Do the words "credit score" make you anxious? If the mere mention of it makes you shudder, you're not alone. Many Americans struggle with credit. Whether that's the result of having fallen on hard times, errors on a bank's or credit company's fault, or irresponsible spending, there is always help. While a bad credit report can be a stigma that leaves incredible weight on your shoulders, take comfort in the fact that credit repair doesn't have to be a difficult thing. Read on for our stress-free advice on how to fix your credit.
Understanding what affects your credit is the first step to repairing it. Below is a great chart from MyFico, outlining the breakdown of a FICO credit score for the general population, though the stated percentages can change depending upon your circumstances. Each of these categories are taken into consideration when it comes to determining a credit score. Note that details like marital status, race, age, employment, place of residence, interests rates, child/family support, and rental agreements, among others, do not affect your credit score at all.
Check for errors and dispute. The first action in our credit fix-it kit is requesting a free copy of your credit report. By law, each credit reporting company is required to provide a free credit report every 12 months. These can be found at www.annualcreditreport.com. Check your report for errors. They're more common than you might think! If you find any inconsistencies, disputing them is not difficult.
Break the late payment habit. Once you know the information in your credit report is accurate, it's time to tackle the problem areas. If late payments have become a problem, one of the best remedies is to set up regular reminders. Mark payment dates on a calendar; use a notifcation appon your phone; or ask your bank if they have a program that sends text or email reminders. If you want to make it really easy, consider enrolling in automatic payments.
Pay down your accounts... This is one of the most daunting parts of credit repair, but when it's done, you'll be amazed at the sense of relief it brings. First, stop using your credit cards for the time being. We know, we know. They're so convenient! It's so easy to buy now and pay later. But accumulating more debt will make things harder in the long run. Go through your credit report and make a list of your accounts, then gather your most recent statements for each one. To begin reducing your debt, try to pay your accounts down to 10% of the amount owed. This will be a great kickstart to your debt reduction campaign.
...then pay them off! Set up a payment plan, aiming to pay off the accounts with the highest interest first. Keep making minimum payments on your lower-interest accounts, and then contribute as much as you can each month to the higher-interest ones. Once you start to see the amounts owed dwindle, the weight they put on your shoulders will start to dwindle.
See a credit counselor. If your credit problems stem from financial struggles, a consulting a credit counseling service can help you find solutions and learn how to manage your credit.
Re-establish your credit history. It might seem counterintuitive, but opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your credit score. Someone who has credit cards and manages them responsibly will inevitably obtain a better credit score than someone without any credit cards at all. A caveat: keep balances low.
Once you complete these steps, you will see your credit score begin to rise. It won't happen overnight, and it might take a lot of work as far as management goes, but it will happen eventually. Often times, repairing your credit is an excellent learning experience. Because who wants to go through that more than once? Be vigilant, be consistent, and check your credit report regularly for errors. In the end, you'll once again be able enjoy the benefits of good credit and the relief being debt-free brings.