People who have fallen onto tough financial times always want to know how to fix a bad credit score. In their attempt to learn how to build credit, they will spend thousands of dollars on credit repair services that promise to wipe their credit reports clean of all errors. Some people even try to create a new credit identity, as if they can sweep past errors under the rug.
The big secret, though, is that most of these services do not work. At best, these credit “repair” services will only temporarily suppress credit problems by using illegal methods to briefly suspend errors from your report—errors that will resurface only after the company has walked away with your dollars. At worst, they will expose you to lawsuits by using illegal methods of attempting to remove delinquent information from your credit report.
The good news is that there are tons of ways to fix your credit score that are both effective and legal. If you want to learn how to fix a bad credit score, keep these two components in mind:
How to Fix a Bad Credit Score, Rule #1: Be strategic.
As you can tell, I am not a fan of credit repair strategies that purport to increase your credit score by surreptitious methods. However, there are legal and effective strategies you can use to raise your credit score fast:
1. Build your credit score fast by adding yourself as an authorized user to a family member’s credit card, so long as it is in good standing.
2. One of the fastest ways to build credit is to transfer your credit card balances to your spouse.
How to Fix a Bad Credit Score, Rule #2: Focus on current behavior.
Think of it from the credit bureaus’ perspective. Wouldn’t you be much more impressed with someone who positively changed his behavior than someone who tried to weasel out of past mistakes? Instead of arguing with the credit-scoring bureaus about all of your late payments, try taking a few simple but effective ways to let the credit-scoring bureaus know you have changed your habits.
This strategy works because credit-scoring bureaus place more weight on current behavior than on past behavior. If you made a mess of your credit score two years ago, the credit-scoring bureaus will pay less attention to this if you are making smart decisions today. This means that you should:
- Pay your bills on time.
- Keep your credit card balances as low as you can – preferably below 30 percent.
- Keep three to five credit cards active. Use them at least once a month, but pay your balances as much as possible each month.
- Open new lines of credit after a financial disaster, like bankruptcy or foreclosure. The credit-scoring bureaus need proof that you can manage several lines of credit. If you wipe your hands of credit, they will not have this proof, and your credit score will not increase. Your bad credit score will increase if you have between three and five credit cards, as well as an installment loan, all in good standing. Bear in mind that your credit score will initially drop upon opening a new line of credit. But after six months of timely payments, it will begin to increase.
So here’s the big secret: If you want to know how to fix a bad credit score, don’t turn to credit repair companies that make promises that seem too good to be true. Repairing a credit score is simple, but it cannot be achieved with the wave of a wand.