Credit Repair: How to Fix Your Credit Yourself (For Real)

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Updated: 22nd Oct 2020
Written by Kim Pinnelli
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October 21, 2020
Written by Kim Pinnelli

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Credit repair doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a quick fix, and no matter how much you pay someone, it won’t happen any faster.

If you’re tired of your low credit score, dig your heels in and get ready to fix your credit yourself (for real).

Believe it or not, 1 and 5 consumers have an error on their credit report.

For consumers, this is not good and needs to be addressed immediately if you want the best financial product, rates, and opportunities.

What Really Is Credit Repair?

Credit repair isn’t what you think. It’s not a ‘quick fix’ for your credit score. No one can come in and make the bad data disappear. You did the ‘crime’, but you may not have to do the time.

Here’s why.

When you repair your credit, you dispute items on your credit report. It’s not a quick fix to increase your credit score.

Instead, it focuses on making your credit report an accurate report of your credit history. When you repair your credit, you eliminate incorrect or unfair information on your credit report.

Why Do I Need to Repair My Credit?

Unfortunately, most people do not realize the underlying benefits of repairing their credit.

There are legit hundreds of reasons why you need to repair your credit, but they boil down to just a few key points. Here they are:

How to Repair Your Credit Yourself.

Employment Opportunities

A higher credit score may open up other employment opportunities at new companies or even promotions within your current organization.

Better Rates on Loans

Lenders look at credit scores first. Borrowers with high credit scores get the best interest rates and the lowest fees.

New Credit Card

Good credit scores get you access to better credit card offers including 0% APR balance transfer cards or reward credit cards.

Financial Freedom

Living underneath the stress of debt is no fun. Credit repair fixes the issues (with a lot of legwork), giving you a fresh start.

What Are the Steps to Repair Your Credit?

Credit repair isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you want better credit, it’s necessary! Following these step-by-step rules will help you get through the process seamlessly.

  1. Get a Copy of Your Credit Report
  2. Review Your Credit Report
  3. Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report
  4. Remove All Negative Items that Appear
  5. Handle “Past Due” Accounts
  6. Carefully Adjust Credit Utilization
  7. Improve Payment History

Let’s take a detailed look at each step, and what is required on your end. After all, you will have to do some work to repair your credit.

How To Repair Credit (Step-by-Step)

Without further ado, our action-oriented guidance to repair your credit yourself.

Step #1: Get a FREE Copy of Your Credit Report

You must know what’s on your credit report. Everyone gets FREE access to a credit report from each credit bureau.

Pull all three reports. You must send disputes to each bureau reporting the error.

Step#2: Review Your Credit Report for Errors

Comb through your credit report slowly. Look at every tradeline, every account number, name spelling, balance, and payment dates.

Compare any and all information with what you have. You can file a dispute on even the smallest mistake, so be as detailed as possible.

Credit Report 101: What You Will See

At first glance, your credit report probably looks like a foreign language. Fortunately, we broke down every category that you will see on your credit report.

Credit Report Categories

CategoriesPercentages (%)
Payment History35%
Credit Utilization30%
Credit History15%
Types of Credit10%
Credit Inquiries10%

 

Credit Utilization (30%)

This is the comparison of your outstanding debt to your total credit line. Any outstanding debt greater than 30% of the credit line hurts your credit score.

Payment History (35%)

Any payments you make more than 30 days late show up as a negative item on your credit report.

The credit bureaus mark late payments in 30-day increments. If you don’t catch up after 30 days, you’ll get hit with a 60, 90, or even 120-day late.

Length of Credit History (15%)

This is the average length of all credit history combined. If you open a new account, for example, it lowers your length of credit history.

Different Types of Credit (10%)

A healthy mix of credit is good. Carry a combination of installment loans (car loan, mortgage, or personal loan) and revolving debt (credit cards or lines of credit) for the best results.

Credit Inquiries (10%)

Each time you apply for new credit (doesn’t include credit card preapprovals), your credit score drops a little bit.

What “Credit Errors” to Take Note of

Start with the ‘largest errors.’ Look for:

  • Accounts that don’t belong to you
  • Payments reported incorrectly (late when they weren’t or the wrong amount)
  • Misspelt names
  • Wrong account numbers
  • Incorrect balances
  • Duplicate accounts (such as a credit card and a collection for the same credit card)

Step #3: Dispute All Errors with the Credit Bureaus

Write down every error, large and small, and dispute it by certified mail. It’s tempting to file the dispute online, but this limits your abilities. You can’t include any proof or prove receipt of the dispute.

Write a letter including all necessary information, include a copy of the proof (canceled check, a letter from the creditor, or any other evidence), and send it via certified mail with return receipt requested.

Credit bureaus have 30 days to respond. With a return receipt, you have proof of when they received it. If they don’t answer, they must remove the information.

What Happens After a Credit Dispute?

One of two things happens after your credit dispute.

  1. If the credit bureau sides with you, they remove the error from the credit report and send you an updated report. Follow up to make sure the credit bureau made the changes. Don’t forget to look at all three bureaus.
  2. If the credit bureau doesn’t agree with your dispute, they’ll mark the tradeline as disputed and you have a chance to enter your own statement. Future lenders will see your statement, but also the negative tradeline. At least you get an opportunity to give your side of the story.

Next, you can move onto improving your credit score.

Step #4: Successfully Remove All Negative Items

Late Payments

Bring all late payments current. The late payment will still show up, but if you are current on your payments now, the late payment begins to fade into the background.

Learn: How to Remove a Late Payment

Collection Accounts

Take care of your collections. Work with the collection agency on an arrangement. Whether you negotiate the balance, negotiate a pay-for-delete, or set up a payment arrangement.

Make good on the collections.

It will still show up on your credit report but show paid as agreed or whatever you agree to, which helps you move forward.

Read: How to Remove a Collection Account

Judgments

Judgments stay on your credit report for 7 years, but if you satisfy it, future lenders see its paid status.

It doesn’t hurt your credit score forever, so let time take its course as long as you’ve paid it.

Learn: Remove a Judgement

Repossessions

Repossessions also stay on your credit report for 7 years. If you have an outstanding balance, work with the creditor to pay it off, so the tradeline reports paid as agreed.

Read: How to Remove a Repossession

Charge-offs

Charge-offs are accounts creditors write off as non-paying. Work with the creditor to pay the account as agreed and they’ll note the account.

It stays on your credit report for 7 years but will eventually hurt your credit scoreless.

Learn: How to Remove a Charge Off

Bankruptcies

Chapter 7 bankruptcies stay on your credit report for 10 years, and Chapter 13 for 7 years. The countdown starts on the discharge date. Keep your paperwork to make sure they fall off on time.

Tax Liens

Unpaid tax liens stay on your credit report forever (or until you pay them). Paid tax liens fall off after 7 years and look a lot better than unpaid tax liens.

Short Sales

Short sales show that you worked with the lender to avoid foreclosure and remain on your credit report for 7 years.

Step #5: Handle “Past-Due” Accounts

Bring all late payments current. Showing you make good on your mistakes is a key part of the process.

Yes, lenders will see you had late payments, but after 24 months, most lenders do not count the late payments any longer, as long as history doesn’t repeat itself.

Step #6: Adjust Your Credit Utilization

Your credit utilization is the second-largest component of your credit score. Pay your balances down to less than 30% of the credit line.

For example, a $1,000 credit line should not have more than $300 outstanding at one time.

The closer you get to 30% or less of your credit line, the more your credit score increases.

Step #7: Improve Your Payment History

Moving forward, make all payments on time. Don’t overextend your credit, and don’t apply for credit you don’t need.

Make your credit as sharp as possible, giving you a fresh start after all your hard work.

