An award-winning writer, editor and content strategist, Bob Musinski focuses on trends and issues related to credit cards and loans for U.S. News. He also has written dozens of stories for publications such as AAP News, Naperville Magazine and Natural Products Insider. He worked as an editor and reporter for three daily newspapers and an international wire service, where he covered events such as the World Series and Super Bowl and earned a national writing award from the Associated Press. His experience also includes planning and writing annual reports; strategizing, editing and writing for blogs; speechwriting; and strategic messaging development.
Credit scores are three-digit numbers created using the information in credit reports. That information is used to try to predict how likely you are to pay your bills on time. While you have only three credit reports (at least from the major, national agencies), there are many different types of credit scores that can be calculated based on your credit information.
All credit scores are a three-digit grade of your financial responsibility based on the data in your credit reports. The most widely used credit scores are FICO scores. There are several different FICO scoring models, with the FICO score 8 being the most common. FICO also offers a number of specialty scores that cater to specific situations. For example, there are FICO auto scores that lenders use when you apply for a car loan.
After you’ve resolved the negative items on your credit report, work on getting positive information added. Just like late payments severely hurt your credit score, timely payments help your score. If you have some credit cards and loans being reported on time, good. Continue to keep those balances at a reasonable level and make your payments on time.
"Even though individuals can challenge incorrect information on their own, they often choose to hire a credit repair company because they don't want to deal with the credit bureaus or their creditors themselves," says John Ulzheimer, an Atlanta-based credit expert, formerly with FICO and Equifax. "Sometimes they're frustrated by the lack of progress if they've tried to fix things themselves. Sometimes it's their natural inclination to outsource personal services, just like hiring someone to do your taxes."
Although not every landlord does so, rent can play a role in improving your credit score in some cases. Making sure that you are paying your rent on time every month is just as important as paying any other bill or debt. Not doing so can make it end up as a late payment and impact your credit score negatively. Ask your landlord if they submit to any of the three major bureaus.
Some businesses don't update your credit report with your monthly payments, but will notify the credit bureaus when you become seriously delinquent on your payments. For example, your cable bill isn't automatically included in your credit report, but if you fall more than six months behind on your payments, the bill might be listed on your credit report as a debt collection.
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Perhaps our favorite secured card, Discover it® Secured, has numerous benefits for those looking to rebound from a bad credit score. There is a $200 minimum security deposit that will become your line of credit, which is typical of secured credit cards. Your deposit is equal to your credit line, with a maximum deposit of $2,500. Additional perks include a rewards program (very rare for secured cards) that offers 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.This card has another great feature: Discover will automatically review your account, starting at month eight, to see if your account is eligible to transition to an unsecured card. Discover will decide if you’re eligible based on a variety of credit factors, and if you are, you will receive notification and get your security deposit back.
Your payment history comprises the bulk of what calculates your credit score (35%), so staying on time with your credit card, mortgage, auto or student loan bills is imperative to keep your credit score high. Too many late or non-payments can do the worst damage to your score, since it tells lenders that you’re an irresponsible borrower and credit risk.
Scoring models consider how much you owe and across how many different accounts. If you have debt across a large number of accounts, it may be beneficial to pay off some of the accounts, if you can. Paying down your debt is the goal of many who've accrued debt in the past, but even after you pay the balance down to zero, consider keeping that account open. Keeping paid-off accounts open can be a plus in your overall credit mix since they're aged accounts in good (paid-off) standing. You may also consider debt consolidation.
A: Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you 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 credit 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. Otherwise, a credit reporting company may charge you a reasonable amount for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.