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How to Help Yourself Rebuild Your Credit for Free

 How to Help Yourself You see the advertisements in newspapers, on TV, and on the Internet. You hear them on the radio. You get fliers in the mail, and maybe even calls offering credit repair services. They all make the same claims:

“Credit problems? No problem!”

“We can remove bankruptcies, judgments, liens, and bad loans from your credit file forever!”

“We can erase your bad credit — 100% guaranteed.”

“Create a new credit identity — legally.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says do yourself a favor and save some money, too. Don’t believe these claims: they’re very likely signs of a scam. Indeed, attorneys at the nation’s consumer protection agency say they’ve never seen a legitimate credit repair operation making those claims. The fact is there’s no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately, but it takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.

Recognizing a Credit Repair Scam

Everyday, companies target consumers who have poor credit histories with promises to clean up their credit report so they can get a car loan, a home mortgage, insurance, or even a job once they pay them a fee for the service. The truth is, these companies can’t deliver an improved credit report for you using the tactics they promote. It’s illegal: No one can remove accurate negative information from your credit report. So after you pay them hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees, you’re left with the same credit report and someone else has your money.

If you see a credit repair offer, here’s how to tell if the company behind it is up to no good:

The company wants you to pay for credit repair services before they provide any services. Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies cannot require you to pay until they have completed the services they have promised.

The company doesn’t tell you your rights and what you can do for yourself for free.

The company recommends that you do not contact any of the three major national credit reporting companies directly.

The company tells you they can get rid of most or all the negative credit information in your credit report, even if that information is accurate and current.

The company suggests that you try to invent a “new” credit identity — and then, a new credit report — by applying for an Employer Identification Number to use instead of your Social Security number.

The company advises you to dispute all the information in your credit report, regardless of its accuracy or timeliness.

If you follow illegal advice and commit fraud, you may find yourself in legal hot water, too: It’s a federal crime to lie on a loan or credit application, to misrepresent your Social Security number, and to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretenses. You could be charged and prosecuted for mail or wire fraud if you use the mail, telephone, or Internet to apply for credit and provide false information.

Your Rights Regarding Credit Repair

No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. The law allows you to ask for an investigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. There is no charge for this. Some people hire a company to investigate on their behalf, but anything a credit repair clinic can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA):

  • You’re entitled to a free report if a company takes “adverse action” against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment. You have to ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.
  • Each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. The three companies have a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address for consumers to order the free annual credit reports the government entitles them to. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:

    Annual Credit Report Request Service
    P.O. Box 105281
    Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

You can use the form in this brochure, or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit. You may order reports from each of the three consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your requests, ordering one from each company throughout the year from the central address. Don’t contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually or at another address because you may end up paying for a report that you’re entitled to get for free. In fact, each consumer reporting company may charge you up to $10.50 to purchase an additional copy of your report within a 12-month period.
It doesn’t cost anything to dispute mistakes or outdated items on your credit report. Under the FCRA, both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under the FCRA, contact the consumer reporting company and the information provider

Helping Yourself

  • Step 1: Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of any documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your report you dispute; state the facts and the reasons you dispute the information, and ask that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report, and circle the items in question. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document that the consumer reporting company received it. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.Your letter may look something like the one below.

Sample Dispute Letter

Date
Your Name 
Your Address,
City, State, Zip Code

Complaint Department
Name of Company
Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are encircled on the attached copy of the report I received.

This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.

Sincerely, 
Your name

Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)

________________________________________________________________________________________

Consumer reporting companies must investigate the items you question within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it is required to investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If this investigation reveals that the disputed information is inaccurate, the information provider has to notify the nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct it in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company is not permitted to put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the consumer reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the consumer reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay for this service.

Step 2: Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.

Reporting Accurate Negative Information

When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. To calculate the seven-year reporting period, start from the date the event took place. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.

The Credit Repair Organizations Act

Credit repair organizations must give you a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” before you sign a contract. They also must give you a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations. Read these documents before you sign anything. And before signing, know that a credit repair company cannot:

  • make false claims about their services
  • charge you until they have completed the promised services
  • perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract and have completed a three-day waiting period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without paying any fees.

Before you sign a contract, be sure it specifies:

  • the payment terms for services, including the total cost
  • a detailed description of the services the company will perform
  • how long it will take to achieve the result
  • any guarantees the company offer
  • the company’s name and business address

Remember The Best Thing You Can Do is Monitor Your Credit

Do-It-Yourself Check-Up

Regardless of your credit history, financial advisors and consumer advocates recommend reviewing your credit report periodically for three important reasons:

  1. The information in your credit report affects whether you can get a loan or insurance — and how much you will have to pay for it.
  2. It’s important to make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.
  3. It can help you deter, detect and defend against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.
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Learn Your Credit Score Range!

