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- Managing Credit Cards & Payment Options
Boost Your Credit Score in 3 Steps
Step One: Free Credit Reports
Current laws require your credit report to be available to you for free annually to review and report inaccuracies.
The major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) Equifax, Experian, and Transunion are required to provide you with a copy of your credit report for free annually under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
This is the site you can access all three for free https://www.annualcreditreport.com/
Just follow the prompts to identify yourself.
I also highly recommend https://www.creditkarma.com/
Yes, as their commercials indicate ad nauseum-It's really free.
Their site will give you live credit scores, notices of any changes, and recommendations on building your credit score up. They also have implemented a dispute assistance tool that assists you in disputing inaccuracies.
Step Two : Reviewing and Saving your Reports
You will be taken to your online display of your credit report. Go to "Negative/Adverse" information and review what is currently reporting as negative.
See something that isn't right? There is an option to initiate a dispute and investigation on each item that you feel is inaccurate. Click on "dispute" and select your reasoning for your dispute.
Upon completion of your disputes, SAVE your report to your computer for comparison upon investigation completion.
Repeat this with all three CRAs. Each time you click "Finish viewing my report" the system will automatically take you to the next CRAs site to obtain your next report. FINISH ALL THREE!! (not all creditors use the same CRA, so it's important all are accurate)
Step Three: Negotiation for Valid Negative Debts
Under the FCRA delinquent accounts can only be reported for 7 years from date of delinquency or charge off. If your debt is past the 7 years, dispute it, as it is required to be removed.
If you have a bankruptcy, the record can be reported for 10 years from date of discharge.
For the remaining negative items that have not surpassed the 7 year mark, call the creditor first, and attempt to negotiate a settlement. It is always a good idea to ask that they update your credit with a paid in full, rather than a settled in full category, but it is up to them whether they will agree.
BEFORE PAYING: GET IT IN WRITING. If you want to ensure you have evidence of the settlement in case the creditor inadvertently places the remaining balance of the settlement with another debt collector--get your agreement in writing! Keep it in an electronic email folder or a file folder that you can easily access if necessary for future proof of settlement.
Typically you will receive your dispute investigation results back within 30 days from the CRA you reported the inaccuracy to. Review the outcome: either the item has been deleted, corrected, or validated. If you still dispute the item, you are permitted to add a 'statement of dispute' to the file so that when you apply for credit in the future, your statement regarding that dispute will be available to potential creditors.
I complete these steps annually to ensure I am aware of what my credit report reflects.