Fix Bad Credit 1. DELETE COLLECTION ACCOUNTS Did you know that paying a collection account can actually reduce your score? Here’s why: credit scoring software reviews credit reports for each account’s date of last activity to determine the impact it will have on the overall credit score. When payment is made on a collection account, collection agencies update credit bureaus to reflect the account status as “Paid Collection”. When this happens, the date of last activity becomes more recent. Since the guideline for credit scoring software is the date of last activity, recent payment on a collection account damages the credit score more severely. This method of credit scoring may seem unfair, but it is something that must be worked around when trying to maximize your score. How is it possible to pay a collection and maximize your score? The best way to handle this credit scoring dilemma is to contact the collection agency and explain that you are willing to pay off the collection account under the condition that the all reporting is withdrawn from credit bureaus. Request a letter from the collector that explicitly states their agreement to delete the account upon receipt/clearance of your payment. Although not all collection agencies will delete reporting, removing all references to a collection account completely will increase your score and is certainly worth the involved effort. 2. DELETE PAST DUE ACCOUNTS Within the delinquent accounts on your credit report, there is a column called “Past Due”. Credit score software penalizes you for keeping accounts past due, so Past Dues destroy a credit score. If you see an amount in this column, pay the creditor the past due amount reported. 3. DELETE CHARGEOFFS AND LIENS Chargeoffs and liens do not affect your credit score when older than 24 months. Therefore, paying an older chargeoff or a lien will neither help nor damage your credit score. Chargeoffs and liens within the past 24 months severely damage your credit score. Paying the past due balance, in this case, is very important. In fact, if you have both chargedoff accounts and collection accounts, but limited funds available, pay the past due balances first, then pay collection agencies that agree to remove all references to credit bureaus second. 4. DELETE LATE PAYMENTS Contact all creditors that report late payments on your credit and request a good faith adjustment that removes the late payments reported on your account. Be persistent if they refuse to remove the late payments at first, and remind them that you have been a good customer that would deeply appreciate their help. Since most creditors receive calls within a call center, if the representative refuses to make a courtesy adjustment on your account, call back and try again with someone else. Persistence and politeness pays off in this scenario. If you are frustrated, rude, and unclear with your request, you are making it very difficult for them to help you. 5. CHECK YOUR CREDIT LIMIT(S) AND EVENLY DISTRIBUTE BALANCES Make sure creditors report your credit limits to bureaus. When no limit is reported, credit scoring software scores the account as though your current balance is “maxedout”. For example, if you know that you have a $10,000 limit on your credit card, make sure that the limit appears on the credit report. Otherwise, your score will be damaged as severely as if you were carrying a balance of the entire available credit. Credit scoring software likes to see you carry credit card balances as close to zero as possible. If it is difficult for you to pay down your balances, read the following guidelines to maximize your score as much as possible under the circumstances: There are different degrees that scoring software can impact your score when carrying credit card balances. Balances over 70% of your total credit limit on any card damages your score the most. The next level is 50% of your balance, then 30% of your balance. In order to maximize your score without having to pay down your balances, evenly distribute your credit card balances among all of your credit cards, rather than carry a large balance on one credit card. For example, if you are carrying a $9000 balance on a credit card with a $10000 limit, and you have two other credit cards with a $3000 and $5000 limit, transfer your balances so that you have a $1500 balance on the $3000 limit card, a $2500 balance on the $5000 limit card and a $5000 balance on the $10000 limit card. Evenly distributing your balances will maximize your score. 6. DO NOT CLOSE YOUR CREDIT CARDS Closing a credit card can hurt your credit score, since doing so effects your debt to available credit ratio. For example, if you owe a total credit card debt of $10,000 and your total credit available is $20,000, you are using 50% of your total credit. If you close a credit card with a $5,000 credit limit, you will reduce your credit available to $15,000 and change your ratio to using 66% of your credit. There are caveats to this rule: if the account was opened within the past two years or if you have over six credit cards. The magic number of credit card accounts to have in order to maximize your score is between 3 and 5 (although having more will not significantly damage your score). For example, if a card was opened within the past two years and you have over six credit cards, you may close that account. If you have more than six department store cards, close the newest accounts. Otherwise, do not close any at all. 7. BECOME AN AUTHORIZED USER (Note: Although this tactic is no longer effective for Experian, both Trans Union and Equifax consider authorized user accounts when calculating your credit score.) If you have a short and limited credit history you can ask someone who is a primary account holder to add you to their account as a joint account holder or an authorized user. When added, the primary account holder’s credit card will appear on your credit report. Credit scoring software will treat the added account as though it is your account and you will benefit from the low balance and the long payment history for that account. It is important to remember that being an authorized user is helpful for your credit score only if (1) the person is carrying debt below 10% of the credit limit and (2) has had good payment history on the card for seven years or longer. The longer the history, the better. Being an authorized user is potentially detrimental to your credit score if, for example, the primary card holder carries a high balance on the card and has had it less than five years. 