So you know your credit score, now what? Brag to you friends? Compare it with your co-workers? Before you go announcing it to the world, get a better understanding of what it actually means. Remember, to effectively evaluate your score you’ll need a range as well. Just as you would if you were taking a test in school, without a range, a score is meaningless.

Like all other scoring models, credit scores have a range. The funny thing about the credit score range is that no one seems to know exactly what it is, just that it’s roughly anywhere from 300 to 850, though some say credit scores go up to 900. It’s a bit of a secret, much like other complicated algorithms out there. Regardless, armed with that knowledge, we have enough information to make sense of your credit score.
tweet credit score

Let’s start at the top of the credit score range and work our way down.

800-850+ Credit Score

A credit score of 800-900 is basically flawless credit. Though I’ve never seen a 900 credit score (readers have told me they have 900+ scores), scores of 800-850 are fairly common. An important thing to note here is that some consumers may have 800 credit scores the minute their credit profile is established, but without supporting credit history, the score will mean very little to banks and lenders.

On the other hand, a credit score of 800-900 accompanied with years of solid history indicates that the borrower will be granted the lowest rate on everything from credit cards to auto insurance and mortgages. Scores in this range represent about 13% of the population.

720-799 Credit Score

A credit score of 720-799 is considered great credit, and will typically result in interest rates and approval rates that a credit score in the range of 800-850+ would yield. The only difference might be a few more pricing incentives at the 800-850+ range, and a more thorough credit check in this range. But all in all, credit scores in this range are considered excellent and you really don’t need to worry if you scores fall in this category. In fact, roughly 27% of the population has a credit score of 750-799 alone.

680-719 Credit Score

A score in this range is considered good credit. Although it’s not perfect, you should still be able to qualify for most loans and auto or rental leases, although interest rates may be a little higher than those offered to borrowers with excellent credit. There will be situations where a credit score in this range will prevent you from getting certain types of financing, such as an A-paper mortgage loan or the lowest auto insurance premium, but it’s certainly not bad credit.

620-679 Credit Score

Credit scores in this range are still considered “good” or “ok” by many creditors, though you may see further restrictions and fewer approvals when attempting to get a loan, lease, or a mortgage. Scores at this level are fairly common, and no reason for alarm. But it would be wise to evaluate your score and work to improve it. In this range, it is quite probable that you aren’t securing the lowest interest rates, and subsequently losing money as a result.

580-619 Credit Score

This is where “ok” and “good” turn to “bad”. Credit scores in this range are clearly below average, and you will have a difficult time securing a loan, or applying for a credit card. If you are able to secure financing, you’ll find higher interest rates for low credit scores. If your credit score falls in this range, you definitely need to evaluate your credit report and take measures to raise your credit score.

Many consumers with credit scores in this range are considered “subprime” and may have to work with bad credit banks and lenders to secure financing.

500-579 Credit Score

Credit scores in this range are just flat out ugly. If you’ve got a credit score in this range, there’s a good chance you have a major derogatory mark on your credit report such as a collection, charge-off, mortgage lates, a foreclosure, or a bankruptcy. There is no question that your credit is in need of serious credit repair.

At this level, you must evaluate your credit and act immediately to turn things around. You’re clearly paying higher interest rates and making credit mistakes that will impact your life for years to come.

Below 500 Credit Score

Credit scores below 500 are the worst of the worst. To fall into this range, your credit report will definitely contain major derogatory marks, with very little positive data whatsoever. If your credit score is at this level, you may want to consider speaking with a professional about your situation. There’s a good chance you’ve got serious financial problems if your credit score is in this range. Start educating yourself immediately to alleviate your problems.

So now you should have a good idea as to where you stand and what you need to do to improve things, repair things, see a professional, or simply maintain your healthy financial lifestyle.


 

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Stop Receiving Debt Collection Calls

debt-collectorSome people have many loans or debts to pay off each month and these numerous payments could sometimes amount to as much as their total monthly salary. There are endless amounts of reasons people end up in debt, from having a big car repair, having to pay for a loved one falling ill, losing a high-paying career, or even simply spending more than they make for a long period of time. Whatever the reason is, it is not the end of the world as unsecured bad credit debt consolidation are always available for anyone who needs help in this area.

