What if you were buying a house, car, boat or any big-ticket items that you had to get a loan to buy and when the Loan Officer ran your credit report told you your score is too low, what would you do?
Many times, credit files contain incorrect information, outdated information, or derogatory entries that can be corrected.
This is not a comprehensive essay on credit scores and credit repair. It is a short list of items that can be addressed and corrected in a short time frame, say 30-60 days. Some items such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, late payments, collection and judgement reporting can and will remain on your report for up 7 years except for a bankruptcy, which can remain for up to 10 years.
What are the items that can be addressed and reported in a 30-60 day timeframe?
Outstanding balances on credit card and revolving lines of credit
Notice these are all items you do not dispute that you owe. They are outstanding obligations that you pay who's balance is reporting at the moment your credit report is run. Disputing credit entries is an entirely different subject and has a longer timeline. Maybe I'll address that in a later article.
In my area, judgements are recorded at the county courthouse and when they are paid off, you get a release of lien. You go to the courthouse, pay the balance and get a receipt and release of lien. You then supply a copy of the lien release to the credit bureaus.
Collection accounts are a bit more involved, you need to contact the creditor, get a payoff balance (you might be able to negotiate a reduced payoff if you ask for it) and send them a check. You should get the payoff in writing from the creditor before you send the check and notate the check as "settlement in full." Request a receipt from the creditor but don't be surprised if they forget to send it promptly. No problem, you can take a copy of the cancelled check and their written payoff as proof you paid off the debt.
The above two items require you to contact the credit bureaus with written proof of the settled accounts. The 3 major credit bureaus all have some sort of online dispute/update process. You can find the addresses by online search for Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. Typically, they take 30 days or so to update undisputed information with written proof. In some cases, your loan officer may be able to get a "rapid rescore" through their credit report vendor that can shorten the process considerably, but it comes at an additional cost. If you are in a hurry to fix your score and cannot wait, then you have to pay to play in the fast lane.
The last item, and probably the easiest to affect an increase in your credit scores is to pay down outstanding credit card balances. A significant part of your credit scores is how much of your available credit you utilize. If you have $20,000 in available credit line and are using $19,999 of it, you are penalized for maxing out your available credit. If you only use $50% or less, you get a better score. If you can keep the outstanding credit balances to less than 33%, the impact is even better. Credit card companies will typically report balances every month. If you can pay down the outstanding balances or better yet, pay them down to zero, it will be reflected in the next months reporting. Do not close out the account, but pay it down. You might even call the credit card company to see when the billing cycle is and pay before then.
The three items are all fairly simple and fast strategies that you can use to improve your credit score in a short time frame. What is the single best way to get an excellent credit score? Easy, responsible use of credit and managing your finances. That will be the subject of a later article.