There are a couple points to make at the outset. First, there are no easy fix, fast track methods to repairing and rebuilding poor credit. It… just… takes… time. Remember your credit score (and report) reveal your track record of managing payments. If your score is a consequence of your actions, time is how your score will be repaired. You didn’t drop to a low score overnight, even if “life” did happen (job loss, health problems, divorce, etc.). This situation took time. Don’t expect to bounce back to a 780 score overnight. You need time to prove your ability to manage your finances and to pay expenses responsibly.
The second point is to avoid unscrupulous credit repair service companies. These companies often prey upon unsuspecting consumers promising to “fix” someone’s credit and to remove unfavorable information for “3 easy payments of $49.95”. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While errors on reports are not uncommon, truthful information no matter how unsavory cannot be removed. If a bankruptcy or foreclosure happened, it will be reported and will be there for some time. If you have a credit score, you are an adult. Let’s not whine about a low score, let’s be proactive and start on a better path. (If you have not reviewed your credit report in some time, visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ where you can receive a free report with your current scores once every 12 months.)
Okay, so you are behaving. Your bills are paid as promised, you have a very low debt to income ratio, manage your money well and stick to your budget, and learn your credit score is not where you expected it to be. Now what??
Start by reading your credit report. Is the information listed correct? Many times a keystroke error is all it takes to suddenly combine someone else’s credit history to yours and negatively affect your score. If you are a “Jr.” or “Sr.” you can certainly understand this scenario. Other times it may be that a debt has been fully paid and the creditor has stopped reporting the information to the credit bureaus so that a remaining balance still shows.
If you believe your credit report contains an error you have the right to contact the credit bureau that reported it and dispute the information. There is no cost to dispute this information and it isn’t complicated. The best way to communicate with any credit bureau is in writing. (Our website contains a sample dispute letter you can use.) Provide your complete name and address, the item(s) in question, why the item is being disputed, and your request to have this corrected or removed. Include a copy (never the original) of the documentation you have supporting your claim and a copy of your credit report with the items in question circled. Keep a separate copy of everything you are sending to the bureau along with a diary of any activity, conversations and contacts.
The reporting credit bureau has 30 days to investigate the disputed information and provide you with a written report of the findings. The bureau is also required to send you a copy of your updated credit report if the disputed item has been changed as a result.
In general with time, a solid financial plan, and some perseverance you can repair, build and maintain your own credit standing.