If you are struggling with bad credit, repairing your credit is an important decision to help you get your finances back on track. And while you may want to see results immediately, the credit repair process takes some time.
How Do I Improve My Credit?
Your FICO score is made up of five factors:
- Payment history: 35% of your FICO score -- the single most important factor in determining your creditworthiness -- is your payment history, so be sure to always pay your bills on time and work on paying off any old debts. The later the payment, the more your credit is damaged.
- Credit utilization: 30% of your credit score is the amount of debt you owe. Ideally, you want to keep your credit utilization under 30%.
- Credit age: 15% of your FICO score is the length of your credit history, so do not close any old credit accounts.
- New credit: 10% of your score includes inquiries for new credit. Try to avoid applying for new credit unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Types of credit: 10% of your FICO score is your mix of credit, including credit cards, loans, and more.
Step 1: Get A Copy Of Your Credit Reports
Because your credit history is reported to three main credit bureaus, the first step you should take is to get a copy of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Due to the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act), you are entitled to one free credit report each year for each of the three bureaus. You can order your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Step 2: Start The Credit Repair Process
Your credit report reflects a detailed history of your credit accounts, both positive and negative. It's essential to check each of your credit reports for any inaccuracies or unverifiable items. Remember, only inaccurate items can be removed. Negative but accurate information must remain on your credit report.
Negative items that can be disputed and removed from your credit reports include delinquent items such as late payments, misspellings, and incorrect personal information, which you can dispute and potentially remove through credit repair.
You can either do this on your own or hire a reputable credit repair service to work on your behalf; we recommend using a credit repair company to save you time, since they know the ins and outs of credit repair.
Here is how long a negative item can remain on your credit report:
- Bankruptcy: Up to 7 years (Chapter 13 bankruptcy) or 10 years (Chapter 7 bankruptcy)
- Charge-offs: Up to 7 years
- Collections: Up to 7 years
- Foreclosures: Up to 7 years
- Hard inquiries for new credit: Up to 2 years
- Late payments: Up to 7 years
- Settled accounts: Up to 7 years
- Closed accounts: Up to 10 years
Negative items that occurred recently will take some time to fall off your credit report, but if those bad credit items are from years ago, your score can improve much faster.
Step 3: Rebuild Your Credit
Your next move should be to rebuild your credit. There are a few steps you can take to build your credit that include:
- Paying off old debt
- Taking out a credit-builder loan
- Taking out a small personal loan, potentially with a co-signer
- Taking out a store credit card
A Timeline Of Credit Repair
The time needed to repair your credit depends on a number of factors:
- The type of negative information on your credit reports -- for example, bankruptcy is more difficult to recover from than a single late payment
- The number of negative marks on your credit reports; as mentioned earlier, credit reports with only a few errors take a shorter amount of time to recover from.
- The age of the negative information
- Your current credit rating
- Your final goal for your credit standing
- Your future financial decisions
Below, we outline how long the process of credit repair may take.
Reviewing your credit reports for errors:
Downloading and thoroughly looking over your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport can take around 1 to 2 hours. Signing up with a credit repair service may take anywhere from 1 to 3 business days.
Disputing errors with the bureaus:
Once you have your credit reports, you will need to write a dispute letter (or your credit report service will do this step for you). You will also need to collect the proper documentation and/or bank statements to send the bureaus along with your dispute letter. Depending on how organized you are, this step could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Your first round of disputes:
If you only have a few inaccurate items on your credit report, you may only need one round of disputes to remove them. Credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate a dispute and either keep or remove the item. The bureau will either remove the item in question, keep it, or request more documentation. If you still have more credit repair work to do, you may have to send another round of disputes to remove any more unverifiable items. The speed of the other disputes depends on if you are repairing your credit on your own and how knowledgeable you are on the ins and outs of credit repair, or if you enlisted the help of a reputable credit repair service. Generally, the credit repair process takes 3 to 6 months to fully resolve all disputes.
Rebuilding your credit:
Depending on your current credit standing and future goals, this could take anywhere from a few months to a few years. We believe that improving your finances doesn't just include credit repair, but also investing, monitoring your credit, and saving your funds for a rainy day.
What factors make up my credit score?
Your FICO score is made up of five factors:
- Payment history: 35%
- Credit utilization: 30%
- Credit age: 15%
- New credit: 10%
- Types of credit: 10%
What negative items can appear on my credit report?
Your credit reports can contain both positive and negative history. Items that negatively impact your credit include:
- Credit inquiries
- Late payments
- Loan defaults
- Past due payments
- Public records
- Tax liens
What are some steps I can take to improve my credit?
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