This is the first time in a long time that I am daring to try to fix my credit report. Can I fix it myself, or do I need assistance from somebody else?
You can fix your credit report yourself, and for free. It will just take willpower and time.
Instead of "fixing" a credit report, though, what you really must do is rehabilitate your credit history.
The first step is to get copies of your credit reports from Experian and each of the other national credit reporting companies—TransUnion and Equifax. You can order free copies of your credit report from all three credit reporting companies by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find anything that's inaccurate, follow the dispute instructions to request to have it corrected.
You can also get your free credit report directly from Experian anytime. The quickest and easiest way to dispute any inaccuracies on your Experian credit report is by going online to our Dispute Center.
How to Improve Your Credit Scores
If your goal is to improve your credit scores, be sure to make all of your payments on time from now on. Your payment history is the most important factor in credit scores. If you've had missed payments in the past, they will remain on your credit history for up to seven years. However, the older they are, the less they will hurt you. Eventually, the negative information will be deleted and only positive information will remain.
The next step is to reduce or pay off any debts you have. If you are carrying a high balance on one or more credit card accounts, your utilization rate will reflect that, which will in turn hurt your credit scores. Your utilization rate, or ratio, is calculated by taking the total of all your credit card balances and dividing that number by the total of all your credit card limits. Multiply that number by 100 to get your credit utilization ratio, also known as your balance-to-limit ratio. When it comes to your credit scores, the lower your utilization rate, the better.
Continue to use at least one credit card and pay it in full each month. That will demonstrate that you can manage your spending. Eventually, your credit report will once again appear sparkling to lenders.
I know that is easier to say than to do, and getting it done will likely require you to change your credit management and spending habits. That can be very difficult.
Experian also offers a free service called Experian Boost™† that allows you to sign up to add your positive utility, cellphone and streaming service payments to your Experian credit report. You will receive a credit score before the payments are added and then an updated score at the end of the sign-up process so you can see the impact Boost has made on your scores. It may help you get immediate results toward your goals. Among Experian Boost users who have experienced a score lift, the average increase was 13 points.
Credit Counseling Can Help You Change Old Habits
A reputable credit counseling service can help as well. A good credit counselor can offer advice about your financial situation and, if necessary, create a debt management plan to help negotiate payment plans with your creditors. You can find qualified nonprofit credit counselors through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. They will offer, and in some cases require, that you complete budget training and money management courses as part of their programs.
Avoid Debt Settlement Companies
While reputable credit counselors can help you work your way out of debt, other types of companies may not have your best interests in mind. If all a company offers is to negotiate a "debt settlement" plan, look elsewhere. Debt settlement companies don't help you learn how to manage your credit yourself, and you could end up with the same problems or find yourself even deeper in debt in the future. Keep in mind that settling an account is considered negative because you did not repay the debt in full as agreed. While sometimes necessary, agreeing to a settlement amount will likely hurt your credit scores.
I'm confident that you can take control of your credit!
Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist