Increase Your Credit Score From 550 to 750 in 12 Months
It seems like every day, I run into someone who tells me that their credit is seriously messed up and beyond repair, whether it be the result of a divorce, student loans, or old debts that they never paid off. Everyone thinks that their situation is worse than anyone's has ever been and that their credit can never be fixed. Does this sound like you?
Well, for you and all the people that think their credit can never be repaired, I have good news.
First, let's talk about the three credit bureaus and your credit scores. There are three bureaus that lenders use to check your credit. Some may use more than one, but the majority simply pull from one bureau. About half the time, when you default on a debt, it is reported to all three bureaus. However, it may also be reported to one or two of them.
Each bureau scores in pretty much the same way. Credit scores go from 300 to 850. 300 is dismal, and 850 is perfect. Most people that I talk to think that their credit score is around 300. However, after checking, many people find that their scores are higher. It is definitely worth trying.
What Does Your Credit Score Mean?
Believe it or not, to get approved for a mortgage, car loan, or any other type of financing, all you need—assuming you have the income to make the payments and employment and stable housing—is a credit score of 620–650 or higher. A credit score of 750 will pretty much guarantee that you are approved for whatever you are attempting to finance, and it doesn't take very long to achieve this kind of number.
Getting a Copy of Your Credit Report
The law allows for two instances where a person can obtain a totally free credit report:
- Once per year.
- When you have been turned down for financing based upon your credit report if requested within an allotted period of time.
The official site for the free yearly report is www.annualcreditreport.com. You'll have to verify some information so that they know it is really you. This site does have a function for online viewing.
What you want is a site that will let you pull a fresh copy of your report whenever you want so that you can see how your efforts are affecting your scores. You also want a company that lets you view all three at once in an easy format.
The only company that I have found that offers these things is called Credit Check Total. There's a monthly fee, but you can look at your credit report as many times as you want. Whenever I have had a question, it's easy to get them on the phone and get an answer.
What to Do With Your Report
The first thing that you'll want to do is sit down and make a list of your debts. I would separate them into three categories, which I affectionately call:
- Probably—Can pay off in one lump sum.
- Possibly—Will take longer to pay off.
- Hell No—Just can't pay off.
- Now, go through your list and cross off any debt with a most recent date of activity that is six years old or more. Generally speaking, a delinquent account can show up on your credit report for up to seven years from the time your first delinquent payment was originally due on the account. These debts will drop off by the time our 12 months are over, so we don't need to worry about them. One exception to this rule is a student loan, which will never fall off your credit report until it has been paid in full.
- Take a pen and paper and make a plan to pay off all of the "probably" debts over the next 12 months. You'll want to pay them off in one lump sum—we'll go into why later, so make sure that you allow for that. If you only have $100 a week you can spare to pay these debts and the amount owed is $400, then allow four weeks for that particular debt. Remove the "Probably" debts from your list.
- Look at how much money you have left over and determine if you can pay off any of the "Possibly" debts. If you can, make a plan for those and remove them from your master list. Now, you should be left with a few possibles and one or two "Hell Nos" debts. We have a plan for these; don't worry.
The Route to a 750 Score
There are two ways to remove negative items from your credit score, and one isn't to pay them. At least, not just to pay them. There is a process for paying off your debts, and if you head into this venture gung ho and start calling up every creditor on your list, you'll do a lot more damage to your credit score than is already done.
First, let's discuss the two methods of removing negative information.
Method One: Pay the creditor and request that they remove the negative information. Basically, they withdraw their submission of unpaid debt. Some will tell you that they are unable to remove the information, and if they are the original creditor, this is utter horse dung. They are perfectly able to remove it. Now, be forewarned, you may have to get tough with some of these creditors and explain that you are attempting to clean up your credit. Tell them that you are making those creditors who are willing to remove the negative information for payment of the debt a priority, and if they refuse to remove it, then you will be forced to put them at the bottom of your list. They may threaten to see you in court and garnish your wages and take your firstborn baby, but in fact, 99.9% of the time, they will do nothing of the sort.
A different situation exists if the original creditor has charged off the debt and sold it to a collection agency. You'll know if this has happened because when you call the original creditor, they will tell you to call so and so collections. Do not plead or argue with the original creditor to remove the debt or take your money. It will not work. As far as they are concerned, you no longer owe them money—your debt was paid by the collection agency that bought your debt. Instead, simply thank them, hang up, and move that particular item to the "Hell No" column.
When we begin the plan, you will call one creditor at a time from your list of "Probably" debts, only after you have the money in hand to pay the debt in full. You will then attempt to negotiate a settlement for complete removal of the negative information from your credit reports (however many it exists on) and get that promise in writing from them, as well as the settlement amount. When you have it in writing, you pay that creditor, and you move onto the next one.
Method Two: Obviously, we're not going to be able to pay everything on our credit report in most cases, so we have a different method for dealing with these debts. You are going to dispute them. Pick one debt per two-week period and send a certified letter (not a phone call, a letter) to the credit bureaus that list the debt and dispute it for whatever reason you can think of. You can say the dates are wrong, the amount is wrong, or the debt simply isn't yours or it was paid.
A law exists that credit bureaus must remove negative information if the customer disputes it, and the company that listed the debt doesn't prove that the debt is owed and is correct within 30 days. Most companies fail to send it off within 30 days, and many may not even be able to find the records, especially if the debt is a few years old. However, if you send in too many requests at once, you will be flagged as a frivolous disputer, and you won't get anywhere. Send one debt in every two weeks, or even more spaced out over the year period if you only have a few.
These two methods combined are going to remove almost all of the negative information from your credit report and will bring the score up considerably. However, we are not finished. At the same time that we are removing negative information, we're also going to rebuild your credit.
The Final Hurdle
The very first month that you begin this program, I want you to beg, borrow, or steal $300, and get yourself a secured credit card. A secured credit card is one that works exactly like a credit card, but with the credit line secured by a cash deposit, which you usually receive back within a year of using the card responsibly. This is not a debit card. The money you secure it with is not yours to spend; it's your collateral to obtain this credit card. There are many companies that offer this service. Before you go shopping for one, I want you to find one that meets the following criteria as closely as possible.
- Reports as a credit card, not as a secured credit card.
- Reports to all three bureaus.
- Reports minimum quarterly, preferably monthly.
The first is non-negotiable. You must find a card that reports as a regular credit card, or you will benefit very little from what we're about to do. The second is almost as important since we never know which credit bureau a potential lender will pull from. The last, monthly or quarterly—make sure it's one or the other.
Now, begin using the card to buy something each month that you were going to pay cash for. Put the cash away, and when the credit card bill comes, for gosh sakes, pay it.
Repeat in month three. Yes, I'm telling you to come up with another $300 and get a secured credit card from a different company. Use it the same way, spending $10 or so a month and paying it off immediately when the bill comes. No late payments, no “I'll pay it next month,” and no paying the minimum. Pay the entire bill off each month on both cards.
Finally, in about six months, you're going to go shopping for a store credit card. These are quite easy to get with very little credit history, and you should be able to get one quite easily. Then, use it just like the secured cards until the end of the 12-month period.
Use the credit-checking website you joined up with to monitor your credit as you pay off debts, get them removed, and dispute others. You will also see good payments begin to appear, and your score will begin slowly climbing up, gaining more and more momentum. With these steps, you should be able to move from 550 to 750 in a year. Good luck with your journey!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.