Today’s article is a guest post graciously written for the site by Kelly Oakin. About the Author: Kelly Oakin is on a mission to help others get their credit back on track after a setback. She is a staff writer for FreeCreditTrio.com, a resource that provides your free credit score from the top 3 credit bureaus.
When I first moved out on my own, I figured that managing my finances would be pretty simple. After all, I didn’t have too many bills and my income seemed to cover everything — on paper. Though I didn’t give my parents the pleasure of telling them they were right until almost a decade later, they were right… It is tough to stay on budget with the income of an entry-level professional without getting into a financial mess with credit cards and loans and late fees.
We go from having an open budget with no expenses to having rent, utilities, car payments, and other expenses that come with normal daily living. Then, there are extremely high college and university expenses that just keep rising.
We inevitably make mistakes. In fact, the U.S. PIRG states that 25% of students had paid a late fee, 15% had paid fees for going over their limit, and 6% had their credit cards cancelled. These statistics aren’t shocking considering our age, but we have to learn something from our mistakes and actually fix them. If you’ve made a mistake, I have five strategies for cleaning up bad credit history that will make sure you aren’t punished for these innocent errors for seven years or more.
Strategy #1: Proactive Repair
It’s impossible not to notice your debt load mounting up. Therefore, as soon as you notice things get out of control, and you know you’re going to have issues, contact your financial institutions and see what they can do to help. Many of them will work with you to delay payments, lower interest rates, or wave fees to help you fix the issue.
They may also agree to remove the negative mark on your credit when you follow through on arrangements to pay the amount still owed. This is even more of a possibility now that financial institutions are in trouble and are seeing a high number of borrowers default. Finally, make a smart financial plan that allows you to save as much money as possible.
Strategy #2: Use Federal Law To Your Advantage
According to federal law, you can fight any marks on your credit that cannot be verified, are false or inaccurate, or out of date. Therefore, so long as you monitor your credit report and credit scores right from the start, you’ll be able to fight troubling entries immediately before they become a serious issue. If you have difficulty getting this straightened out, seek out legal financial aid.
Strategy #3: Battling Negative Credit Entries Involves Moving Past Them
In many instances, you can’t eliminate a bad spot on your credit. But, what you can do is build your credit and prove that you’ve learned your lesson, fixed previous problems, and are willing and able to take responsibility. To do this, get a small loan or credit card (which may require a deposit) and use it wisely.
With a credit card, for example, use it for your groceries or utilities and pay it off in full every month. This allows you to build credit easily without spending additional money. Having a major credit card in good standing also says a lot about your financial responsibility.
Strategy #4: Use Free Resources To Help You
Services such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling are non-profit organizations that provide free credit counseling services to anyone who needs it. If you are having trouble working with a creditor on a false claim, or just need additional information to help you make the right choice, these nationwide organizations will put you in touch with someone who can provide you with the information you need.
Strategy #5: Use Good Credit To Your Advantage
If you have credit with companies who aren’t on your credit report such as department store cards or others, ask them to make a positive report for you. This helps to offset any negative marks that you can’t remove because it helps build your reliability and trustworthiness. Keep in mind, however, that these companies are not required to do so and will not make a false statement. The important thing is to ask and see. After all, the worst thing they can say is ‘no.’
In the end, the most important thing to remember when it comes to your credit is that it takes years to build it, and one mistake to ruin it. Educate yourself and don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it; you’ll benefit from your diligence for the rest of your life.