Reducing your balances on credit cards and other revolving credit accounts is likely the better option to improve your credit utilization rate, and, subsequently, your credit scores. Consistently making on-time payments against your debt will also help you build a positive credit history, which can have additional benefits for your credit history and, by extension, your credit scores, too.
Bankruptcy. Declaring bankruptcy has serious consequences, including lowering your credit score, but credit counselors and other experts say that in some cases, it may make the most sense. Filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 allows people with a steady income to keep property, like a mortgaged house or a car, that they might otherwise lose through the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to pay off your debts over a three to five year period, without surrendering any property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, your debts are discharged. As part of the Chapter 13 process, you will have to pay a lawyer, and you must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for any bankruptcy relief.
If you have a poor credit history or a lack of credit history, a secured credit card may help you repair your credit and raise your credit scores. These require a deposit that generally serves as your credit limit. If you don’t pay your bills, the card issuer can withdraw the deposit. If you open one of these cards, it’s important to make on-time payments and keep an eye on your credit utilization.
Set up automatic payment reminders. Paying your bills on time is the most important factor in figuring up your credit score. Setting automatic deductions from your banking account for house and automobile payments, utilities, and credit cards will help you make timely payments. If auto payments aren't possible, set payment reminders on your calendar or budgeting software.
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Write a letter to the specific credit reporting agency that shows the falsehood, whether it is Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Explain the mistake and include a copy of the highlighted report along with your documentation. Although certain bureaus now let you submit disputes online, it’s not a bad idea to send this letter by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself. The reporting agency has 30 days from the receipt of your letter to respond. The Federal Trade Commission provides advice on contacting the credit bureaus about discrepancies. Here are the contact numbers and web sites for the three credit bureaus:
Pay off those debts with the highest interest rate first with any extra cash, a strategy called avalanching. You'll pay the amounts needed to keep your current accounts current and use your excess cash flow to pay down past due accounts one by one in the order of the highest interest rate to the lowest. This will save money in the longest run and is the fastest way to reduce your debts.
Your payment history is the most important factor in your FICO credit score and accounts for 35% of most scores. VantageScore doesn’t provide percentages, but the percentages used are likely similar to FICO’s. And even just one late payment can drop your scores significantly. Having a good payment history is critical to maintaining healthy credit accounts.
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