Alternatives to “DIY” Credit Repair

1. Credit Repair Companies

Some people can’t handle the work involved with credit repair. Whether it’s too confusing, time-consuming, or stressful, a reputable credit repair company, like Credit Saint, is a suitable alternative.

Credit repair companies not only dispute your negative items on your credit report but also teaches you the necessary steps to move forward using better credit habits.

Dive Deeper: Credit Saint Review

2. Secured Credit Card

If you can’t get any other ‘new’ credit, consider a secured credit card. Your credit line is equal to your deposit. If you default, the credit card company keeps your deposit.

But, if you make your payments on time, it reflects well on your credit score. Charge what you’d normally buy and pay it off right away for the best results.

3. Credit Builder Loan

A credit builder loan is not truly a loan. It is a chance for you to show the credit bureaus that you can make payments on time.

The lender holds onto the ‘loan’ funds until you pay the balance in full.

6 Pro Credit Repair Tips

1. Carefully Remove All Negative Items

Dispute all incorrect information first. Work methodically, gathering your proof and providing irrefutable evidence to the credit bureaus.

2. Do not Dispute All Items at Once

Choose the errors you dispute carefully. If you dispute everything at once, you’ll look frivolous. Choose the accounts with the hardest hit on your credit score and/or history first.

3. Become a Credit Expert: Know What Hurts Your Credit

Do your research, know what affects your credit report and what doesn’t. Late payments and overextended credit lines hurt it the most.

Misspelt names or transposed numbers may not be as detrimental. Focus on the issues that give you the worst chances.

4. Routinely Monitor Your Credit

Pull your credit reports annually. Spread out your three free credit reports, pulling one every four months. This covers most of the year, allowing you to catch errors quickly.

5. Consider Credit Counseling

If you don’t know what to do next, get with a credit expert. Let someone look at your finances and tell you what to do. Use the advice they offer, and follow it carefully.

6. Have Patience with Credit Repair

You didn’t ruin your credit overnight, and you won’t fix it that fast either. The credit bureaus get up to 30 days to answer a dispute.

Creditors take time figuring out their next steps. Work carefully and methodically, and eventually, your efforts will pay off.

Why Fixing Your Credit is Important?

Your credit score affects many areas of your life, not just your loan approval chances. You may not get a job, the insurance you need, or a cellphone without a deposit if you have bad credit.

You’ll usually get the worst rates and pay the most fees when you do get approved for a loan or credit card too.

Credit Repair FAQs

Can You Erase Bad Credit History?

You can’t erase bad credit history – it’s a part of your credit file. But, you can erase erroneous information and mistakes, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is why credit repair is so essential.

Does Credit Repair Really Work?

Credit repair works when you do it right. With timely disputes, plenty of follow-up, and good credit habits moving forward, credit repair can have positive effects.

How Can I Wipe My Credit Clean?

There is no way to truly ‘wipe your credit clean.’ You can negotiate a pay for delete with your creditors, though.

If they agree, they may delete your tradelines in exchange for full payment or the agreed-upon amount.

If you get a creditor to settle, get it in writing, never agree verbally.

How Long Does it Take to Clear a Bad Credit History?

There is no set timeline to clear bad credit history. It depends on how hard you work, what you agree on with your creditors, and the time it takes for the negative information to naturally fall off (an average of 7 years).

Bottom Line: Credit Repair – How to Fix Your Credit

If you messed up, it’s okay. What’s not okay is letting the bad credit fester. Take steps to fix your credit, starting with credit disputes.

Everyone has something they can dispute on their credit report. Pull your reports and see what it is for you. Then move onto creating better credit habits moving forward to improve your credit moving forward.

Kim Pinnelli
Kim Pinnelli
Kim is a personal finance expert with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been freelance writing for 13 years for a number of large publications. Kim thoroughly enjoys helping people take charge of their personal finances.