5 steps to do-it-yourself credit repair

Blotches on your credit report cost you. But, don't despair. It's never too late to become credit worthy -- just get started, and remember that it won't happen overnight.

Here are 5 steps for improving your credit rating:

1. Order your credit reports

Find out what the top three credit bureaus -- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian -- are saying about you. It's likely that they're all slightly different. Yes, different! Creditors don't have to report to all three credit bureaus, so they typically report to the credit bureau to which they also subscribe.

Time and money is wasted, says Steve Rhode, president and co-founder of Myvesta.org, if you only order a report from one credit bureau. You can order a credit report from each bureau. Costs vary from state to state, but in most states, it costs around $9 to get your report.

If you've been denied credit, insurance or employment because of your credit report, you are entitled to a free copy of your report from the reporting agency. The company you applied to must supply the credit bureau's name, address and telephone number. You have 60 days after receiving the denial notice to request your copy.

2. Examine your reports carefully

Nearly every consumer has an error on at least one credit report from one of the major credit bureaus, says Rhode. Credit bureaus generate your report on information they receive from your creditors; they don't verify.

Keeping your credit report a true reflection of you is -- like it or not -- your job. Get ready to clean and polish. Carefully look for everything from typing errors, outdated and incomplete information to inaccurate account histories. You'll want to make a thorough list of items you dispute and why. Be meticulous.

Here's how to read and understand your credit report.

If the negative information in your report is true, only time and improved habits can change that. Late payments and charged-off accounts remain on your report for seven years; bankruptcies for 10. Most creditors, however, look for a pattern of payment rather than focusing on one-time or rare occurrences; so consistent on-time bill payments will improve those blemishes.

3. Double-D strategy -- dispute and document

Remember, a bad report costs you money. So, it pays to be thorough! You can either complete the dispute form provided with your credit report or write a letter. Clearly identify each mistake and state why it's wrong. A recommendation is to send a photocopy of your credit report with the mistakes circled to the reporting credit bureau. Include copies of supporting documents.

Document, document, document. Keep copies and records of all the forms, letters and documentation that you send the credit bureaus, plus dates sent. The credit bureau must investigate any relevant dispute within 30 days of receiving your letter. Any item that is not verified as accurate by a creditor is removed.

Sometimes it's necessary to contact your creditors to resolve mistakes. Bankrate's 7 steps to fixing your credit report will help you tackle the serious errors.

If the credit bureau makes any changes to your credit file, it will send you the results and a free, updated copy of your credit report. Once a negative item is removed from your report, the credit bureau cannot put it back on unless a creditor verifies its accuracy and completeness -- and sends you written notice.

4. Solve and dissolve debt

Now's the time to devise a spending plan that reduces your debt and sets you up to pay on time, every time.

If you're having difficulty making payments, be proactive. Call your creditors and negotiate to keep your accounts current and from being reported as delinquent or "bad debt." You can ask for reduced monthly payments, or even change due dates to balance out your monthly bills.

The same strategy can be used for fixed-loan payments. Remember, though, that this is a short-term strategy. You'll pay more interest to extend the repayment schedule, but it allows you to stay current and save your credit rating. Use the extra money to pay off debts one at a time, gradually increasing payments to other debts.

Article continued at http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cc/20011008b.asp

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