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9 Steps to Repair, Improve, and Protect Your Credit

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The following steps will help anyone recover from past financial mistakes. These steps will help you rebuild, protect your credit, and obtain the credit scores needed to qualify for credit cards, loans, and/or mortgages (subject to income or other qualifications). If you have credit issues you must not only clean up derogatory obligations on your credit report but also establish new credit. Your scores determine your ability to qualify for that new car, credit card(s), vacation, mortgage, or even a job. Credit impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Many employers now require a credit check and past credit issues such as: bankruptcies, foreclosures, or judgments may disqualify you for a better or new job.

The following are steps to rebuild your credit:

Step One – Request a free copy of your credit report from all of the 3 main credit agencies (Transunion, Experian, or Equifax). Your reports can be requested online from any of the above mentioned credit agencies or through annualcreditreport.com. You are legally entitled to one free credit report yearly from each credit agency.

Step Two – Thoroughly review the report(s) for any errors or discrepancies. You can request the credit bureau correct any errors or dispute any derogatory accounts. You can dispute any inaccurate accounts. If the creditor who put the derogatory credit on your credit report cannot provide evidence that you owe the debt, it should be removed from your report.

Step Three – Bring all accounts current. If you have past due accounts focus on bringing them current first. Usually you can bring delinquent student loans current by negotiating a payment arrangement with the creditor. Then after 6 months of on time payments the creditor will likely report the account as current. If the creditor allows, change the payments to an automatic deduction. That will ensure your future payments are paid on time.

Step Four – Rebuilding your credit. Secure credit cards are offered by large banks online, local banks, and /or credit unions. A secure credit card usually requires a $300 to $500 deposit to open an account. This type of credit card will report payment activity to the credit bureaus just like a standard credit card. A secure credit card is a great way to obtain new credit. The last thing you want to do is apply at numerous lending institutions and pile up inquiries (which will lower your credit scores). You may need a co-signer if your credit scores are below 500.

Step Five – When rebuilding your credit, time will be your best friend. After 6 months of on time payments with a secure card, ask the lender to upgrade your credit card to a standard card. Also ask for the limit to be increased. This will give you more room to keep your balance under 30% of the available limit. Department store cards are a good place to start because they’re usually easier to qualify for. Remember to keep your card balances under 30% of the available limit to maximize your scores.

Step Six – Limit your inquiries. When shopping for a new credit card, installment, or auto loan, research the requirements first. If you do not qualify for the loan, go to another lending institution. The last thing you want to do is lose points from excessive inquiries.

Step Seven – Avoid closing credit cards. Usually the credit bureau does not differentiate between a card closed by the consumer or the creditor. Closing accounts can affect your score by lessening the amount of long-term established credit.

Step Eight – If you are unable to open a secure card, look into becoming an authorized user with a relative. They may qualify for the loan or credit card and add your name as an authorized user. You can use the card, make the payments, and have the payments recorded on your credit report.

Step Nine – Contact the credit bureaus to put a freeze on your accounts. This will prevent new accounts from being opened unless you contact the bureaus first. Identity theft protection services can be purchased which will monitor your credit activity and alert you of any potential fraud. Identity theft services can usually be purchased for less than $25 per month.

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