Initially, it may seem as though the interest for the debt consolidation and bad credit loan is relatively high but if you compare it to the overall amount you have to pay via monthly repayments to the individual loan companies, you actually have to pay more in total. Over time the amount of interest you pay on your debt if you only pay the minimum amount is substantial. If you simply figure out the amount you have to pay over the years of the debt, the difference is huge. Paying the monthy amount to a debt consolidation and bad credit loan company will certainly be a better idea.

In addition, if you have taken up a unsecured bad credit debt consolidation loan from such companies, you can actually negotiate for a much lower monthly repayment, which can really be an ease to your wallet. Another way that a debt consolidation and bad credit loan can help your bad credit is that the companies that offer these loans submit reports to credit agencies for as long as you are paying every single month. This will be a good reflection on your credit score as you have likely shown yourself to be making efforts to repay the loan regularly.

You will not be able to get your unsecured bad credit debt consolidation loan from the usually major banks and traditional money lenders. As such, you need to approach a finance company or the modern money lender, meaning not the usual banks. When you get the bad credit debt consolodation loan, you will most probably have to pay an administrative fee which will be added to the total amount that you have loaned for. The advantage is that you do not have to pay this fee upfront but the bad point to it is that your loan amount that you actually get when your loan is approved will be less as the fee will be deducted from it.

Prior to requesting a bad credit debt consilidation loan you should have a rough idea of how you intend to be able to pay it back on a regular basis. Bear in mind that your interest rate will definitely be much higher if you decide to extend your loan repayment period. Thus the faster you decide to pay of your loan, the lower the interest rate will be.

Despite the higher interest rate, if you really cannot make the repayment faster, you will have to consider that. However, if you would really prefer to pay less interest, try talking to your creditors for a lower monthly repayment amount instead of getting a bad credit debt consolodation loan. If you can really succeed in negotiating a good deal with them, you can save quite a bit of money over time.

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Free Ways to Repair Your Credit

Millions of American are suffering for bad credit when it’s not even their fault. Our credit bureaus verification process regarding debts on your credit reports is a joke.

How does the credit reporting bureaus verify debt?

Credit bureaus simply have their computer system contact the debt collection agencies and request that they provide your name,social security number and address. If this information matches what’s in the credit bureaus system they consider it a verified debt and that it belong to you.

 Now let get to why you stop by, to see how you can repair your Credit.

free-sign

  • You need a recent copy of your credit report, your allowed 1 Free Credit Report by law yearly. This will  help you to see where you stand and to notice if you have any inaccuracies on your credit.
  • Check for any negative debts,and how long each debt has been reported on your credit report. If it has been longer than 7 years it automatically has to be removed by the bureaus once you file your dispute. (Please Note: Beware of duplicate accounts. In some case debt collection agencies will sell your old debts to other companies) 

  • File a disputes with all 3 bureaus. Report any inaccurate information on each of your credit reports. (This includes address, inquiries and negative debts. 

Credit Bureaus have 30 days to resolve any disputes on our credit reports. They usually respond a couple of days before, however I have run into situation were they taken a little longer so be persistent.

Dispute Resources

TransUnion Disputes

Equifax

Experian

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How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?

credit_cardsHow many credit cards are too many?Look through your wallet. How many credit cards do you count?

Have promises of better rates, perks and lower fees caused your wallet to overflow and your mailbox to be stuffed with hundreds of offers each month?

While most Americans carry between five and 10 credit cards, some people carry up to 50 — which could wreak havoc on your credit score.So, how many credit cards should you have?

Most experts say there’s no single magic number. Rather, the question can be answered by scrutinizing how much you spend and how much you can pay off. But there is an upper limit: Credit agencies warn that the more cards you have, the bigger risk you carry for racking up debt and damaging your credit.

Beware of store credit cards

“Some people go hog-wild at Christmas and open lots of store credit cards to get that 10% to 15% off their purchase,” says Cate Williams, vice president of financial literacy at Money Management International. “Relatively speaking, that is a good idea if you pay off the balance and close the card right away. If you don’t, then you will be costing yourself more money in the long run when your credit score isn’t up to par.”

Credit counselors say that you should open a store credit card if it is a store that you shop frequently. Many store credit cards provide their customers with coupons, bonus points and information on upcoming sales that can only be obtained if you carry the store’s card. However, she highly recommends that you open no more than one favorite-store card.

