Your credit score is more than just a number. It is one of the most important numbers you will ever have. Bad credit can make things like finding a job, purchasing furniture or finding a place to live extremely difficult. Consumers with bad credit who are able to get approved for loans or credit cards are often forced to pay higher interest rates to offset the risk of taking you on as a customer.
Buying a home or securing an apartment with bad credit can be an even bigger challenge. Many apartments will check your credit before you are allowed to sign a lease. Likewise, many home lenders will not approve applicants with low credit scores. If your credit isn’t up to par, you may find yourself unable to find suitable housing. You will also need good credit to avoid large security deposits for utilities like electricity, cable or phone.
If you suspect that your credit score is low or not where you want it to be, here are 5 tools for DIY credit repair:
The first step towards repairing your credit is to request a copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion and Equifax. According to the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act (FACTA), consumers are entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus. For more frequent updates, sites like Credit Sesame allow consumers to obtain access to their credit report on demand at no cost.
Once you have your credit reports on hand, comb through them to make sure they are as accurate as possible. Each report should contain five sections including:
- Identifying information. This section will list personally identifiable information such as your name, date of birth, address and social security number. It may also list aliases or other names that you have been known as for credit purposes.
- Creditor information. This is typically the longest section. It lists in detail every credit account that you have had within a given timeframe. For each account the report will include information about the lender such as a name or address, the amount that you owe, the status of the account (i.e. current or past due) and whether the account is currently open or closed.
- Collection accounts. This part of the report will list any accounts that are in collection. Just like the creditor information section, this part of the report should also list information such as a phone number or physical address for the reporting agency.
- Public records. The public records section of your credit report will list information about any public financial records such as tax liens, bankruptcy judgements, evictions or overdue child support.
- Inquiry section. The inquiry section provides you with a list of businesses or agencies that have pulled your credit report.
You will want to ensure that information in all five of these sections is as accurate as possible. Not only will your credit report help you figure out where you stand, but it will also help you plan a course of action.
A credit score simulator is a tool that allows you to project how your credit score may be impacted under specific scenarios. Scenarios often include opening or closing a credit account, increasing or decreasing credit card debt or making changes in your payment habits. A credit simulator may also be able to help you project the effect that new negative remarks such as wage garnishments or tax liens may have on your credit. Credit simulators use carefully crafted formulas to create a safe environment where you can theorize about the best way to improve your credit.
A dispute portal is a tool that allows you to dispute any inaccurate information that you find on your credit report. Each of the three major credit bureaus has access to a dispute portal on their website. Keep in mind that each portal has specific requirements for accessing the online dispute portal. This information may include your name, date of birth, social security number, file number or credit report number.
Real-time Monitoring and Alerts
Credit monitoring and alerts put you in control of your credit. Real-time alerts let you know the moment a change is made to your credit report. This tool allows you to stay on top of your credit as you work to repair it.
Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft is on the rise. Identity thieves commit fraud using your personal information such as your name or social security number. Identity theft protection is a tool that helps you by monitoring your financials, personal information and credit report to notify you each time your information is used. You will be notified the moment an identity thief attempts to use your information so you can stop them in their tracks.
Rebuilding credit can be intimidating, but it does not have to be. These 5 tools will have you well on your way to a better score in no time.