How to Fix My Credit Score Myself
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Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your life. Having a good credit score makes it easier for you to take out a loan for big purchases such as a car or house. If you haven’t been taking care of your debts and finances, you definitely should focus on fixing your credit score.
However, many people don’t know how to approach this. This is why so many credit repair agencies offer services that help people improve their score. But is it possible to fix yourself? In this post, we’ll lay out a detailed 9-step plan showing how you can fix your credit score on your own, while also recommending 7 top credit repair services if you need professional assistance.
9 Steps To Fix Your Credit Score
Even if your current credit score is bad, don’t worry. Any bad credit score can be fixed, though it will take significant time and effort on your part. You don’t necessarily have to hire a professional credit repair service to improve your score, but you will need to follow these 9 steps closely.
1. View Your Credit Report and Your Credit Score
First, you’ll want to view your official credit report and credit score. This will help you figure out where you currently stand.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) once every twelve months. You can order your reports online at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Your credit report will contain a record of debts you have taken on and your debt repayment history. Note that you won’t find your actual credit score in your credit report. In order to see your credit score for free, you can try checking your credit card statement or sign up for a credit monitoring service like Credit Karma.
2. Check Your Report for Incorrect Information
Before going any further, review your credit report and make sure all the information is correct. Here are some things in particular to look out for:
- Accounts: Do you recognize all the listed accounts? For each account, is the payment history accurate?
- Credit Inquiries: Do you recognize all the listed inquiries?
- Others: Are there any collections, bankruptcies, or other public records on your credit report that are inaccurate?
If you find an error on your credit report, that is something you can dispute. Typically, this involves writing a letter to the credit agency, as well as to the bank or organization that reported the error.
If there’s a credit inquiry that you don’t recognize, this could be a case of identity theft. Report your case through the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website.
3. Understand What Makes Up Your FICO Credit Score
Assuming the information on your credit report is correct, it’s time to take concrete steps towards improving your credit score. The score that most lenders see is your FICO Score, so it’s worth understanding what goes into calculating it:
- Payment History (35%): Have you paid off past credit accounts on time?
- Amounts Owed (30%): How much debt do you have? Of your total available credit, how much are you using?
- Length of Credit History (15%): How long have your credit accounts been open?
- New Credit (10%): Have you recently applied for a lot of new credit?
- Credit Mix (10%): How many types of credit accounts do you have?
To improve your overall FICO Score, you have to gradually improve in each category. The following steps will tackle one category at a time.
4. Payment History - Pay Down Debt On Time
Your payment history makes up the greatest chunk of your FICO Score. Thus, it makes the most sense to pay attention to this category first.
To improve your payment history, it all boils down to paying all your bills on time. While repairing your credit, it’s important to not miss any more payments, as a missed payment usually stays on your credit report for seven years.
To start off, identify your highest interest loans and pay those down first. Usually, those will be your credit card balances. Work on paying down your card in full every month (do not just make the minimum payment). To help you achieve this, set a monthly budget so you’re always able to make each payment.
5. Amounts Owed - Lower Debt and Credit Utilization
In general, having higher balances will lower your score. But that’s not the whole picture. What also matters is your credit utilization, or the percentage of your total available credit that you’re using.
For example, let’s say you have one credit card with $10,000 in available credit. If you used $1,000 of it, this is a credit utilization of 10%. Experts agree that keeping your credit utilization around 10% or below is best for your credit score. Note that a little credit utilization is better than none at all.
This means that to improve in this category, pay down your debts, and use a little bit but not too much of your available credit.
6. Length of Credit History - The Longer The Better
The longer your credit accounts have been open, the better it is for your credit score. Factors such as the age of your oldest active account and the average age of your accounts impact this part of your score.
This is why closing a credit card usually isn’t the best move, even if you’ve paid off the card in full. It’s better to leave that account open so that it continues to increase your average credit age.
To improve your length of credit history, leave existing accounts open and avoid opening new ones for now. Continue paying off your loans and let time build up your credit history.
