Having a bad credit score can be rough, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world if you take the right steps to fix it. Credit restoration strategies vary depending on the severity of your situation, and there are different ways to go about each step in this process. Use these seven credit restoration strategies to repair your credit score and get your finances back on track as soon as possible.
If you’re reading these words, there’s a good chance that you have some bad credit. Maybe it was from an irresponsible mortgage or loan taken out in your 20s—or maybe it was because of unexpected expenses, like medical bills. Whatever happened, your credit took a hit and it doesn’t look likely to recover any time soon. It feels unfair at best and utterly disheartening at worst—and if you can relate to any of that, you’re not alone. A study by TransUnion found that 1 in 3 consumers are concerned about their current financial situation; rising living costs and stagnant salaries mean more people than ever are having trouble making ends meet.
1) Work on your credit score (keep it high)
It’s important to remember that credit restoration is not a quick fix. Credit is like anything else in life: The more you do it, and do it well, the better you become at it. So, if your focus is on credit restoration—on improving your credit score as quickly as possible—you’re doing yourself a disservice. Remember: If you build up your credit score slowly but surely over time, you can eventually have an excellent credit score while using fewer resources than if you try to make huge improvements overnight.
2) Open new credit accounts ONLY if needed
The first step to credit restoration is repayment. If you’re overwhelmed with debt and bills, start attacking them. Reduce monthly expenses, sell unnecessary assets for extra cash, and negotiate debt payments by calling your creditors to lower interest rates and/or set up a payment plan. Just remember that, while paying off credit cards in full every month will reduce your balance over time, it won’t help rebuild your credit score. Your goal should be to pay off all debts—including mortgages, car loans, student loans—as quickly as possible; unless you’re suffering from severe financial hardship or have experienced a life event like divorce or death of a spouse that contributed to delinquency on your accounts . . . keep making those payments!
3) Do NOT close old accounts with a positive history
If you are saddled with an old debt that’s costing you a lot more than it should, try to negotiate a deal with your creditors. It doesn’t hurt to try. Work on building your credit first and then consider contacting them again later if you find that your score has improved significantly. This is also a good way to get started with improving your credit rating if you haven’t worked on it yet. By approaching your lenders in person, over the phone, or through correspondence, you may be able to arrange something that works for both of you. Even if they say no right away, keep trying in different ways until they agree or make concessions just to get rid of you!
4) Start repaying your debts
It’s a good idea to start paying down your debts as soon as possible. If you start making payments toward your credit card, student loan, or mortgage loans and never miss a payment, it will show up on your credit report—which is exactly what you want. That said, if you don’t have any bills that are currently in collections or being reported to credit agencies because of late payments (i.e., past due), then try not to rack up new debt if you can help it. It might be better for you to focus on building an emergency fund before getting into other kinds of debt that could potentially impact your credit report.
5) See if you can get a new deal on old debt
Many people believe that once you miss a credit card payment, your credit score is ruined forever. This isn’t exactly true. Your credit can take quite a hit after missing even one payment. However, there are many methods for fixing credit—one of which is getting a new deal on old debt. In other words, you might be able to negotiate with your creditor for new terms and lower interest rates (also known as being re-aged). Be aware that negotiating with creditors can often put your debts into collections and damage your credit even further, so use caution before making a deal like this.
6) Work on your credit report
This is where most credit restoration advice stops, but for people who want to do it all on their own, credit report work will be required. To have a good credit score, you need to know what mistakes are on your credit report. If you’re applying for any loans or making any large purchases that require a credit check—like renting an apartment or getting insurance—you’ll have to wait 30 days after taking action before pulling your report. If you’re interested in fixing mistakes and rebuilding your score, one of two methods works best: fix mistakes as they happen by disputing them, or dispute everything on your first pull (that’s what most companies recommend), then give yourself time to work through each dispute individually until all mistakes are fixed.