Some rules of thumb

According to Steve Bucci, Bankrate.com’s Debt Adviser columnist and president of Money Management International Financial Education Foundation, the average person carries 11 “credit vehicles.” Typically, seven are different types of cards and four are installment loans for cars, furniture, student loans or mortgages. Some credit experts see people with 45 or more credit cards — and many of them are high-income earners. Some are people who think that the more credit you have, the better, says Bucci.

He says a good rule of thumb is to keep two to six credit cards. “Make sure the credit cards you have are Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover, because merchants will take almost any of them,” he says.

Try your best to pay them off regularly, or if you can’t pay them off, find a credit card that has a low interest rate to use for emergencies when you need new tires or when your water heater breaks. “It’s also a good idea that your other credit card has reward points or air miles, something that gives you something back. That card doesn’t have to have a low interest rate if you pay it off every month.”

Keep your debt ratio low

Another rule of thumb to remember is to keep your debt ratio under 50%. If your credit card has a $5,000 limit, don’t carry a balance of more than $2,500.

“Keep credit purchases under 50% of the credit limit. (If you have a) $5,000 limit — and you want to buy a $4,000 furniture set — split the purchase onto two cards,” says Williams. She says that creditors don’t like to see a card almost maxed out; they look at you as a risk, someone who is using too much credit and has trouble paying off debt.

There is no one sure-fire way to have perfect credit. In fact, four credit experts were interviewed for this story and they offered contradicting advice. However, they all agreed on two major things:

  • Make your payments on time. One late fee or even two can really bring down your credit score and increase the rates on your other  credit cards. You are the only person responsible for payment. 
  • Do not run up your credit. Ideally, you should keep your balance low — less than 30% of your credit limit on each card.

Some debt advisers also warn not to close too many cards at once. It will cause your debt-to-credit ratio to fall. For example, if you have $10,000 of potential credit and a $5,000 balance, you are using 50% of your potential. If you shut down a card with a $2,500 balance quickly thereafter, you will have $5,000 of debt and only $7,500 of potential, upping your ratio to 67%.

“It’s a tricky business, but creditors don’t care, because they know you need credit. If you are a good, money-conscious consumer who pays for everything in cash, basically you are dead to them. So establishing and using credit wisely is so important,” says Rhode. “I’m a huge fan of credit cards — used appropriately, a credit card is a safe way to buy goods — the money is not taken out of your account before you get to dispute the charge. Other forms of payment have less protection.”

“Credit cards are great because they offer you so much protection against fraud that checks and cash can’t guarantee, especially when it comes to return policies or fraudulent purchases,”

Credit card basics

If you have a credit card, you have a credit history. So, the first thing you should do is obtain a copy of your credit report, review it for inaccuracies, correct any problems and then slowly close unused accounts — trying to close one per month.

Not having a lot of credit cards decreases your worry of late fees. It is easier to remember your payment dates. Someone with 15 or more cards probably has a difficult time remembering when all of them are due.

Having more credit and more credit cards does not necessarily make a good rating. The key factors are job stability, paying as agreed and paying on time. Keeping up with payments will build a better credit rating than opening numerous credit-card accounts.

Be aware of the terms on your credit card, because those terms dictate your agreement with the creditor. You need to ask about the interest rate and what penalties are attached to the card.

Also, don’t close your oldest accounts if you find a better card. If you close a card you opened in college 10 years ago because you found a better card, creditors will penalize you, because they are looking for a lengthy and successful credit history.

According to Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, there’s no right number of credit cards for everyone. It depends on how much you spend and how much you can pay off. However, what you can afford at present may change now that most credit cards are increasing their minimum payments.

Just remember that the street of credit fairness runs only one way, and it’s in the favor of the creditors. Credit card companies can change interest rates at any time. The most important thing to remember is that you are responsible to keep up with your bills and stay on top of your credit.

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How to Improve Your Credit Score

Tweet CreditIt may take some bit of work until you get the idea of how to improve your credit score. A credit score may be one of the most important aspects of your financial situation that would need your constant monitoring, especially if you always have the need to borrow money from lenders. Having a low credit score will ensure you of having trouble getting your credit application approved as you would have wanted.

Your credit score tells lenders of how dependable you are as a borrower. From your credit score, lenders and credit institutions may be able to gauge your standing as a borrower. That is because the credit score is a mathematical measure of a person’s borrowing habits and behavior based on some important credit factors. A formula developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) is usually used to calculate for one’s credit score. That is why your credit score is also usually referred to as the FICO score.

