Credit is important when considering small and large purchases including vehicles and a home. If your credit is less than perfect, repairing it takes time, but it can be done. You need to evaluate your credit reports, make changes to negative items and manage your money. Changes to credit don’t happen overnight. Give yourself ample time to repair your credit and establish a positive track record prior to making any major purchases.
Order, Evaluate, Make Changes
Order your credit reports from all three major credit-reporting bureaus.
Review your reports for any discrepancies, paying careful attention to loans that reflect late payments, collection accounts and judgments. If any information provided is inaccurate, contact the bureau about the discrepancy and initiate a dispute. The creditor has 30 days to research and respond to the dispute claim. If the information is inaccurate, those changes will be made to your credit report.
If you have accounts in collections or judgments passed against you, it is important to bring those balances to zero. Contact the collection agencies to make payment arrangements. It is typically easier to start with the smallest balances and work through debts until paying off those with higher balances. Judgments and collection accounts will remain on your credit report for 5 to 10 years depending on the type and the state.
Manage your money. Pay your bills on time, every time. Set up a monthly budget and track where your money goes. If you tend to overspend in one area, such as entertainment, evaluate how to change your spending habits in that area.
Revolving accounts, or credit cards, are important to your credit. Maintaining a couple of accounts for many years with low balance-to-limit ratios shows lenders that you are able to manage your finances well. Also pay more than the minimum balance owed. Paying $10 or $15 over the minimum payment due is reported and boosts your credit score. Remember to only apply for revolving credit when needed. Too many open revolving accounts can damage your credit score.
If you are in a financially difficult time, contact your creditors and make arrangements. Creditors appreciate honesty and are willing to defer payments for a month and in some cases, three months. Deferring a payment until the end of a loan can save your credit and offer you time necessary to get back on track financially.
Items you will need
- Equifax credit report
- Experian credit report
- TransUnion credit report
- You can order a free credit report without a score from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion through www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Two years of paying small loans and credit accounts on time reflects positively for lenders.
- Do not close all of your open revolving accounts. Maintaining one or two low-balance credit cards for 10 or more years shows proper management of money over time.
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