8. KEEP YOUR OLD CREDIT CARDS ACTIVE 15% of your credit score is determined by the age of the credit file. Fair Isaac’s credit scoring software assumes people who have had credit for a longer time are at less risk of defaulting on payments. Therefore, even if your old credit cards have horrible interest rates, closing those cards will decrease the average length of time you’ve had credit. Use the old card at least once every six months to avoid the account rating to change to “Inactive”. Keeping the card active is as simple as pumping gas or purchasing groceries every few months, then paying the balance down. An inactive account is ignored by Fair Isaac’s credit scoring software, so you won’t get the benefit of the positive payment history and low balance that card may have. The one thing all credit reports with scores over 800 have in common is a credit card that is twenty years old or older. Hold onto those old cards! 9. What About Professional Credit Repair? Reparing credit is a slow and time consuming process. Full knowledge of your credit profile and how it represents you to creditors and credit bureaus is pivotal to full credit restoration success. Credit bureaus always advise individuals that they have a right to dispute their own credit files, but when the Credit Bureaus slow you down there are professional Credit Repair services that you can turn to for help. 10. It is possible using some Prepaid Mastercards to improve your credit rating. Request a copy of your credit report from a credit bureau. If there is an error, write to the bureau and ask it to fix the mistake. It might also help to contact the creditor who reported the error. Some creditors will contact the bureau on your behalf. 2 If the bad marks on your credit report result from outstanding debts, repay them as quickly as possible. Pay off those with the highest interest rates first. 3 If your debts are overwhelming, contact a nonprofit credit-counseling organization to work out a **** plan. A counselor will help you consolidate your debts and will contact your debtors on your behalf to reduce or eliminate finance charges. This can reduce your monthly payments by up to 40 percent. 4 Steer clear of any services that offer you credit-repair or **** loans. These companies will plunge you further into debt. Be suspicious of any company that advertises aggressively or sends unsolicited mail or e-mail. 5 Close your credit accounts and cut up the cards. Sell valuables or liquidate assets that will help you repay your debts. Buy the bare essentials (food and gas) and use the rest of your earnings to pay off your consolidated debts. 6 Work with your credit counselor to repay all of your debts. Meanwhile, live a life that will help you re-establish good credit. Pay rent and utilities or mortgages promptly, keep the same residence and job, maintain savings and checking accounts, set a budget and stick to it. 7 Once you have repaid your debts, apply for a new credit card to build a good credit history. It might be easier initially to get a department-store or gasoline credit card or one from an employee credit union. 8 Promptly pay off the balance of the credit card monthly to build good credit. Use the card responsibly. 9 If you don’t qualify for a regular credit card, apply for a secured one. With a secured credit card, you fund an account up front and then “charge” expenses on it. This card will show up as a credit card on your credit report and, if used responsibly, can help you build a good credit history. Read more: How to Fix Bad Credit Building or rebuilding a credit score seems like an impossible task. Young people starting out think they’ll never qualify for the best interest rates. Homeowners who may be facing foreclosure think their scores will never recover. – advertisement – We asked readers what they wanted to know about FICO scores, and we had many requests for guidance on building or rebuilding them. We posed these questions to Fair Isaac product support manager Barry Paperno, who has worked for the credit-score company since 1995. A reader who hasn’t used credit cards in 15 years and has paid off the car and the mortgage wants to know how to build a credit history again. Any suggestions? A misconception is that it takes a lot of credit, or that you need a long history or a lot of credit to establish credit, and that’s not true. You can get by with one account on your credit report, because the minimum criteria are an account that’s at least six months old and one that has been reported to the credit bureau or updated at the credit bureau within the last six months. It doesn’t even need to be active; it just needs to have been reported by whoever issued that account. It can be the same account you’ve had for over six months that gets reported every month — then you have a credit history with that account. Or, like in this person’s case, let’s say that the mortgage that they paid off is still on the credit report from 15 years ago. That would meet the requirement of being on the report for six months. Then let’s say he gets a new credit card — the first day that that gets reported to the bureau and shows up on his credit report, he’s got a FICO score. That’s basically what the score requires. In terms of the strategy to go about doing that, there may be some pitfalls to avoid and things to do to get the most bang for your buck. When you’re in the Catch-22 — you don’t have credit and before somebody’s going to issue credit they want to see some credit — one thing that people do is get a secured card. Credit unions are good for that or a bank that you’ve had a good relationship with for some time. You would use it in the same way as you would a credit card, any bank card. It would be a Visa or MasterCard, for example, but the lender would require collateral from you, usually in the form of a deposit. That deposit usually corresponds to the limit that they’re going to extend you. So, for example, if you’ll put a $500 deposit down in their bank or credit union, they will give you a $500 limit. You can run your balance up to that and you can pay it every month just like you do a credit card, but of course there’s more security for the bank. If you default, they can just take the money you have on deposit. The thing to make sure of is that it functions like a credit card, and to make sure that it’s going to be reported to the credit bureaus as such. It doesn’t do your score any good if that’s not reported to the