The first step to rebuilding your credit is getting a copy of your credit report. Yes, I know that’s an extremely simple first step, but it is an essential one. When rebuilding your credit, it is wise to review your credit report at least once every six months. If your credit score is low, you may want to pull your credit report quarterly. This won’t negatively affect your credit score. After getting your credit report, look for errors. If there aren’t any, good! You can now focus on rebuilding your credit score. If there are errors address them immediately if they are severe. In Step Five of my program, I explain that almost 80 percent of people have errors on their credit report, and 25 percent of these errors are severe enough to cause a person to lose a loan or a job opportunity. This is one reason it is essential to know what’s on your credit report. When finding an error on your credit report, what should you do? First and foremost, if you think you are a victim of identity theft, call the three credit bureaus right away to put a freeze on your credit account. This way, no one else can open credit in your name. If the mistake doesn’t seem to indicate you are a victim of identity theft, you can start by filing an online dispute at each of the three credit bureaus. Following are the three credit bureau links:
If a bank or credit card company is responsible for incorrect information on your credit report, contact them. Ask them to investigate the mistake they reported to the credit bureaus. Make sure you have documentation to support your statements. One of the most common (and dangerous) errors you will find is an inaccurate credit limit. So why does an inaccurate credit limit hurt your credit score? The credit-scoring agencies give higher credit scores to people with lower utilization rates (your credit card balance as a percentage of your limit.) If your limit is, for instance, $2,000, and your balance is $600, you have a utilization rate of 30 percent. Maintaining a 30 percent utilization rate is good. It should improve your credit score. If your credit card company is reporting your limit as $1,000 instead of $2,000, this is an error. Your utilization rate will appear to be 60 percent (a $600 balance on a $1,000 limit). This is a bad utilization rate because it may seem that you rely on credit. This will cause your credit score to drop. Notify the credit bureaus of the error on your credit limit by filing a dispute with all three credit bureaus. At the same time, place a call or send a letter to your credit card company demanding they report your correct limit. Correcting errors help rebuild your credit score. After all major errors are corrected, get another copy of your credit report to verify it is error-free. If it is, focus on rebuilding your credit to increase your credit score. FYI: Your credit score will not decrease if you get a copy of your credit report. Inquiries into your credit score by lenders will cause a dent in your score, but you are not penalized for getting your own credit report. This is considered responsible financial behavior. Therefore, get your credit report as often as you desire to check for errors and/or to rebuild your credit score.