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What’s the best way to raise your credit score?

03/17/2009

What’s the best way to raise your credit score when you have had a few delinquent accounts?

A reader, April, had this question:

I used to have good credit but when I purchased my home my score went down some, even though I was on time.

Recently I was having a hard time paying my home loan because my husband’s business was not doing well enough to be able to pay the mortgage. (He pays, though I am the only person on the loan).

So we fell behind. However, we recently qualified for a loan modification. The only way we could get them to help us was to be delinquent on the mortgage.

Now my credit score is in the mid 500’s…all of my other credit cards are on time, though they all raised the interest rate on me.

So my only option to go back to my original low rate is to opt out (forced to close cards).

In about a year we will be debt free with all closed credit cards… I want to start working on my credit score.

Will my lender reverse the delinquent on my credit now that it is added to the new loan?

Also will getting a secured loan/credit card now, even though I have good credit card history, help bring up my score?

April

Hi April. Thanks for your question. I think I can give you a plan of action that will help you raise your credit score and manage your debt a little easier.

Here it is, in 5 steps:

Step 1:

Call the bank you have your mortgage through. Ask them if there is any way that they can reverse the late payment records on your credit report.

Request it as a one-time thing, for a customer that has always worked to make arrangements with them. If you can get that from them in writing, even better. See if they can fax anything to you that is on official letterhead.

You can also ask them to put a note in your account if they will not reverse the late notices. The note should look something like this:

Made a verbal agreement with customer. She plans to challenge the late notices on her credit reports. Do not validate the late payments. Agreement with customer is to remove these items from her credit report.

Obviously, that’s not a sure-fire method because your late accounts may be reviewed by computers and not by people, but it never hurts to ask the customer service rep to put it in there.

Step 2:

Repeat step one with all of your credit card companies. Have them remove anything that they are willing to from your credit report.

This will be aggravating. But even one removal will raise your credit score, so it is worth doing.

While you have them on the phone, please make sure you ask them to lower your interest rate, and remove any late or over the limits fees on your card. You can request that they remove up to a year’s worth of fees.

Some companies will only remove one such fee, while other companies really will remove a year’s worth of fees as long as you still have a balance on your credit card.

You can find out more about how to negotiate those deals here:

Step 3:

Pull copies of all three of your credit reports. Since you are actively trying to repair your credit score, then it makes sense for you to pick up a cheap credit monitoring service. Let me stress that using a credit monitoring service is more convenient, but not absolutely essential. If you want to save the money, you can, and I’ll explain why.

Start by going to Annual Credit Report.com Make sure that you obtain a current copy of each credit report from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

This is free. Make sure that you print a copy of each report. Look over each of the reports carefully.

Highlight any negative information that you would like to have removed.

You will then need to log on and begin the process of disputing the negative items on your credit report.

This is time consuming, but in many cases it can dramatically raise your credit score. There are some standard “do’s” and “dont’s” though, so please check out our free guide before you begin disputing.

According to the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) your lenders have 30 days to verify whether or not your claim is true. If they do not report back to the credit bureaus, then by law the delinquency must be removed from your credit report entirely.

That is why I suggested that any customer service reps that you speak to should note your accounts that way.

If you can get letters from your creditors saying that they do not dispute your claims, then you can send those to the credit bureaus as proof.

It’s really just how much time and effort you want to put into it. The more you work to clean up your credit report, the higher your score will be.

Step 4: Keep Checking Your Credit Report

You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report when you dispute things on it. After 30 days, you should receive something in the mail from the credit bureaus telling you whether the late notes will be removed or not. If they were not removed you can keep challenging.

If they were removed, then you will want to wait a month, and pull all three of your credit reports again. Make sure that everything that was supposed to be removed actually did get removed.

Credit monitoring services that let you see all three of your credit reports are around $15 a month. This is convenient because you can log into one place and view everything, but as I said, in your case not strictly necessary since you can pull your reports for free after each challenge.

Step 5: Check your FICO Score and Get New Credit

If you choose to go the secured credit card route, yes it should help you, and you can get started right away, no need to wait until after you clean up your credit report.

Just make sure that you never charge more than about $35-40 a month on that secured card, and set up an auto-pay so that you are never late. If you do those two things, then getting a secured credit card will help to raise your credit score.

There is no need to check your FICO score when you apply for a secured credit card.

However, before you apply for an unsecured credit card, make sure that you know your FICO score.

If you aren’t yet in the 600’s at least, then just stick with the secured credit card, and keep paying off your loans as quickly as possible.

Once you’re in the mid 600’s, you can consider balance transferring some of your high-interest debt. (That’s if you haven’t already paid if off first!).

Thanks again for your question, and good luck as you work to raise your credit score!

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2 Comments
March 17, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

April,

If you ever take any advise about your personal credit, this is it. I come across a lot of people restating what they are reading elsewhere online. This is not the case here.

I work as a housing consultant and was checking out other blogs on credit to get some ideas for layout on my new one for my clients when I came across this one.

I have read through a few of his comments and articles on this blog now, and I even learned something I didn’t know. What is mentioned about having the reps place the comments on your file can have good impact should it get to human eyes and you purse it long enough.

Also, make sure you keep good time tables of the deadlines for the responses about the inaccurate filings on your reports. Make sure you act on the next day after the deadline so nothing slides through the cracks on you.

As for you Mr. Credit Card, maybe I can have you do a few posts on my new blog. It really seems like you can put together real game plans that are effective and accurate. Keep up the great work.

Reply
Lulu
June 19, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

I have been paying late on my bills for about a year. Now I have paid all my debt and wish my score to go up to buy a house. Any suggestions?

Reply

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