Step #1 - Selecting a Free Credit Score and Report ProviderFirst things first, you need to gain access to your personalized credit score and report. Which, thankfully for you - and all consumers annually, even though most don't even know it - is 100% free!
Even despite it literally being your right as a consumer to access your free annual credit report and score, there are still some snake oil salesman providers out there who still try to charge you anyways. Usually under the guise of extra services and features that most other free providers - at least the ones worth their mettle - offer for free regardless.
Thankfully, we've got you covered on this front (as well as all of the others), and have provided for you our top overall recommendation for credit score and report provider as well as one other at the bottom of this page in case you find that you don't like the look or overall feel of our #1 choice or you just want the extra Monitoring the one below offers.
Just know that we performed hours upon hours of exhaustive research into practically every conceivable free credit report and score provider in the industry today and the following are the best of the best. being king of the hill over all the rest that offer the free trial.
Important note: You will need to provide a credit or debit card in order to access your free credit report and score from the providers below. Don't worry, though, as nothing is ever charged to your card - the providers are simply performing the necessary due diligence and helping to verify that you are, in fact, who you're saying you are while signing up. In the end, it's in everyone's best identity and protection interests, so don't get spooked or suspicious.
Credit Score Ratings Chart
Now as stated before you will need a credit card to get these reports this is for two reasons, They want to make sure you are the person in question and not just some thief with someone else's info. Secondly in-case you do decide to keep the service they can bill you monthly. However it is important that if you do not wish to keep the service you have till there trial day to cancel.
Step #2 - Collecting the Necessary Info/Data for the Next Few StepsWhile each credit report/score provider usually has a slightly different format, style and lingo, practically all of them contain similar categories of information for you to sift through. What follows are the basic categories of information that you'll find in your credit report - you should check all of them to ensure their accuracy as well as take down any details regarding past due/delinquent accounts as well as the contact info for the creditors/lenders that you'll be paying back.
Trade Lines: These are your credit accounts. Lenders report on each account that is established with them. They report the type of account, the date you opened the account, your credit limit, your loan amount, the account balance, and your payment history.
Credit Inquiries: When you apply for a loan, you authorize your lender to ask for a copy of your credit report. This is how inquiries appear on your credit report. The inquiries section contains a list of lenders who accessed your credit report within the last two years. Typically you will see a list of "voluntary" inquiries, spurred by your own requests for credit, followed by a list of "involuntary" inquiries. These result from creditors who order your report prior to sending you one of those "preapproved" offers for credit, and don't affect your credit rating
Public Record and Collection Items: Credit reporting agencies also collect public record information from state and county courts, and information on overdue debt from collection agencies. Public record information includes bankruptcies, foreclosures, suits, wage attachments, liens and judgments.
Satisfactory Accounts and Negatives Items: All three of the major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) will actually segregate "positive" accounts from "negative" ones, thereby making the interpretation of your report a little easier. The Equifax report gives a nice "Credit Summary" which provides a one-page, easy to review snapshot of all your open accounts, as well as some useful summary statistics, such as total debt by account type, debt to credit ratio by account type, and length of credit history.
In the negative items section, these accounts will be listed showing whenever a late payment has occurred in addition to how late is was, the balance on the account(s) and if the account was a charge-off or ultimately went to a collection agency. It will usually have the address of the creditor and the account number listed as well.
There are also three different types of account/credit/financial classifications and it would behoove you to know the differences and characteristics of each:
Mortgage Accounts: These include first mortgages, home equity loans, and any other loans secured by real estate that you own.
Revolving Accounts: Revolving accounts are charge accounts that have a credit limit and require a minimum payment each month. This includes most credit cards.
Installment Accounts: Installment accounts are credit accounts in which the amount of the payment and the number of payments are predetermined or fixed, such as a car loan.
Step #3 - Contacting Necessary Creditors/Lenders and Disputing Applicable Items on Your Credit Report (If Applicable)Resolve issues: The correct and sure way to improve your credit score is once you know which organizations are affecting your score is to make a list. Firstly, write down the name of the company and the amount shown that you owe on the report. Once you've completed this task, you're going to want to start contacting these companies and come to a resolution on how you can satisfy the outstanding account. Most companies just want their money - especially in this dismal economic climate where seemingly everyone and their cousin's plumber is having money problems. So they're very likely going be happy just to hear from you, not to mention extremely eager to work with you to get the account(s) resolved.
