Can I Fix My Credit in a Week?

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If you’re getting ready to apply for a car loan, mortgage or credit card, you may have heard it’s a good idea to check your credit before doing so. But, waiting until the last minute to check your credit before applying may have you surprised — if you find you have low credit scores for any number of reasons, you may be wondering just how quickly you can fix your credit.

“Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for credit because it took time for this problem to arise and it generally takes much more than a week to resolve it,” John Heath, a credit expert and consumer attorney for Lexington Law, a Credit.com affiliate, said in an email.

Timing Is Everything

Credit scores are based on information in your credit files, which includes new data about how you handle your accounts reported by your creditors every month, according to Jeff Richardson, a spokesperson for VantageScore Solutions.

This monthly reporting date differs from lender to lender and the monthly date your credit scores update also differs depending on the reporting bureau, which is one of many reasons the cycle for fixing your credit may take more than 30 days, Richardson said.

Another example of timing limitations arises when you attempt to fix your credit by disputing errors on your credit reports, according to Heath. These disputes may include a current account, collection, bankruptcy, public record, tax lien or late payment that can’t be substantiated, isn’t yours, is inaccurately reported or is outdated.

“One of the major rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act grants the credit reporting agencies 30 days to review your challenges to items on the credit report,” Heath said.

According to a 2012 VantageScore report, showing the impact of different positive and negative credit behaviors, you can typically improve your credit scores by 10 to 15 points within a few months with simple credit management techniques such as paying bills on time and paying down debt. For larger score improvements, it can take even longer depending on your specific credit report and account history.

Credit Fixes Accomplished in 30 Days

In general, the negative score impact of running up the balances on your credit cards can usually be corrected by a payoff the next month, according to Richardson.

“Pay down the balance all the way to zero, or at least under 30% of your total available credit, and you may see a credit score bump back up the next month, so long as there are no other negative credit events on your report,” he said.

Again, depending on timing, there might be one way you might improve your credit score in one week, according to Richardson.

“A score increase or decrease will depend upon when the lenders update your file,” Richardson said. “If you can find out when, say, a credit card issuer is reporting to the credit bureaus and reduce your balance significantly beforehand it is possible to see a score increase in a short time period.”

He favors taking a longer view of your credit health and improving your credit before you need to apply for any new credit, if possible.

Heath said you could spend one week reviewing your credit reports thoroughly making sure you recognize all the listings on the report and creating a budget that assures timely payments. Both of these actions, easily completed in one week, go a long way toward improving your credit in the long run.

No matter what steps you take to improve your credit scores — whether it’s to repair errors you discover or simply improve your habits — it’s important to note that these are things you can do on your own. There are also professional credit repair experts who are available to help you, but opting to turn to one for help is not essential.

If you are unsure where your credit currently stands, you can view two of your credit scores for free, updated ever 14 days, on Credit.com.

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5 Random Reasons Your Credit Score Could Drop

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You likely know that monitoring your credit score is an important part of managing and maintaining your financial health, but it’s also important to understand how your credit score is calculated and the key factors that are used in the calculation.

Even then, though, there are the outliers, the unknowns, the credit goblins that go bump in the night and, come morning, you’ve got a small ding on your credit score that you had no control over. While there’s not much, if anything, you can do to avoid this handful of scenarios, it’s good to understand that you can take action after the fact to remedy them.

Here are five random reasons your credit score could drop.

1. You Paid Off a Loan or Credit Card

Wait, what? While the expert consensus is that paying off a credit card or loan is positive and shouldn’t negatively impact your credit scores, lots of consumers report this happening. So what gives? 

There are a couple of things that can happen:

  • If the loan you paid off was your only active installment loan, you would likely see a small drop in your credit score. It has to do with your mix of active accounts, which is one of the five main factors that determine your credit scores.
  • If you have other accounts, it could be they have higher balances than the loan you paid off, meaning your credit utilization has shifted.

Of course, these things don’t tend to happen in a vacuum. It’s likely many things on your credit file are changing at once, so it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the precise impact one account is having on your credit score. You can keep track of what’s going on with your free monthly credit report summary from Credit.com.

2. Your Credit File Is ‘Mixed’ 

When an item on your credit report gets mixed up with someone else’s, it’s commonly referred to as “mixed files” and it can be very difficult to straighten out.

This happens most often when someone with the same name or a similar name applies for credit and a piece of their file becomes mixed with yours. A consumer with a common name like “John A. Smith,” for example, could see his file mixed with a John B. Smith or a John A. Smith, Jr.

To prevent problems of mixed files, always be sure to use complete and consistent information when filling out a credit application, especially if you are a junior or senior or have a common name. And to ensure your credit reports are accurate and complete, you need to check your free annual credit reports, which you can get on AnnualCreditReport.com.

