Here are five possible ways to quickly boost your credit score, depending on your situation.
Correct errors on your credit report
This is the first thing you want to do, and the most important. Order copies of your credit reportfrom each of the three major credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. By law, you’re entitled to a free copy of your report once a year from each one.
Go through them and check for any errors related to your payment history or credit limits – missed payments that were actually made on time, collection actions over billing disputes that were settled in your favor, credit limits listed as lower than they actually are. Be alert for terms such as “settled,” “charge-off” or “paid-derogatory” on accounts you’ve paid off – anything other than “current” indicates a black mark.
Any inaccurate items should be challenged. You do this by sending a letter to the credit agencyletting them know you are disputing an item, along with copies (not originals!) of any supporting documents. They must then investigate the item – usually within 30 days – and report back to you. If they are unable to resolve it, your next step is to follow up with the creditor in question, again in writing and with copies of supporting documents.
Pay down large balances
One of the things that negatively affects your credit is using too much credit. If it looks like you’re carrying too much debt, it will reduce your credit score. They way to correct that is by paying down that debt.
Of course, many people carry high debt loads precisely because they lack the means to pay it down. However, if you have savings or other funds you can tap, it sometimes helps to pay down a chunk of debt if you’re trying to obtain a mortgage or other major loan – remember, higher creditscores equal lower interest rates. Just be careful that you’re not using money that you’ll need for adown payment, since that make it more difficult and expensive to obtain a mortgage loan as well.
Divide debt among several credit cards
Even if you’re not carrying a lot of debt, it can hurt you if you’re carrying too high of a balance on any one credit card. Ideally, you don’t want to be using more than 20-30 percent of your credit limit on any one card. If you have one card with a high balance and several others with little or no debt, try using the other cards more while you pay the big balance down. You can also use balancetransfers to spread the debt around several cards, but you could find yourself paying a high interest rate to do so, either immediately or after a temporary low rate expires.
Beg for mercy
You can actually do this. Creditors will sometimes agree to withdraw a negative item from yourcredit report, particularly if you’ve been a good customer otherwise and you ask them nicely. Called a “goodwill adjustment,” it’s sort of like getting a late fee waived the first time you’re a day or two late on a payment. However, this isn’t likely to work if you’ve had multiple incidents with the samecreditor, or if it’s a really negative item. At the same time, you might be able to get two or three separate creditors to all withdraw individual minor items separately (maybe you were going through a bad period), which could give your credit score a pretty good boost.
One thing to note – you’re most likely to get a goodwill adjustment if you request it immediately after the event. It’s less likely to work if you’re asking them to withdraw a year-old late payment report.
If your credit score is getting slammed because you’re currently in a dispute with a creditor, or because the debt is in collection, you may be able to negotiate a non-report in return for settling theaccount. Creditors will often do this, because getting paid is more important to them than reporting the incident to credit bureaus. Just remember, you need to do this before you settle the debt – once it’s paid, you’ve lost all your leverage.