The following is a post from Jenna Smith. Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this post.
There are two basic camps when it comes to credit repair: those who insist that it can be done relatively quickly if you just follow specific steps and those who insist that it can take months or even years to truly improve your score and history. They are both right. Confused about how two opposing ideas can both be right?
Fast and Slow at the Same Time? What?
Here is the truth about your credit: a variety of criteria are used to evaluate your credit worthiness. Some of those things can be changed relatively quickly (within thirty days or so) and others take more time. For example: fixing mistakes can be done in a few minutes and those changes are applied to your report within a month. Disputing debts on your report takes a little longer. Building up a lengthy history of steady debt management can take years.
So where does that leave you?
“Just keep in mind that there are no magic fixes in the credit world,” Lexington Law reminds us. “Credit repair done right takes patience, persistence, and an understanding of how your credit score is calculated.”
So if you are like most busy parents, the first thing you need to do is figure out where to start. That sounds redundant but you would be surprised at how many people decide that the first thing they need to do, when they want to get their credit under control, is start calling their credit card companies and begging for lower interest rates or raised limits. This is not your starting point.
Your starting point is getting a copy of your credit report and seeing exactly what is on it.
To do this, you need to officially request your report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You’re allowed to get one free copy of your report every twelve months. It’s possible to make these requests to each agency individually, but you’ll save time if you use AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s linked to all three agencies and makes it easy for you to toggle between them as you request, download and examine your reports.
Understand that you are not going to be given your current credit score along with these reports. The major agencies charge for that. Typically the fee is relatively low, but make sure you understand what you’re buying before you click “pay now.” You don’t want to accidentally sign up for a year of credit monitoring.
That’s a lot of information! What do I do once I have it?
There are two courses you can take once you are ready to get serious about your credit repair. You can make time to work on your reports every night—time for reporting errors, sending verification letters, etc. Or, if like most busy parents, you’re already operating on a time deficit each day, you can hire someone to work on your credit repair for you.
Finding someone to take on this duty is going to be difficult. There are dozens of companies that promise you a quick or even an overnight fix. It is important not to be taken in by these “too good to be true” offers. A good credit repair agency can help you fix errors, reduce debt and improve your credit report over time, not overnight.
There are, of course, other details that demand your attention. For example: should you settle some debts? Should you consolidate debts? For now, though, focus on what you can do and then take each next step as it comes. You can set up your next bill payments today (even minimum due payments are better than skipping). You can start putting together a household budget. You can research bill payment services so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting due dates. Once you start looking, you’ll be amazed at how much work you can do right now to help get your credit history in better shape for the future.