Money Makeover: 5 Easy Ways To Clean Up Your Credit
A clean credit report is essential to your financial health. Low interest rates, hassle-free financing are just some of the rewards of having a praise-worthy credit report. Have you pulled yours lately? Did you scream when you finally looked at it? No fear, there are easy ways to help tidy up your credit so you can make those big purchases, like a home, car or even a business loan.
1. Get a Copy of Your Credit Report
Request a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It's important to obtain all three because each report may not have all the same information. And don't worry about paying either, consumers can get one free credit report every year from each of the three agencies.
2. Take a Good Look at Every Charge and Highlight Those That Are Questionable
Circle or mark anything that looks suspicious in red. This can include credit card accounts that you closed but still appear as open, accounts that you never opened, activity that you were not involved in, and account histories that show late payments when you know you paid on time. Credit reports may have errors. It's important for you to not only catch them, but correct them. It's your credit that's on the line, not theirs.
3. Follow Up With Credit Bureau's
Need to dispute a negative item on your report? Write a request to the lender and keep notes of when you sent it. Disputing an item on your credit report once is not enough. Keep notes of the people you speak with at the bureau, when you contacted them and the date by which any corrective action will be taken. Check your credit report again after that date to make sure they followed through. Don't stop until your credit report has been changed.
4. Pay Overdue Bills
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you have any accounts in collections, create a budget that will help you pay off the debt as soon as possible. By paying down your debt, you will open up your available credit, which you can then use responsibly to purchase big ticket items. Many creditors will allow you to settle your outstanding balance, twenty five cents on the dollar, or pay monthly towards the balance. Knocking out some debt could reflect positively on both your credit report and credit score. If you missed a payment to a creditor in the past, but the account is current, ask them to remove the blemish on your credit report with a note to the reporting agencies.
5. Avoid "Credit Repair" Companies That Promise Quick Credit Fixing
Who doesn't want to call a number and have the negative accounts on your credit report vanish into thin air? That's what credit repair companies promise, but there's no such thing. Credit reporting agencies are not required to remove accurate information unless it is more than seven years old, or bankruptcies over ten years old. If the information that is challenged it’s confirmed, it will be removed. And that’s what these companies are often doing – writing and sending dispute letters on their client’s behalf. Something you can do from home and without any hefty fees or false promises.
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