We all need good credit. It makes buying a house, getting a credit card, and applying for basically anything that requires a loan easier. But for some of us, there are purchases, loans, and credit cards in our past that we haven’t stayed on top of; these things can drag a credit score down and make new credit harder to come by.
To bring up your credit score, it’s likely that you’ll have to confront some negative items on your report. Whether you were delinquent on a payment or the victim of an incompetent lender’s mistake, there’s likely something you can do to address the negative marks on your credit report. Read ahead to find out how.
Check for errors
Lenders are legally required to remove any errors on your credit report. That includes errors reported “somewhat” accurately. For example, you may owe $400 to the hospital for an ER visit, but the credit report has it listed as $500. They are obligated to correct that mistake once it’s brought to their attention.
You can check your credit reports for free online, which includes reports from the three major credit bureaus. While you can request one credit report at a time, it’s better to get all three at once. Not all lenders report to all three credit bureaus, so you may miss something if you only check one or two credit reports at a time.
Ask for a written explanation of any negative remarks; having documentation is key to getting negative or incorrect items removed.
Negotiate with lenders
If you find negative items on your credit report that are accurate, your options are more limited. If you’re willing to wait, you can—most derogatory accounts fall off seven years after your first delinquency.
If you’re calling before the seven-year mark, remember the position you’re in. You are asking an institution to remove information before they’re legally required to do so. Being polite to whomever you speak with will go much further than being rude and entitled.
Look on your credit report to see whom the debt belongs to, so you know which company to contact. The original lender may have sold your debt to a collection company, so don’t assume anything until you have the information in front of you.
If the debt has already been paid or settled, you can ask about a goodwill request for deletion. This typed letter or email should include what steps you’ve taken since then to improve your credit, and why you want the debt removed. Again, be courteous and respectful. After you’ve sent the request, you can call and ask to see if it’s been received and reviewed.
If the debt has not been fully paid, you can request a pay for deletion. Pay for deletion requires that you negotiate a settlement amount with the lender or collection agency in exchange for the removal of the account from your credit report. Always get written confirmation in case your request falls through the bureaucratic cracks.
What to do if all else fails
Sometimes, even the most gracious request will be denied. While you wait for that seven-year mark (or 10-year for bankruptcies), you should continue to be a good steward of your credit. Make your payments on time, keep a low utilization rate on your credit cards, and avoid opening accounts too often.
Adding more positive points to your credit report will increase your score and decrease how much the negative marks affect you. You can also try contacting the agencies again—you never know if a different agent will honor your request.
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