If you have “Very Poor” or even “Fair” credit — both of which are below “Good” credit on the FICO credit scoring model — it’s important to fix your credit as soon as possible. You have a couple of different options when it comes to the specific way that you improve your credit.
On the one hand, you can hire a credit repair company. Bringing in professionals is a great way to streamline and speed up the credit repair process. However, credit repair companies can be expensive at times, especially if you hire a reputable organization.
On the other hand, you can fix your credit yourself. This may sound daunting, but repairing your own credit doesn’t have to be an impossibly convoluted activity. If you take things one step at a time and stick to a credit repair plan, you can improve even the worst situation.
Consider the 10 recommendations below. All of these can help to boost your credit. However, each one on its own won’t have much of an impact. Instead, use the list to come up with a unique credit repair plan suited to your particular credit repair needs.
Table of Contents
1. Review Your Credit Reports
Credit repair is associated with your credit score, and that is certainly a good indicator of where your credit stands. When it comes to fixing your credit, though, you need to dig deeper.
Start by getting your free annual copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Once you have the trio of reports in hand, take some time to thoroughly review each one. As you do so, look for any derogatory marks that may appear on the report. If you find one, make sure to resolve it as soon as possible. Then send a goodwill letter to the original lender asking to have the mark proactively removed.
2. Dispute Errors
One of the quickest ways to boost your credit in the short term is to fix errors on your credit report. These are different from derogatory marks, which appear due to your financial shortcomings.
An error is a factually incorrect piece of information on your report. If you find an error, send a dispute letter to the credit bureau(s) to have the inconsistency removed.
3. Pay Down Credit Card Balances
Your credit consists of many different factors. One of the most important of these is the amount that you owe as well as your total debt. These two factors combine to make up 30% of your total credit score.
If you have a lot of money sitting on your credit cards, it’s important to begin paying back that debt as soon as possible. (More on budgeting further down.) The more money you owe, the more it will drag down your score and scare away potential lenders.
4. Understand Your Credit Utilization Ratio
Along with the total amount that you owe on your credit cards, also consider your credit utilization ratio. This is the amount of your revolving credit that you’ve currently borrowed.
For instance, if you have $50,000 in available credit across all of your accounts (credit cards, a HELOC, and so on) and you’ve borrowed $10,000, your credit utilization ratio is 20%. If you can keep your ratio below 30%, it will help boost your credit.
5. Make Note of How Many Credit Accounts You Have
Having several different credit accounts is either harmful or beneficial to your credit depending on the situation. On the one hand, if you have large amounts of debt spread out across many accounts, it can do serious damage to your credit.
On the other hand, if you have many accounts but most of them are paid off, the larger amount of available, unused credit can lead to a healthier credit score. It’s often recommended to keep “old” lines of credit open once they’re paid off. However, if you do this, you have to resist the urge to borrow unnecessary funds from those accounts.
6. Think About Your Credit History
Your credit history is a huge part of your credit score. This is typically made up of three critical areas:
- The history of different credit accounts (open or closed) that you’ve maintained in your past;
- Your current revolving and non-revolving debts;
- Your payment history.
One of the quickest ways to get a feel for where you need to make improvements is to review your credit history. Do you have too much debt? Have you opened too many different lines of credit? Do you regularly miss payments? If any of these three areas is concerning, it should get some attention.
7. Be Deliberate in Opening New Lines of Credit
Keeping old lines of credit open and paid off is a great idea. However, you should think twice about opening brand new lines of credit for a couple of reasons.
First, opening a new line of credit presents the temptation to use it. You should always have a very good reason when applying to borrow funds.
Second, a new line of credit reduces the average age of your credit. As a rule, the older your credit is, the higher your score will be.
8. Ask Nicely
Lenders, credit bureaus, and other financial professionals are not your enemy. On the contrary, in many cases, they want to find a positive solution for all parties involved.
With that said, it often helps to ask nicely when working with a financial institution to improve your credit.
For instance, if you find that you’ve missed a payment on a credit card by accident, try calling the lender and explaining the situation. As long as you’re willing to make the payment immediately, there’s a good chance that they’ll waive any late fees.
9. Create a Budget
A budget is a critical part of long-term financial health. If you want your credit to not only be fixed but also stay in a healthy state, you need to foster the habit of having a good budget in place at all times.
This starts with making a budget that considers things like income, expenses, debt, and savings. However, it shouldn’t stop there. Make sure to revisit your budget regularly. When you do so, assess if it’s working and consider any updates or changes that are needed to reflect your current financial situation.
10. Pay Every Bill on Time
Finally, make sure to prioritize making every single payment on time. Your payment history makes up a whopping 35% of your total credit score.
As such, you must find a way to consistently pay every bill on time. You can do this by adding payment reminders in your calendar or even setting up autopay to ensure that you never miss a payment.
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