There are always some exceptions to this, of course, and sometimes you'll come across a stingy, no-budging associate who will use all sorts of fancy, complicated legal terms to try and convey to you that you must pay everything at once immediately. Don't believe him/her, as they're just blowing smoke up your behind.
Ultimately, my advice is the ones that are eager to resolve your accounts are the ones that should be taken care of first. However, should you come across one of the aforementioned hard-asses trying to milk all positively can out of you, it's a good idea to just formally dispute the account(s). Make a special note to inform them of how you went above and beyond in order to hopefully settle this account(s) and the associate in question simply made it much more difficult and brushed you as them just trying to take advantage of/scam you.
What items are the toughest to get off your report: You will have the toughest time getting bankruptcies, judgments, child support and foreclosures off of your credit report as these things are so easy for the credit bureaus to verify electronically through e-Oscar. In the case of a bankruptcy, you most likely will have a few trade lines saying "included in bankruptcy". If you want to challenge your bankruptcy, you need to clear off all credit lines mentioning a BK FIRST.
Mail All Letters Registered or Certified: This is important, as you must be able document when the letters were sent and received. This gives you some leverage with the CRAs if they don't respond in the time frame required by law. Here are some certified mail tips. DON'T USE THE ONLINE DISPUTING SERVICE PROVIDED BY THE CREDIT BUREAUS. You need to be documenting everything, and you want to make sure that you have a complete record of your disputes. Below is a sample of the type of letter you would want to send.
Document Your Credit Repair Efforts: As soon as you have ordered your credit reports (and subsequently photocopied your order letters and checks), you must create a precise organizational system to track your correspondences with the credit bureaus and your creditors. Why is this necessary? Unfortunately, credit items you have worked so hard to remove mysteriously reappear. If this happens, it is usually easy to have the items deleted permanently if you show your complete records on the first removal. Why take a chance?
As you proceed through these steps, keep copies and records of all correspondence you send and receive. Copies of all correspondence are a must, as well as notes on all telephone conversations! Also, if you should encounter any special difficulty and would like help in repairing your credit, you will need these records to proceed.
Every time you have a telephone conversation with a creditor, you must document the conversation by recording the name of the person to whom you spoke, his or her position, the date and time of the conversation, what was said in the conversation, and what was agreed upon.
Step #4 - Awaiting Results/Paid Back Accounts From Step #3Wait for the Credit Bureau to Investigate: Once the credit reporting agency has received your dispute letter, they are obligated to investigate. This obligation is not contingent upon you having been denied credit. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the credit bureaus must take the following steps:
The credit reporting agencies must resolve consumers' disputes within 30 days limit, unless you have used the services of annualcreditreport.com, then the bureaus can take up to 45 days. In response to consumers' complaints that documentation in support of their disputes was disregarded, the credit bureaus have to consider and transmit to the furnisher all relevant evidence submitted by the consumer the first time.
Consumers will receive written notice of the results of the investigation within five days of its completion, including a copy of the amended credit file if it changed based on the dispute. Once information is deleted from a credit file, the credit bureaus can not reinsert it unless the entity supplying the information certifies that the item is complete and accurate and the credit bureau notifies the consumer within five days.
The Federal Trade Commission says that inaccurate credit reports are the number-one source of consumer complaints, and it is quite common for problems to take six or more months to be resolved. All of the big-three agencies are working on making sure that all disputes are handled within 30 days.
If the new investigation reveals an error, you may ask that a corrected version of the report be sent to anyone who received your report within the last six months. Job applicants can have corrected reports sent to anyone who received a report for employment purposes during the past two years. However, this is unlikely to repair any damage done when your credit report was first pulled, so don't waste your time or energy on this approach.
When you get your "repaired" credit report back from the credit bureaus, they will summarize what changed on your credit report due to your challenges. You can compare this report to your notes or to the previous credit report.
The results of each item will have been resolved in one of the following ways:
If the listing is not mentioned in the results list, you must have forgotten to include it, or your request was not sufficiently clear. You will need to dispute that item again in your next dispute letter. The bureaus are legally obligated to respond in writing within 30 days, so if they don't, it is highly unlike they are ignoring you.