credit bureaus. You want to make sure that it’s reported to all three credit bureaus, if possible. Ask the bank or the credit union. They should be able to tell you where they report. That’s one of the features (of a secured card), and that’s what most people do it for, so they’re used to that question. But there might be some unscrupulous ones who will try to get your money and imply that they’re going to report them and they don’t. You do want to be aware of that. Or they may just report to one of three bureaus, in which case, if it’s a great deal you’re getting, that’s OK. But ideally you want it to be with all three, because down the road, when you’re going to be applying elsewhere, you don’t know which bureau the future creditor is going to use. It would be a shame to have a couple years of history now with this one bureau, and you need a car and there’s a good rate being offered and unfortunately they pull the bureau that your card isn’t being reported to. At what point would someone establishing credit be creating too many inquiries? Inquiries are going to weigh more heavily, but it depends on the overall profile of the report that’s being scored. For example, an inquiry is going to matter more on somebody that has a very short and minimal credit history vs. somebody that’s got a long and robust history. For example, a student with a student loan on his credit report, if he gets a few inquiries, that’s going to affect his score more negatively than maybe that person’s parents, who’ve got years and years of credit history, a good mix of that stuff. Once you do get that secured account and then you start going to all of the big banks and the national department stores, and the oil companies and that kind of thing, you start generating all these inquiries, and that’s going to have a negative effect on your score. Not as bad as missing payments on that account or maxing out that one account — those will trash your score, to use a technical term. Inquiries have a minimal effect, but they are something to be aware of. The question of what’s a good number of cards to have, ideally, while this varies, it’s definitely good to have more than one, and I would say for somebody that’s starting out, less than five. What’s going to be most important again is not even being 30 days late. Don’t be a minute late because you have no track record and everything you do is going to be under a magnifying glass. You want that to be spotless in terms of your payments and also in terms of your credit card utilization. If you just have that one secured card with a $500 limit and your income is such that you charge up $500 and pay it off every month, that’s not a problem. But if they pull your score and you have a $500 balance on a $500 limit and that’s the only account you have, your score is going to take a hit. There’s where it’s going to be good to have more than one account. At that point, nobody’s going to give you a huge limit. It’s probably good to have two or three and spread the debt around a little bit or use one one month and use (another) one the next. You can have just as good a score if you have three accounts and your utilization overall is 25 percent as having that one account with your overall utilization at 25 percent, everything else being equal. It’s more important to have one account paid on time with low balances than to work too hard at getting multiple ones. In getting those additional (credit cards), you want to do your homework and make sure you’re going to qualify — if possible, even ask them what kind of score they require. They’re not always going to tell you and they’re not always going to know, but if you can get that information, you might save the trouble if you’re not there. There are Web sites out there where people talk about what credit card lenders require and what bureaus they pull and that type of thing. Well, they should definitely give it a lot of thought. There’s no particular amount of time and the score does not penalize you for being turned down. It doesn’t know if you’ve been turned down. But you’re going to have an inquiry from that one that was turned down, so that’s one more than you probably want to have. In terms of how long you should wait, as long as you have one account — like for this person that’s getting back into the credit world — if you can live with the limit that you have on that one account, I would say, ideally wait a year before opening another one, six months minimum. I would definitely wait six months, keeping in mind that inquiries only are looked at by the score for one year. I don’t want to make too big a deal about inquiries, but when you have a very thin file, there’s not a lot on there and those can kind of take on larger proportions. Getting back to the guy or the gal that’s re-establishing after all these years, in the short term, opening a few accounts is probably going to do him (or her) more good than harm. With so many homeowners having difficulties with their mortgage payments, we’ve had questions about the credit score and foreclosure. How many points will your credit score go down if you have a foreclosure? How much if you sell your house in a short sale? This gets into one of those “it varies” answers. No. 1, it’s going to depend on where your score was before the foreclosure or the short sale because if you already had a lot of late payments on it, it’s not going to fall as far, because it doesn’t have as far to fall. If you had pristine credit and then you have that on your file all of a sudden, your score will easily drop more than 100 points, probably quite a bit more. But then that all depends, too, on your credit card balances, your length of history and all that stuff. The idea here is how far does it have to fall? In terms of foreclosure vs. short sale, they are treated the same by the score. There really is no difference. So, what I’m saying about one will apply to the other. If you’re interested in how long it takes to recover from that, then the thing to be aware of is the date or how recently that short sale or foreclosure took place and to what extent are there any other negatives on your credit file. If you were, say, up to date on all your credit cards and your auto loan when they reported the foreclosure or short sale, it’s going to take less time to recover, which would be somewhere between two and four years if you kept everything up to date and kept your balances low and did that kind of thing. 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