Repairing Your Credit Score
If your credit score is lower than you would like, don’t despair. There are things you can do to improve your score, but it may take time and patience.
Time is on your side
It’s never too late to begin taking control of your credit. Depending on the seriousness of your past and present credit mistakes, it could take several months or even several years to improve your credit score.
Healthy credit habits that can help improve your credit score include:
- Make your payments on time, every time.
- Make at least the minimum payment on your card each month, and pay more than the minimum when you can.
- Avoid exceeding your credit limit.
- Pay attention to your account balances. Ideally, keep your balances below 25 percent of your credit limit at any time, even if you pay off your bill in full every month. If you start getting near your credit limit, this can be a flag to potential lenders, suggesting you're maxing out your cards. Pay off your outstanding balance as quickly as possible.
- Check your credit report at least once a year. Your free reports can be requested by phone, by mail or by visiting the government sponsored Web site: www.annualcreditreport.com.
Three steps to correcting credit report mistakes
If your credit score is low due to inaccurate information on your credit report (such as mistakes or fraud) there are steps you can take to correct it. It is important to take action to correct the mistakes as soon as you become aware of them.
Step 1: Order Your Credit Report
There are three credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion and Experian—and all have credit reports that are slightly different, so it’s important to get a copy of your credit report from each. You can order a credit report from each bureau for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Step 2: Examine Each Credit Report Carefully
Look closely at everything listed in your credit report. Make a detailed list of what you dispute, and why.
Step 3: Write Dispute Letters
By law, both the credit reporting bureau and the creditor that provided the information about you are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. Write a dispute letters to both the credit reporting bureau, and the organization that provided the inaccurate information.
Once you file a dispute, the credit bureau is required to check with the creditor who supplied the information, and send you an update. When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the written results, along with a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change.
Tip: The Federal Trade Commission’s guide to disputing credit report errors provides helpful tips and a sample dispute letter.
What if the credit bureau won’t correct information I dispute?
If an investigation doesn't resolve your dispute with the credit bureau, you can ask that a “statement of the dispute” be included in your file and in future reports. You have the right to add a 100-word explanation to your credit report giving your side of the story. When you apply for credit, lenders may consider your statement.
Beware of bogus “credit repair” offers
Companies claiming they can repair your credit advertise on TV, in newspapers, with flyers and on the Internet. These companies “guarantee” to fix your credit for a fee. Many of these offers are scams, so beware. For trusted information about repairing your credit, you can visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site.
This site is for education purposes. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.