3 Steps to Repairing Your Own Credit

With a little patience and effort, you can repair your credit without paying for the assistance of a credit repair company.

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Once you get back on your feet after a financial disaster, you eventually will reach the last hurdle: the credit repair process.

Rebuilding your credit is a necessary process, if somewhat intimidating. Many people put the task in the hands of a professional.

But if you decide to engage a credit repair company, be very careful. There are many bad actors in the business.

Some so-called credit repair companies make inflated promises, such as flatly stating they can erase any negative marks that exist and raise your score in a flash.

Both are false promises. The Federal Trade Commission says it’s against the law for credit repair companies “to lie about what they can do for you, and to charge you before they’ve performed their services.” (To further protect yourself, become familiar with the Credit Repair Organizations Act.)

The FTC adds:

No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. You can ask for an investigation — at no charge to you — of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. Some people hire a company to investigate for them, but anything a credit repair company can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost.

If you choose to go it alone, here are the steps you can take to repair your bad credit for free:

From our Solutions Center: Free help with your credit score

Step 1: Access free copies of your credit reports

Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies, then thoroughly scrutinize the information in the reports for errors, omissions and fraudulent accounts.

Also, be on the lookout for negative marks that should have dropped off your report because they’re more than seven to 10 years old. Most bad items drop off in seven years.

If you already have received your three free credit reports for the year through AnnualCreditReport.com, you still may be entitled to more recent free copies. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this is true if:

  • You are denied credit, insurance or employment, or offered unfavorable rates because of the content of your credit profile. You have to ask for the free report within 60 days.
  • You are not working, and you plan to begin a job search within 60 days.
  • You receive welfare benefits.
  • Inaccuracies exist on your report because of fraud, including identity theft.

Step 2: Fix errors

To file a formal dispute of an error in a credit report, notify the credit reporting agency online or by letter. Once you have done so, it will contact the other credit reporting agencies. If you decide to use a letter, it should include:

  • Your name and address.
  • The items in dispute.
  • Your argument and any supporting facts to support your claim.
  • A formal request for the resolution of the issue.

The FTC provides a sample letter here.

When sending information to a credit reporting agency, include a copy of your credit report that clearly identifies the item in question. Also send copies of documentation that supports your claim the information is wrong. Remember to send copies rather than your originals.

Send the package via certified mail with a return receipt requested to ensure that it arrives at its intended destination.

Upon receipt, the credit reporting agency must investigate and communicate its decision within 30 days. Should it reject your request, you can ask that a note detailing your argument be added to your credit file.

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Comments

  • senior3citizen

    I am hoping with FICO re-doing their scoring method sometime this fall, according to Fortune website, this will save some people some bad scoring. I still think having one credit card and paying most or all of it off monthly is better than 3-4 cards and paying some on each. Thinking logically, I thought this method would have bettered my score. But, FICO disagrees. You ultimately get a better score having more credit cards than having just one! If I had known closing credit card accounts and having one would have cost me a decline of 84 credit points I would not have done it!! I have written all three agencies about this and can’t wait to see what answers I get back. I also think FICO scoring should not be the ultimate decision maker used in getting credit. What happened to individual circumstances, etc being considered in the decision making process?

    • speaksthetruth

      I have a ton of cards. Over 10. No I’m not in debt. I don’t owe anyone a cent. Why do I have so many cards? Well, I don’t enjoy paying interest. The second one card now carries interest I apply for another with 0% APR for 12-18months. I’ve been doing that for over 10 years and I literally haven’t paid a cent in interest for those years.

  • sbrs

    I’m 2 years out of a divorce where my ex ran up tens of thousands of dollars in joint debts, got behind on paying it all and subsequently trashed our credit. I cancelled all our joint cards. As soon as the divorce was final I aggregated all the debts I could into a credit counseling plan, and have been paying timely payments ever since. In two months it will be paid off! I also settled two accounts for less than the balance and will be paying the balance only on two more credit cards for another year. I’ve pulled my credit reports and everything is accurate. The one thing I cannot get my name off of is my ex’s car loan, as we took it out jointly. (Any ideas?) He is perpetually months behind on this and he won’t refinance. Question: I still cannot get ANY credit cards – not department store cards, not a card through my bank – nothing. The only card I have is a secured card from my credit union, which I am very responsible with. I would think that 2 years of good payment history would work in my favor, but it has not seemed to raise my credit score enough to qualify for any credit. I have no other debts, my car is paid off and I rent an apartment. I’ve been employed in the same place for 10 years. Did I do the right thing by paying thousands of dollars of our joint debt to clear my name? How long should I wait before applying for a credit card? Any advice on getting off his car loan or rebuilding credit from here? Why am I still being denied credit?

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    There are a few aps on this list of which I was unaware so thanks for sharing.mmmm

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