Countless companies and services offer to fix your credit score, but can they actually achieve such a feat? More importantly, are there things that you can do by yourself to improve your credit standing? Here are some of the fastest ways to give your credit score a boost and raise your consumer power.
Make Sure Your Score Is Actually Correct
Credit reports aren’t always guaranteed to be one-hundred percent accurate. An incorrect record could have been created after a creditor confused your identity with someone who shares a similar name, or they may have simply failed to update an old debt that you paid off.
Disputing errors should always be the first step you take, especially in light of FTC assertions that making corrections can often raise your score by 25 points. Request a free credit report from one of the three major reporting agencies, and carefully peruse each record to verify that they’re all valid.
When you file a dispute, be certain to document the error as well as any exchanges you have with credit agencies or creditors. If you find the same error on multiple reports, you’ll need to talk to each credit agency to get things fixed. Although it may take as long as 45 days to hear back from credit bureaus, eliminating mistakes has major benefits.
Work With Your Creditors
Settling your unpaid debts is obviously a smart financial move, but you shouldn’t rely on your creditors to fix your report just because you’ve paid in full. If you’re going to make a lump payment to clear up a remaining balance on an overdue account, talk to the creditor beforehand. Ask them to agree to report that the account has been paid or have it stricken from your credit report. Be certain to obtain a formal written agreement from the creditor in question if you decide to go this route.
Alternatively, you can write your creditor a goodwill letter asking if they’ll remove a record in light of your previous or current good standing. For instance, suppose you paid off your credit card debts on time for years and then missed some payments during a period of hardship, such as unemployment or a medical emergency. Sending your card company a polite, short letter might influence them to consider eliminating the blemish that’s ruining your record. This is definitely easier for those who have resumed making timely payments since their last transgressions.
Rethink How You Use Credit
Fair, Isaac and Company, the originator of the famous FICO scoring system, says that anything that reduces your outstanding debt can improve your score. For instance, setting up payment reminders or enrolling in automatic payments can both prevent you from digging a deeper hole for yourself and stop your score from decreasing further. Late bills, delinquent payments and collections can be hugely detrimental to your FICO scores regardless whether they’re months late or just a few days overdue, so it’s best to nip them in the bud.
Lower your outstanding debt on things like credit cards, and avoid the temptation to manage debt by distributing it into multiple accounts. Credit agencies look at the number of open accounts you have on record, so possessing fewer individual accounts can raise your score. They also consider the average age of your accounts, meaning that opening multiple credit cards may actually hurt your score even if you pay them off on time.
Overall, the best way to quickly raise your credit score is to correct any reporting errors and then fix your credit habits. Although there are no instant solutions for better credit, these methods can definitely put you on the right track.