Having bad credit will cost you.
It may seem unfair, considering most people with bad credit have already suffered financially. But having a low credit score will cost you more money in the form of higher interest rates, more expensive insurance premiums, and deposits on utilities.
Not only that, but people with poor credit have fewer housing options and less access to career opportunities.
If your credit score is lower than you’d like, there are ways to start repairing and raising it. Read on for 10 easy credit repair strategies.
1. Check Your Credit Report
One of the most important steps when trying to repair bad credit is to face the facts and check your credit report.
You may already know that the score is low, but look further than just the number on your report. You’ll find some essential details that can make all the difference in improving your credit reputation.
There are three credit agencies that each have their own report: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Each report is slightly different, which is why initially, it’s wise to order all three. Generally, you can get a free copy at least once a year.
When looking at your credit reports, dig for details on your credit history and the reasons why your score is as low as it is. These points offer valuable information that you can use to start repairing your credit.
Some reasons for low credit listed on credit reports can include:
- high credit balances
- history of late payments
- excessive account closings
- charged off debts
Next, you’ll want to look for any errors, which you can then dispute with the credit agency. This is one of the easiest free credit repair tactics, as simple errors can do a lot of unnecessary damage.
Carefully inspect your personal information for any typos, listed employers, account statuses (for example, a closed account that is listed as open, or a debt that is paid each month listed as delinquent), dates, and other details.
You can even see when someone has accessed your credit report information. Soft inquiries are those done by you or a creditor you already have a relationship with. Hard inquiries are done by lenders if you’re applying for credit or a loan. If you see unusual hard inquiries, it could be a sign of identity theft.
If you suspect any errors or unusual activity in your credit reports, contact the credit agency responsible for the report in order to dispute it. Legally, credit bureaus are required to remove any incorrect information from your credit report.
2. Set a Budget
Unlike your credit report, lenders won’t be able to access details on your personal budget. Still, setting one is a great way to keep yourself accountable and avoid overspending.
Overusing credit cards and racking up debt can quickly kill your credit. And in many cases, this is a matter of financial disorganization. You may not know where your money is going or why you’re running out of funds each month, plunging you deeper into trouble.
Set a clear budget using a model such as the 50/30/20 rule, and make any lifestyle adjustments necessary. In some cases, this could even require finding cheaper housing or giving up your next summer vacation.
3. Pay Bills on Time
Credit cards aren’t the only thing responsible for your credit score. Payments such as utility bills can also show up on your credit report, for better or worse.
If you’ve been late paying bills in the past, now is the time to organize all payments and pay them on time every single month. One of the easiest ways to ensure this gets done is to automate payments from your bank account.
If you use a planner or digital calendar, be sure to mark due dates there as well to double check that nothing gets forgotten.
4. Tackle Existing Debts
For many Americans, debt is like quicksand, building more and more over time and becoming increasingly hard to get out of.
But paying off debt isn’t hopeless, no matter how far deep you’re in it. There are several options to help you get back on track while repairing your credit in the process.
The best way to tackle overwhelming debt is to contact the lender for help. Ideally, this should be done before an account has a chance to be charged off and passed to an outsourced collections agency. For example, if you’re having trouble paying your credit card bill, contact the credit card company for advice. Ask to have your minimum payment reduced, or if you’ve paid on time so far, ask for a lower interest rate.
You can also research debt consolidation and refinancing options which may make it easier to pay off your existing debts.
You can learn more about negotiating debt to avoid bankruptcy at www.ivaadviceonline.com.
5. Pay and Negotiate Late Payments
Late payments are different from simply having debt, and just one or two late payments can take a major toll on your credit score.
Still, many ignore late and unpaid accounts, hoping that they’ll eventually disappear. And while there are statute of limitations for how long collections agencies can attempt to collect payments, these accounts can still impact your credit score for years to come.
If your account is over six months late, you’ll likely need to deal with a collections agency. In other cases, you may be able to approach your creditor directly to ask for a pay-for-delete agreement (where you pay the debt in exchange for having it removed from your credit history).
In either case, be prepared to negotiate and offer only what you can actually pay. Most of the time, companies prefer to get whatever payment they can, even if it’s under the original amount borrowed.
6. Get a New Credit Card
Too many credit cards can hurt your credit worthiness. But adding another line of credit can help in some cases.
If you tend to max out your current cards each month, adding another card can improve your credit utilization ratio. And as long as you pay back the new card in full each month, without adding more revolving debt, it can slowly help rebuild your credit.
You may want to limit how many cards you apply for though. Each application triggers a credit check, which can hurt your score more over time.
7. Increase Credit Limits
Another strategy to improve your credit that doesn’t require applying for a new credit card is to ask for credit limit increases.
Ideally, you should keep your credit utilization ratio at 30% or under each month. But if your card has a low limit, you may find it too easy to exceed this ratio, which hurts your score even if you pay off the entire amount each billing cycle.
To increase credit limits, you don’t need a stellar credit score. But you do need a history of on-time payments before your credit company will trust you.
If that sounds like you and you rely on credit cards regularly, consider asking for a credit limit increase.
8. Become an Authorized User
If you have a spouse or family member with great credit, you can bump up your score by becoming an authorized user on their credit card.
This means you have the right to use their card, but you’re not expected to pay it yourself. Still, being an authorized user strengthens your own credit portfolio, adding their credit card account to your credit report.
Only use this strategy if you have a trusted friend or family member who is willing to add you as an authorized user. And keep in mind that relying on this tactic alone may not be enough to completely transform your credit.
9. Research Credit Repair Companies
If you’re not sure where to start with repairing your credit, professional credit repair services may be one option.
The success rate with these companies is mixed, but it’s worth considering if you’re not sure how to dispute credit report errors or remove discrepancies.
10. Stay Patient
Changes you make today can impact your credit score, but rebuilding credit still takes time. That’s why you must stay patient and remain committed to good financial habits for months and even years to see results.
If you have no credit at all, you can expect to reach a “good” score within around six months. But if you’re trying to fix a bad credit history, it can take much longer.
Keep your expectations realistic, and know that eventually your efforts will pay off.
Credit Repair Strategies to Start Today
Repairing your credit doesn’t have to feel hopeless. Use these 10 credit repair strategies to start turning your finances around today.
For more on budgeting and family finances, check out our other lifestyle articles!