Your credit gets ruined very quickly if you skip a few payments, have a car repossessed, declare bankruptcy or have other negative events happen within a short timeframe. Building up good credit takes longer because lenders want to see enough evidence of financial responsibility to feel confident that you will pay back your debts. You cannot completely fix bad credit in six months, but you can make a lot of progress.
Credit Report Cleanup
Credit report cleanup is the fastest way to build good credit quickly if there are significant mistakes on your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports. Every negative item that gets removed boosts your credit score because it is no longer considered in the scoring formula. Dayana Yochim of the Motley Fool advises that as few as 20 percent of credit reports are completely accurate. Use AnnualCreditReport.com to get free, no-obligation reports, circle the errors and report them to the credit bureaus through their online forms. Much of the information may be erased if the bureaus cannot confirm it with your creditors.
Pay off as much of your debt as possible if you owe a lot on your credit cards. The new balances are reflected quickly on your credit reports and positively influence your credit score. MSN Money writer Liz Weston advises reducing card balances to 30 percent of their credit limits, although getting them to 10 percent of the limits is the ideal. Put extra money on the accounts that are closest to their limits every month if you cannot put down lump sums to reduce the balances quickly. Stop using your cards while you work on paying them down.
The MyFICO credit scoring company singles out your credit repayment history as the most important part of your score. Payments make up a full 35 percent of the score total, so catch up past-due accounts immediately and make all future payments on time. Six months of timely payments shows lenders that you are focusing in credit rebuilding. Set up automatic deductions from your bank account if you have problems remembering to send money by the deadline or often have postal delays.
Rebuilding credit involves using credit, which is hard if lenders closed your accounts for past delinquencies or due to bankruptcy. Get a secured credit card, which takes a deposit of as little as $300, if you cannot get other accounts. The bank holds your money as a payment guarantee and extends a credit limit in the same amount as the deposit, according to Pat Curry of the Bankrate website. Use the account regularly for six months, always paying at time, then ask the bank to convert it to a regular credit account. Some will do so, while others make you wait a year or two, but the prompt payments still look good on your credit reports.
- The Motley Fool: How to Fix Credit Boo-Boos; Dayana Yochim; July 2008
- MSN Money: 9 Fast Fixes for Your Credit Scores; Liz Weston; Dec. 3, 2010
- MyFICO: How to Repair Your Credit and Improve Your FICO Score
- Bankrate.com: 10 Questions Before Getting Secured Credit Cards; Pat Curry; August 1999
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "3 Common Credit Issues and What You Can Do to Fix Them." Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Debt.org. "Secured Credit Cards." Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Six Tips to Consider When You’re Offered a Retail Store Credit Card." Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Experian. "Will Being an Authorized User Help My Credit?" Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Co-signing a Loan." Accessed May 12, 2020.
- My FICO. "What's in my FICO® Scores?" Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "How Do I Get and Keep a Good Credit Score?" Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commision. "Payday Loans." Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Experian. "How Long Do Late Payments Stay on Credit Reports?" Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Experian. "Inactive Credit Card: Use it or Lose it?" Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Disputing Errors on Credit Reports." Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Free Credit Reports." Accessed May 12, 2020.
- Consumer.gov. "Your Credit History." Accessed May 12, 2020.
Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."