The disputed item was investigated but verified. If the item was not removed, most likely, the credit bureaus just gave you a cryptic reason like "item verified". We know the credit bureau never actually talked to the information furnisher, but has used eOscar. The law states the bureaus can accept any proof you would like to submit and they will pass this documentation on to your creditor for consideration. So, be sure to send any and all documentation, if you didn't do it the first time. I would also hit them up with the Method of Verification technique, which is going to force them to expose the fact that they are using eOscar. You could also try disputing the listing again at a future time. Who knows, you may get lucky, and a different employee of the creditor may not be able to verify the item. If the account does come back as "verified", I recommend you try Disputing Listing With Original Creditor immediately.
The disputed listing was investigated as to the correctness of the information within the listing (such as late pay notations) and the listing was found to be inaccurate or unverifiable. Remember, if the creditor doesn't respond to the bureau at all, this is the same as the listing being unverifiable. In this case, the negative listing will now show up as a positive listing, or it will be deleted from your report all together. This is the best possible outcome.
Step #5 - Selecting a Credit Monitoring Service
A monitoring service will typically keep a constant eye on specific accounts. These are frequently associated with one specific Consumer Reporting Agency, or CRA. (FYI, CRA can also stand for Credit Reporting Authority.)
There are two types of CRAs, those that collect information covered by the Fair Consumer Reporting Act (FCRA), and those that collect information not covered by FCRA. The FCRA information is collected by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Non-FCRA information is collected by LexisNexis and Acxiom.
Ultimately, Credit Monitoring Services are completely optional and entirely dependent on you deciding whether or not you could properly utilize it or not. However, the service - at least in regards to our top-rated #1 recommended credit monitoring service -- is absolutely outstanding. I personally started out by getting my credit report from Profinity.com and once I obtained my score and necessary info/data, I actually canceled my free trial so I wouldn't be charged down the road. I then signed up to a bunch of different credit monitoring services in order to see which one(s) was the best.
Needless to say, I'm now happily paying my monthly subscription at the Credit Monitoring Service we recommend below. Mainly because, after completing all of the steps we've already outlined up until now, knowing my varying credit bureau scores is just on portion of the overall equation. Actually monitoring all of the different reported credit reports of yours as well as guarding against any potential identity/credit theft is the remainder.
If your credit is in a high-risk category or you just want the peace of mind and simplification that a credit monitoring service can offer you, literally, you can't do any better than our top-rated #1 recommended Credit Monitoring Service, Smart Credit.
Identity thieves have been known to trade information primarily through chat rooms as well as many other nefarious means within the deep, dark dreggy corners of the Internet. Some monitoring services are worth their mettle and scan and monitor these chat rooms for your information proactively (such as Privacy Guard) and some do not. Just believe us when we say that if you're going to put in the hard work and effort to restore, repair and raise your credit score and overall financial history, you're also going to want to help ensure that all of this hard work and new found financial/credit freedoms were for naught when someone up and steals your identity.
It's definitely something where most people figure that, oh, it will never happen to me, but why risk such a thing in the first place? Especially when there are so many other notable and tangible benefits present from using our top-rated #1 recommended Credit Monitoring Service Provider, All in one Smart Credit.
Step #6 - Enjoying Your New found Credit and Financial Freedoms Whilst Still Striving to Remain Financially Disciplined in Regards to Your Current/Future Payments and CommitmentsRelatively straight-forward step here as by now you should be already enjoying your newly gained financial freedoms and benefits. All we'll see, though, is that it should be the utmost importance for you to consistently pay all of your bills on time - even earlier if you can manage it - and remaining responsible and disciplined in regards to your overall credit and financial lifestyle.
Basically, don't go out and open up seven new credit cards right now just because you can. Only have a total open amount of credit that enables you to pay all of your bills on time while also enjoying a few rewards for yourself here and there. In addition, of course, to an emergency/safety net amount of credit/money that's always available should the need ever arise.
Congratulations! You've done everything necessary to restore and repair your past credit and financial history! Feel free to thank us and/or provide some testimonial quotes/recommendations via the Contact Us link located below or simply hop off the computer and go enjoy your newfound financial freedom and stability. You've earned it!
The information on this site is strictly the author's opinion. It does NOT constitute financial, legal, or other advice of any kind. You should consult with a certified adviser for advice to your specific circumstances.
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