If you are dreaming about a new home or a car, it’s a good time to check your credit report before hunting down potential lenders. This is a mirror of your financial maturity, your ability to take care of debt in a systematic way, proving good faith. The idea of a score measuring integrity is almost 30 years old and has been perfected over the years. Currently, the FICO algorithm is at its 9th version which takes some of the burdens of unpaid medical bills, doesn’t count the paid collections as debt and takes into consideration rent as an indicator. If you are below that perfect 700+ range, here are a few ideas that could prove useful to get it a few points up in a couple of months. Remember, there are no quick fixes.
Is it talking about you? The devil is in the details
As astonishing as it might seem, over 25% of credit reports contain errors. Therefore, it is safe to assume that without proper verification your score could be different. The first line of defense is to ensure the debt is indeed yours. Name spelling mistakes, changes of address or other similar errors could result in assigning the wrong person with a record that impacts their score. If you see any mismatch in your personal data (name, DOB, social security number), contact each of the three offices and notify about discrepancies.
One of the most damaging things you can have on your credit report is a judgment since this stays on your name for seven years. The unsatisfied judgments can seriously affect your score, and you should do your best to remove them either by full payment or negotiating installments if the value is significant. Vacated judgments should be reported to the bureaus to prevent them from turning into phantom money. The worst-case scenario is a re-filed judgment which is another seven years of bad luck on your FICO statement.
Avoid hard inquiries
Every time you apply for a credit card, a mortgage or any other type of loan, the lender or bank will perform a hard inquiry that impacts your FICO score. The fact that you are looking for credit means that you don’t have enough cash and you could present a risk to a lender. Shopping around too much can lower your score for 12 months. If you are not sure you want to apply for a particular product, ask the lender to perform a soft inquiry or a simulation. If you have past hard inquiries, over 12 months old, check that these have been appropriately removed.
If one of your accounts is given to a collections agency, it could show up twice on your report. This error is easy to spot when you see the amount twice, from two different creditors. It should not happen since you own the same amount, just to a distinct entity. Debt that has been paid, but not removed from your report falls in the same category.
Ask for forgiveness on bills paid a few days later
Everybody makes honest mistakes and can forget about payment. If it is a one-time occurrence, you can ask for a good faith agreement. A creditor who has a long positive history with you will most likely admit your claim and remove it from your credit report. Another idea is to promise that you will automate payments to avoid missing any other terms.
What situations did you encounter on your credit reports and how did you solve them?