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5 Steps to Rebuild Bad Credit

By Philip Tirone

We live in a credit-driven society. You need credit for just about everything from buying a house to getting a job. Since many people use credit in lieu of currency, it is no surprise that many hard-working people have not managed credit wisely. As a result, they have bad credit. But there is hope. Here are five steps to rebuild bad credit.

Before examining the steps to rebuild your credit, let’s see how the credit bureaus determine our credit scores. There are 22 different criteria for determining a credit score. Unfortunately, the only ones who know the actual formulas are the credit bureaus. Not much information exists on rebuilding credit. Therefore people often make common mistakes that seem like the right choice, but in the end these choices hurt their credit score.

If you have bad credit and want to increase your credit score, follow these five steps. Prior to doing anything, you need to make sure you know your credit scores. Odds are you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint. Your credit scores are the blueprint of your credit history. The only way you’ll know what corrections are needed is to get your credit report.

Quick Fix #1: Check for Errors
One of the most common sources of a bad credit score can be attributed to reporting errors.  Check your credit limits first! Make sure your credit limits are reported correctly because your credit limits are used to determine your utilization rate. This rate is based on the percentage of your credit limit you use each month. If your credit limit is not reported correctly, your utilization rate will not be accurate. A high utilization rate lowers your credit score.

Also check for duplicate notices from collection accounts that are being reported as active. Often a collection account is transferred to more than one collection agency. All of these collection agencies might be listed on your credit report. That’s not a problem, but only the agency currently trying to collect the debt should be listed as active. All other collection agencies should be listed as transferred since they are no longer responsible for collecting the debt.

If more than one collection agency is reporting the collection account to the credit bureaus as active, you have a problem. Since the single collection account is reported as two separate accounts, your credit score will be lowered.

Quick Fix #2: Reduce Your Credit Card Debt
Most people do not know why the amount of their credit card debt is significant because it has never been explained to them. I call this tip the 30/30 rule. Thirty percent of your credit score is based on your outstanding debt. If your credit balance is more than 30 percent of your credit limit, your score will drop. Here’s an example: If your credit limit is $1,000 and you charged $600, you are at 60 percent of your limit in debt. When you’re over 30 percent of your limit to debt and you’re only paying the minimum monthly payment each month, your score is going to drop, even if your monthly payments are “on time.” You must reduce your credit card debt to 30 percent or less to maintain the 30/30 rule and rebuild bad credit.

Quick Fix #3: No Credit Equals Bad Credit
Credit scores are based on the information in your credit history. If don’t have a credit history, you are treated like the person with bad credit. When evaluating your credit worthiness, companies would rather lend or give better interest rates to those whose credit history proves they are a good investment. Think of it this way: Let’s say you needed heart surgery, and you met a guy who said he was the best heart surgeon in the world. He might be the best heart surgeon in the world, but if he had no credentials and no references, there’s no way you’d ever let him open up your chest.

The credit scoring bureaus think of you the same way. If you don’t have a credit history, they consider you high risk. Prove your credit worthiness by getting three to five credit cards as well as an installment loan. Doing this will help rebuild your bad credit and provide enough information for credit bureaus to judge your risk fairly.

Quick Fix #4: Becoming an Authorized User
If you don’t have much credit (less than three major credit cards and an installment loan) or have bad credit and want to rebuild your credit, you may want to explore becoming an authorized user. Ask a relative with good credit to add you as an authorized user to their account. It helps if you and your relative have the same address.

Becoming an authorized user allows you to piggy-back on your relative’s good credit standing and reap the benefits of their credit history. This only works if the credit card company reports your status as an authorized user to the credit bureaus and if the outstanding debt on the card never exceeds 30 percent of the credit limit. While this is a great way to improve your score, if the account falls into poor standing, your credit score will also be negatively affected.

Quick Fix #5: Use Credit!
It’s natural to steer clear of credit if you have had bad credit. Avoiding credit is not helpful when it comes to rebuilding your credit. The only way to rebuild bad credit is to establish a credit history. For more information on why this is so important, get my free e-book Credit After Bankruptcy & Foreclosure. Although bankruptcy or foreclosure may not apply to you, the information in the booklet is still valid for anyone rebuilding bad credit.

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