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Living with a low credit score isn’t a life sentence. It’s commonly mistaken as one by consumers who haven’t had proper debt or finance education, which is why so many financial experts work so hard to teach consumers how to repair their credit. From learning what causes your score to drop to which factors are most important in determining your credit score, you can learn how to repair your credit in no time. It’s not a short process, but it’s much easier than many consumers imagine. The most difficult part of repairing your credit is admitting there is a problem and learning to fix it.

Educate Yourself

Take a good long look at your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from the major bureaus, and look it through. Check to see if all the accounts listed are yours, if there are any mistakes on the report, and work from there. The first step is to see where you made mistakes of your own. Do you shop when you can’t afford to pay cash and live beyond your means? Do you spend more than you make? Get an idea of how much debt you have, what you owe, and how much your total debt is compared to your income.

The next step is to check for mistakes on your report. These are fairly simple to fix, and they can raise your credit score relatively soon. Dispute mistakes, and see your score go up in a matter of only a month or two. You’ll need to prove these mistakes are valid, and you’ll want to send requests to both the credit bureau and the creditor where the mistake was made.

Start With Past Due Accounts

If you have past-due accounts on your credit report, pay them off. If you have any late payments, you want to rectify those as quickly as possible. You might be able to call the creditor and work out a payment plan, or you might be able to work on lowering the amount you owe if you offer a settlement. The point is you want to handle those accounts first. You can be sued for no longer making payments on loans or cards, and you can be sent to collections. These have an even bigger negative effect on your credit, which means it’s time to handle these accounts before it’s too late.

Lower Your Debt

Paying off your debt is where you need to be working on your score the most, but you should also work on bringing your balances down as low as possible. Credit utilization is important, and it has a large impact on your overall credit. A good way to start is to pay down balances as much as possible, which is paying them off. If you cannot afford to do that, at least pay cards down so the balance is at or below 30% of your available credit. This is the most favorable credit utilization in the eyes of the credit bureaus.

For example, if your credit card has a credit limit of $10,000, you want the revolving balance to be no more than $3,000 at any point. Pay it off if you can, but keep the balance below this level if possible. It shows the credit bureaus you don’t use much of your credit, which always seems favorable.

Don’t Sacrifice Good Accounts

It’s imperative to handle bad accounts, but not at the expenses of a good-standing account. Keep as many accounts as you can in good standing, and don’t make the mistake of paying off old accounts with late payments or big balance if it means acquiring new late payments or missed payments.

Another important factor to consider is your disputing process. If there are mistakes on your credit report, send letters to fix them. If you are disputing items on your credit, however, don’t do it all at once. Credit bureaus become suspicious if a consumer disputes several accounts at one time, and this can cause them to ignore your claims and treat them as unimportant or suspicious.

Apply for a Secured Card

If your credit is bad enough your creditors have closed your credit card accounts and you have no available credit, it’s time to change that. It’s favorable to have on-time payments reported to the bureaus, so it’s time to get a secured credit card. This means applying for one and putting a deposit down. The amount of the card’s available credit is typically the amount you put down as a deposit.

Each on time payment is reported to the major credit bureaus. This allows you to enhance the positives in your financial life, and it can repair your score a little faster. As you use the card more often, pay it off in full. Once you’re done paying your card in full each month, your score stands a chance of going up a little. Once you’ve had this card for at least one year, your bank might consider allowing you to trade it in for an unsecured card, and they’ll send you your deposit back.

Your credit is important, and it’s not something to ignore just because it’s imperfect. You deserve good credit and what it entails. Do yourself a favor and start working on improving your score today. If you start now, you’ll see results much sooner.