Being a server all my life, I had a cash only policy for many years. I made purchases based on the amount of cash I had available. After marriage, the quality of my purchases had to increase as did my home and roommates were out. I never worried about my credit score and now I was depending on it.
Credit is the corporate game of finance; the one with the highest score wins. Even in marriage, if both parties have bad credit, you are based on the highest middle score out of who applies. The first look at my credit report was shocking and like most contracts I sign, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking at.
First you need to pull your credit. If it’s your first time, make sure you get it free. When you search for “free credit report” you will get hundreds of links that offer, but don’t deliver this service. Most sites are operated by the same companies flooding the web with advertisement. AnnualCreditReport.com is one of the only free services that access all three reports free once a year for thirty days. If you pulled it before, but need it again, pick a site that gives you access to all three. You can do everything you need on that report the first couple of hours. Cancel during the trial period or after the first month. If your credit is over 600 you will want to find out what steps you need to raise it. Below a 600 makes it hard to find financing and you need to clean your credit promptly, because the process can take a while.
You can raise your own score. I raised my score from 380 to a 669 middle score in two years. After review, dispute everything negative and wrong. Follow up with results. If you can’t get it removed the first time, dispute it again. Try to settle with the creditor filing the debt. They paid pennies for your debt and frequently settle for a portion owed. Also, make sure they report this to all three agencies as paid. Disputing is more effective if your debts are old, but they can come back if a collection agency reports it again. If you have money and numerous debts showing, hire a credit repair service like Repair My Credit Now were someone will follow up on every detail. This cost my brother about $1200. He paid an upfront fee and monthly payments, but now has immaculate credit.
Disputing at three agencies is necessary. They are not one company. Example, I had a foreclosure that Equifax and Experian dropped completely, but TransUnion updated. It raised my mid score 60 points. Be careful of putting on a fraud alert. Unfortunately, the only one who will have a harder time getting your report is you and it is hard to take off.
There are too many inquiries on your report. Anyone with access to a credit service can pull your report. Theoretically, some don’t hurt your score, but every pull has affected my score. Nowadays, everyone pulls credit down to cable providers. Know your score when applying for credit. Tell companies your score before letting them pull reports. Some companies pull multiple reports under different names. Inquiries stay on for two years and add up fast. Don’t fill out online applications that pull credit. Information is given to other companies also interested. My first time refinancing, I filled out mortgage applications online and had 30+ inquiries in a week.
Credit reports are dirty little secrets that hurt more people than they help, but with persistence and time there is a basic process to raise you scores high enough to have good credit.