DIY Credit Repair: 4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Credit Score All by Yourself
Poor credit can be pretty overwhelming, and it can be tempting to turn to companies promising a quick fix for help. The reality, though, is that you can accomplish most of what these repair services offer with a little patience, effort, and a plan.
Just remember that credit repair doesn’t happen overnight – despite what many of these services may be claiming. With that in mind, there’s still action you can take today to start improving your score and getting back on track with your money management.
Here are four simple ways to move the needle on your credit report and get back in good stead so you can get approved for key financial lifeboats, like credit cards and loans, and lower your interest rates too.
1. Review your credit report and dispute errors
They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but fortunately there is such thing as a free credit report. Once every 12 months, Americans are entitled to one complimentary copy of this precious document from each one of the three major credit reporting companies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Order yours online at annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
After you receive your credit report, review it carefully for any inaccuracies. If you find an error or outdated item, you can dispute the mistake for free by contacting both the credit reporting company and the provider of the information in question (e.g., the credit card company that may have listed your account status incorrectly).
2. Make a plan to pay your bills on time
While you might not be able to disappear the negative information on your credit report (only time can do that), you can offset it with good behavior and positive information. First and foremost, that means paying your bills when they’re due. Though, if you really want a gold star, you’ll not only pay your bills on time, but you’ll also pay them in full. As payment history is the most impactful element in credit scoring models, getting back on track in this department is critical.
Start by creating a budget or using a free budgeting app to map out your financial goals and get a handle on your income and your expenses. If your expenses are greater than your income, identify opportunities for cost-cutting or consider making some life changes that could reduce your overhead. If your income is greater than your expenses, you’re doing well. The next step is to use a budgeting worksheet to establish financial goals and spending limits each month – and then to create a process for making relevant bill payments before their due dates.
3. Pay down late payments
Late payments also affect your payment history and, by extension, your credit score. The number of payments that are more than 30 days overdue, the amount that’s overdue, and the length of time the payment is overdue are all factors taken into consideration. Needless to say, once you’ve gotten into a good routine with paying your current accounts, start paying down late payments.
Tackle bills nearing collection as a priority and then work your way back to missed payments that are more recent. Keep in mind that once a bill has already been sent to collections, it can stay there for up to seven years and there’s no guarantee that paying it off will improve your credit score.
4. Deal with your debt
Debt isn’t always a bad thing, and you may be surprised to hear that the right kind of debt can actually help your credit score if you make your arranged payments on time and in full. However, too much of certain types of debt can do some damage. That’s because credit utilization, which is the ratio of revolving credit you’re using as compared to credit available, is another factor that affects credit score.
More simply, if you’re using most of the revolving credit available to you, your credit utilization is high — even if you pay your monthly minimums like clockwork. Credit scoring companies might see this as a negative because it indicates that you may be overspending and are at a greater risk for missing future payments. In short, if your credit utilization ratio is over 30 percent, take steps to start paying off your balance so that you can put a smile back on the dial of the credit scoring companies.