When you have a low credit score, it tells the lender straight away that you are not a very prospect as a borrower. This may be based on your previous credit accounts from which you may have defaulted on, late payments of debts, bankruptcy or foreclosure issues that you may have in the past and other similar factors. The higher your credit score, the more attractive you are as a borrower in the eyes of the lenders. This might mean that your credit application from them might just be easier to approve.

There are many ways that you may be able to improve on your credit score. This will include having a closer look at your current credit standing. If you do have outstanding credit to take care of, it would be good to pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments of your outstanding credit have a major negative impact on your credit score. It is also important to note that the longer that you try to pay your bills on time, the better it will be for your credit score.

If you do find yourself missing on some payments, it may be wise to get current as quickly as possible on your payments if you so can. Staying current with your outstanding credit accounts may also have an effect on your credit score. What’s more, your credit record, along with the missed or delinquent payments, may reflect on your credit report and will stay there for a period of seven years. It will be looked upon as a smudge on your report even after you have paid off your debt.

If you find yourself having a hard time managing your outstanding credit, it may be time that you contact your creditors or ask for the help of a qualified credit counselor. These actions may not immediately improve your own credit score. But the sooner you act in managing your debts well and paying your bills on time. It will eventually make your credit score better over time.

Once you learn how to improve your credit score, the better your chances will be on availing of a much needed loan or mortgage when you really need it. It would be frustrating for one to apply for some much needed credit and not get approved in the end, all because of a low credit score.

Improving your credit score can also assure you that you have better credit options especially during times that you might need it most.

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7 ways to improve your credit score

 

credit-score-Your credit score is one of the most important numbers you’ll carry through life — like it or not.

No one asks if you want one. No one tells you when you get one. No one tells you what it is unless you pay to find out.

Yet this measure of your money management determines whether your application for a credit card, auto loan or mortgage is approved or rejected. Insurers use it to set premiums, and employers look at it when you apply for a job.

 

1. Correct any errors on your credit reports.

Order free copies of your credit reports from Annualcreditreport.com and read them thoroughly to find errors. Removing inaccurate information can give your credit score a bump in about 30 days and costs nothing but postage. Just write down all your disputes in the area specified by the bureaus. (this page is enclosed with your credit report)  You can also disputes items online .

Please Note: you will have to do this process for all 3 bureaus. Just because it was removed from one credit bureau company doesn’t mean it will be automatically removed from another.

 2. Pay all of your bills on time.

We know you have a lot going on in your life. Bills get misplaced and writing checks is a pain. But you need a system to get every bill to every creditor, before the due date on your statement.

More than a third of your score is based on your payment history, and the formula is heavily weighted toward your most recent record. Paying all of your bills on time for just six months can boost your score.

All late payments are equally damaging to your credit score, so do everything on time: Pay utility bills, pay parking tickets and even return library books before their due date.

 3. Use every credit card you have.

Credit cards that never see the light of a cash register don’t contribute to your payment history. Rotating charges among all your cards, and making all of the payments on time, can build a good payment history more quickly.

 4. Pay down credit card balances.

The next biggest factor in determining your credit score is how much of your available credit you’ve tapped. If you owe $6,000 on a card with a $10,000 credit limit, that means you’ve used half of your available credit — and that’s too much. Try to keep your debt-to-available-credit ratio below 40% on every card.

 5. Don’t apply for credit on a whim.

Your mailbox may be full of credit card applications offering low, low rates for a few months. And cashiers often push you to get a store charge card when you check out, tempting you with a discount on your purchase if you’ll just fill out their form. But if banks and stores are constantly asking the credit agencies for your credit history, your score suffers. As a general rule of thumb, figure that every inquiry costs you 10 points.

 6. Ask to have a repaid debt taken off your credit history.

If you’ve mended your past-due ways and brought a delinquent account up-to-date, ask the creditor to remove unflattering entries from your credit reports. You’ll have the most leverage if it’s an active account that you’ve paid on time for at least a year.

Just write a letter and ask. It’s certainly better than allowing a bad debt to sit on your credit report until the agency removes it after seven years.

 7. Become a cosigner on an established credit card.

The account will appear on your credit history with the original opening date (not the date when you were added to the account) along with its entire history of on-time payments. That can add 30 to 45 points to a poor credit score.

You’ll need a spouse, parent or astoundingly good friend who’s willing to add you to their account as a cosigner with legal responsibility for the debt. Being an authorized user, someone who can make purchases with the card but isn’t responsible for making the payments, will no longer help with your credit score.

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