Finding the problem is only the beginning — then you need to fix the errors on your credit report. You can do this by disputing the information with the credit bureaus yourself, but if you have trouble resolving the issues or are overwhelmed by the process, you can also hire someone to help repair your credit for a fee.

3. Your Issuer Closes Your Card/Lowers Your Limit

This situation just stinks. Not only do you lose your credit account, but it can also ding your credit score.

Creditors can close accounts for various reasons, including delinquency, inactivity and default. It is only necessary that they let cardholders know of the closure within 30 days of the account being closed.

Closing an account can have a negative impact on your credit score largely by affecting your credit utilization rate—the amount of available credit you have versus the amount of debt you are carrying. It could also wind up affecting the age of your credit report.

Likewise, issuers can lower your limit without warning. While other actions require 45 days’ advance notice, thanks to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, changes to your credit limit aren’t considered “significant changes.” (Such “significant changes” as they are called in the Truth in Lending Act, include changes to your interest rate, fees or grace period.)

With a lower limit, your credit score could go down if you don’t also reduce your spending, because the more you use of your available credit across all your credit cards, the lower your credit score will likely be. General rule of thumb is to keep the amount of debt you owe below at least 30% (ideally 10%) on your available credit for the best credit scoring results.

4. You Co-Signed on a Loan Gone Bad

Co-signing essentially puts your credit score in the hands of someone else. Now, when the person is paying the loan, it’s great for your credit score. Each on-time payment made on the loan gives your credit profile and credit history a boost. On the flip side, if they make a late payment, you make a late payment in the eyes of lenders.

If you co-signed a loan for a friend or relative and he or she is not able or willing to pay back the loan, you must step up or face the consequences, including a drop in credit score, if the loan payments fall behind. At the end of the day, your signature is on the loan, so you’re responsible for it.

5. Someone Stole Your Identity

New account fraud is a common form of identity theft: Someone gets their hands on your Social Security number and uses it to borrow money or open a credit card they never intend to repay. Since the accounts use your Social Security number, they’ll likely end up on your credit report, and that information (which is probably negative — identity thieves generally don’t make payments on your behalf) will factor into your credit scores. That’s why a sudden drop in your credit scores could be a sign of identity theft. A credit freeze can prevent new account fraud, but it doesn’t prevent someone from taking over and abusing your current accounts. Even if you have a freeze in place, it’s important to monitor your credit for suspicious activity.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

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Help! I Just Found Out I Have Bad Credit

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If you’ve gone a long time without checking your credit (or if you’re checking it for the very first time), you may be in for a surprise. A whopping 56% of Americans had bad credit scores, per a survey from early 2015. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to panic if your score is below 600 (the generally accepted definition of subprime.) Instead, you can follow these simple steps in order to unearth what’s going on — and to get your score to ultimately improve.

1. Do a Thorough Credit Check

There are a lot of reasons why a person can have bad credit. You could, for instance, have collection accounts you don’t know about it in collections, an unpaid store credit card account that you forgot opening or, worse, someone could have opened fraudulent accounts in your name. To get a better idea of what might be behind your low numbers, you may want to pull all three of your credit reports for review. (Not all lenders report to all three major credit reporting agencies, so doing could help you see the full scope of the problem.) You can pull your credit reports for free each year on AnnualCreditReport.com.

2. Check Your Reports for Errors

Once you have your credit reports in hand, you will want to check them thoroughly for errors that could be holding your scores back. These errors could simply be a clerical or creditor issue or deeper identity theft may be occurring. You can find out more about why errors appear on your credit report and how to go about disputing them on Credit.com.

3. Identify Your Areas of Opportunity

Most credit scoring models generally consider five major factors when computing your score:

  • Payment History
  • Amounts Currently Owed
  • Length of Credit History
  • Types of Credit
  • Searches for New Credit

If your poor credit score is being driven by your own data (or behaviors), it’s a good idea to identify what specifically may be holding your score back. Doing so could potentially help you also identify some new habits that might help you improve your score over time. For instance, if you’re continuously missing loan payments, you may want to use set up auto-pay on your credit cards or other loans. (Just be sure to still monitor statements regularly for fraud or new fees.) If you’re always maxing out your credit cards, you may want to try paying your bills more than once a month to keep balances from growing too high. You can see how certain factors are affecting your credit scores by viewing your free credit report summary each month on Credit.com.

4. Focus on the Basics

In addition to addressing negative items directly, you can generally build good credit in the long-term by making all of your payments on time, keeping the amount of debt you owe below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your total available credit and adding new credit lines organically as your wallet (and score) can handle it. Consumers with bad credit may also want to consider applying for a secured credit card or credit builder loan to begin demonstrating these habits and rebuild their credit over time.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

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