If you’re not disciplined enough to create a budget and stick to it, to work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or to keep track of your mounting bills, you might consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But remember that “nonprofit” status doesn’t guarantee free, affordable, or even legitimate services. In fact, some credit counseling organizations — even some that claim nonprofit status — may charge high fees or hide their fees by pressuring people to make “voluntary” contributions that only cause more debt.
Remember, there are lots of reasons why your credit may be in rough shape. Most are related to your spending habits. So, for instance, if you missed a few payments or your debt levels are too high (think over 30% of your total available credit limits), disputing errors won’t help your case — you’ll have to make some changes to improve your credit scores. And you may have to wait a bit to see an uptick.
Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it® Student Cash Back was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students.
There are no overnight fixes when it comes to your credit, and repair is no exception. Depending on the type, and number, of items on your report you wish to dispute, repair can take anywhere from six weeks to more than a year. No credit repair agency can give you a “30-day guarantee” to solve all of your problems — not only is it unlikely, it’s illegal.
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Alternatively, consumers wishing to obtain their credit scores can in some cases purchase them separately from the credit bureaus or can purchase their FICO score directly from FICO. Credit scores (including FICO scores) are also made available free by subscription to one of the many credit report monitoring services available from the credit bureaus or other third parties, although to actually get the scores free from most such services, one must use a credit card to sign up for a free trial subscription of the service and then cancel before the first monthly charge. Websites like WalletHub, Credit Sesame and Credit Karma provide free credit scores with no credit card required, using the TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 model. Credit.com uses the Experian VantageScore 3.0 model. Until March 2009, holders of credit cards issued by Washington Mutual were offered a free FICO score each month through the bank's Web site. (Chase, which took over Washington Mutual in 2008, discontinued this practice in March, 2009.)Chase resumed the practice of offering a free FICO score in March, 2010 of select card members to the exclusion of the majority of former WAMU card holders.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) made it possible for you to get a free credit report. Through FACTA you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—each year. You should take advantage of this ability by ordering your credit report and using it to monitor your credit history.
When shopping around for the perfect credit repair company, start with the basics: fees and reputation. As in any market, the price of credit repair services will vary by company and features. Checking the company’s reputation with the BBB and industry associations is a good way to determine their legitimacy, and ensure you’re not about to throw your money away.
Two companies dominate credit scoring in the U.S.: FICO® and VantageScore®. They calculate scores from information in your credit reports, which list your credit activity as compiled by the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion®. If you have a good VantageScore®, you're likely to have a good FICO® Score, because both consider the same factors: Payment history: your record of on-time payments and any "derogatory" marks, such as late payments, accounts sent to collections or judgments against you. Credit utilization: balances you owe and how much of your available credit you're using. Age of credit history: how long you've been borrowing money. Applications: whether you've applied for a lot of credit recently. Type of credit: how many and what kinds of credit accounts you have, such as credit cards, installment debt (such as mortgage and car loans) or a mix. A credit score doesn't consider your income, savings or job security. That's why lenders also may consider what you owe alongside what you earn and assets you have accumulated.
Credit repair starts by reviewing your credit reports to identify potential errors and mistakes. It takes about half an hour to download your reports from annualcreditreport.com. That’s the time it usually takes to login in, answer the security questions and download your three reports. Then you review your reports to see what they say and take note of any errors. If you’ve never looked at a credit report before, it can take 1-2 hours to review all three reports in-full.
It’s important that you have access to your credit score, especially since it's not part of your free credit report. After all, it’s a number that lenders, landlords and others use to evaluate your credit worthiness. Our philosophy is that you should have access to your own information, without having to pay for it each time, or cause any negative hits to your credit. With Credit.com, you get a free credit score from Experian, the most comprehensive credit bureau in the U.S., and the best part is, checking it through Credit.com doesn’t cause any hard inquiries, so you won’t hurt your score by doing so. Plus, you get your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, which lots of lenders use! So, empower yourself!
If you are impacted, Equifax offers you a free credit monitoring service, TrustedIDPremier. However, you won’t be able to enroll in it immediately. You will be given a date when you can return to the site to enroll. Equifax will not send you a reminder to enroll. Mark that date on your calendar, so you can start monitoring your credit as soon as possible.
Once you have your credit reports, read through them completely. If you have a long credit history, your credit reports might be several pages long. Try not to get overwhelmed by all the information you're reading. It's a lot to digest, especially if you're checking your credit report for the first time. Take your time and review your credit report over several days if you need to.
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Have you ever wondered how using your credit affects your credit score? With so many misconceptions about carrying balances month to month, this can be confusing. Your credit utilization, or how much of your credit you use, makes up 30% of your credit score. Interested in paying down those high balances? Let us show you how by coming up with a personalized game plan. See it now »