance or removing an inaccurate account, but once you do, a rapid rescore lets you reap the score benefits much faster than if you just wait for it to update naturally. This can be especially helpful if you’re applying for a mortgage or other type of credit and you’re just a few points off from being approved.

How Else Can I Get a Fresh Start on My Credit?

The effects of negative information on your credit scores will lessen over time, and as you wait for your credit score to rebound, the best way to get a fresh start on your credit score is to focus on establishing smart spending habits. Payoff and keep down high credit card balances, and review your budget to look for extra dollars that could potentially be put towards paying down your debts. You can also look into taking out a secured credit card or credit-builder loan to reestablish a good payment history.

Sometimes you need a little help getting your credit score back on the right track, and working with credit repair services can be a big help. Companies like Lexington Law and CreditRepair.com can help you identify the main issues with your credit and give you the next steps to take to start improving your score.


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