7. New Credit - Avoid Inquiries
If you’re trying to repair a bad credit score, generally avoid applying for new credit. Doing so will add an inquiry to your credit report. FICO Scores take into account inquiries from the last 12 months, and while they have a relatively small impact on your score, it can still lower it by a few points in the short term.
In the long-term, if you’ve fixed all issues up to this step, applying for new credit can help push your score from good to excellent.
8. Credit Mix - Ignore For Now
Having many types of credit accounts is good for your credit score. This may mean having a few credit cards, a mortgage, and an auto loan.
However, credit mix also accounts for a relatively small portion of your credit score, and it’s often not the key focus for people who need to repair a bad score. In general, ignore credit mix for now. In the long-term, if you’ve fixed all issues up to this step, adding different types of credit accounts can further boost your scores.
9. Be Consistent - Maintain Your Good Credit
Fixing a bad credit score is one thing, but maintaining a good credit score is another. Taking care of your credit is a game of consistency. In general, you should always:
- Make your monthly payments on-time
- Maintain low credit utilization
- Leave your oldest credit accounts open
- Seek new forms of credit to prove you can manage payments well
Doing these will help maintain your good credit score and even significantly improve it over the long-term.
7 Professional Credit Repair Services
As we’ve seen, fixing your credit score by yourself is possible through these nine steps. However, it takes a lot of consistency, patience, and discipline over many years.
Moreover, you may run into issues with incorrect credit information that you don’t know how to dispute. In such cases, you may consider using a professional credit repair service, which can help dispute inaccurate data on your behalf, and suggest a personalized plan to help you stay on track to improving your score.
When choosing a credit repair service, be wary of scams. Here are 7 professional credit repair services that we recommend looking into.
1. Credit Saint
Credit Saint is one of the most reputable credit repair services in the industry. With its 90 day money back guarantee and lower monthly fees, this is often the first choice for many.
Credit Saint offers a free initial consultation, where an advisor will walk through your credit report with you. They’ll note down each negative item and tell you how they would go about fixing each one.
If you decide to hire them afterwards, Credit Saint has 3 plans to choose from, ranging from $79.99 to $119.99 per month. Each plan requires an initial setup fee of $99 or $195.
Credit Saint’s monthly rates are considered low, while the setup fee is considered high. Because of this, Credit saint’s services are best for those with heavy credit problems that may require more time to fix. Credit Saint is also suited for those who are wary of credit repair services, as you can rely on the 90 day money back guarantee if you’re not happy with the results.
2. Credit Assistance Network
Credit Assistance Network is another credit repair agency that offers a 90 day money back guarantee and free initial consultation. In addition, they regularly post and share educational articles on their blog, TheCreditPros.
Because Credit Assistance Network is a relatively small credit repair agency, you’re more likely to get more personalized service.
However, many criticize their pricing model. Credit Assistance Network charges a one-time $179 setup fee, and $50 per successful removal of negative information from each credit report. This means $150 to remove an item from each report.
As you can see, costs can really stack up if you have many items to remove. On the bright side, if they are unsuccessful in removing something from your credit report, they will not charge you for it. Still, Credit Assistant Network is best suited for those that do not have as many reporting errors, otherwise you may end up spending a fortune.
3. Credit Fix Guy
Credit Fix Guy was started by Al Jackson, who had a mission to help people repair their credit in the most affordable way possible. In addition, Credit Fix Guy is special in that they do not require your SSN.
This is because they structure their service differently from others. Instead of disputing errors on your behalf, you send your credit reports to them. They then write the dispute letters which you’ll send to the credit agency.
Because this is a more hands-off approach, Credit Fix Guy only charges a one-time fee of $50 for the letters. In order to continue adding new positive credit to your report, Credit Fix Guy also offers The Master Plan, a book that outlines a three-phase system to improve your credit score. The Master Plan is only $37.
Credit Fix Guy is best for those with tighter budgets. Price-wise, Credit Fix Guy cannot be beat. However, their unique approach is not suitable for everyone, as you won’t have a dedicated consultant guiding you every step of the way. Even if you buy both the letters and The Master Plan, there is significant work on your part to follow the guide diligently in order to see results.
4. Credit Monkey
Credit Monkey is a credit repair service with plans that cater to many different types of customers, with a 90 day money back guarantee. They have six plans ranging from $99 all the way up to $499, depending on what services you require.
To help you figure out which plan is best for you, Credit Monkey offers a free consultation. If there are fewer than 5 misreported items on your credit report that you need to dispute, plan A at $99 is all you need. However, if you need to dispute inquiries along with many misreported items, you’ll need plan C at $199. Plan F, the most expensive plan at $499, covers all public records, inquiries, misreported items, as well as a $10,000 guaranteed credit line.
Unlike other services, Credit Monkey does not charge any additional setup fees. This makes Credit Monkey’s cheaper plans the best for those who only need a little work to repair their credit. For the more expensive plans, you’ll have to weigh the cost against that of a monthly service like Credit Saint.
CreditRepair.com is an agency that has helped customers remove over 1.8 million misreported items from their credit reports since 2012. Like most of the other services, they offer a free consultation to help you determine service level is best for you.
CreditRepair.com offers three service levels: basic, moderate, and aggressive. On their website, they do not list the price for these services, which can be a red flag. CreditRepair.com will provide pricing details after your consultation, but you might prefer a service that’s more transparent with their pricing.
In addition, CreditRepair.com charges a setup fee as well as an extra fee to pull your credit report. Unfortunately, there is no way to simply provide them with a copy of your credit report to avoid this fee.
Despite issues with pricing, users of CreditRepair.com get access to a personal dashboard and credit score tracker. This can help you avoid feeling left in the dark while CreditRepair.com disputes errors on your behalf.
6. Lexington Law
Lexington Law is a law firm specializing in credit repair, based in Utah and Arizona. Since 2004, they have removed over 70 million misreported items from client credit reports.
After a free consultation, Lexington Law will recommend one of their three plans. They range from $89.95 up to $129.95 a month. Each plan comes with bureau challenges, but the more premium plans will have score analysis and FICO Score trackers to help further repair your score.
Unlike many of the other services which are mostly online-based, Lexington Law is a legitimate law firm. All of their consultants and associates are attorneys. This is one of the best reasons to choose Lexington Law, since you can be assured that a professional will be handling your case.
CuraDebt is another credit counseling service based in Florida. For over 20 years, they have helped clients get debt relief for credit cards, taxes, and medical bills.
CuraDebt does not have a specific program geared towards repairing a poor credit score, but does specialize in debt relief solutions. If you have credit accounts with balances so high they seem impossible to pay off, CuraDebt can help.
The team at CuraDebt is made up of a diverse group of consultants, from past business owners, to mortgage brokers, to tax CPAs. They may be able to assist with a variety of finance-related questions you may have.
The steps to fixing your credit score are not complicated, but they do take a lot of effort and consistency over time. If you do decide to fix your credit score yourself, following our 9 step process will help you see results and maintain good credit standing for years to come.
Another good approach is to hire a credit repair agency, especially if you find mistakes on your credit reports. They can help dispute these errors on your behalf and suggest more ways to boost your score. Just be sure to stay away from scams--stick to one of our 7 recommended services if you go this route.
When doing research, Credit Help Info relies on credible and authoritative sites. These research sources are provided so that you can see exactly where we get our information.
About the Author
Chris Morgan is a credit expert and founder of Credit Help Info. He has been featured in Addition Financial, GOBankingRates, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, and many other publications. He has read hundreds of books and resources on finance and the credit industry. Because he did this, you don’t have to. As a school teacher for over 20 years, Chris enjoys taking complicated material and breaking it down into manageable information that’s easy to understand.