Money Girl gives you 6 ways to build credit when you’re recovering from a financial hardship.
I received this question from Sam:
“I had excellent credit until 2003, when I was in a car accident. I couldn’t pay some of my medical bills and they went into collections. My credit report shows debt that’s already been settled, paid off, and some that doesn’t even belong to me. In the decade before the accident, I had 4 car loans that I paid off early. I also always kept balances on my credit cards so my credit would grow. But none of this good history seems to help. What’s the best way to get credit when I have bad credit?”
No matter why you may have bad credit, there are fundamental rules you must follow to turn the corner and improve your scores. In this 2-part series, we’ll cover 6 ways to build credit when you’re recovering from a financial hardship or debt charge off.
Improving your credit is a lot like getting in shape. It doesn’t happen overnight because there simply isn’t a quick fix. Building your physical or financial health takes time, especially if you’re already overweight or are recovering from overdue debt or a bankruptcy.
But the good news is that there are ways you can improve your credit sooner rather than later. Use the following rules to jumpstart your credit recovery and improve your financial health:
Rule #1: Correct Credit Errors
There are many different types of credit scores that creditors and merchants use to evaluate you. In fact, a representative from one of the top 3 credit agencies told me that there are probably over 1,000 different credit scoring models in use today!
Although each type of score is based on a different mathematical algorithm, they’re all calculated using data in your credit report. That’s why you absolutely, positively must treat errors on your credit report like a hot potato—get rid of them as quickly as possible!
Visit annualcreditreport.com to view your report and immediately dispute debts that you already paid, accounts showing the wrong balance, or debt that isn’t yours.
See also: 5 FAQs About Your Credit Score
Rule #2: Watch Your Negative Accounts
Accounts with positive information stay on your credit report for 10 years. For instance, a car loan with no late payments remains on your credit history for 10 years after you pay if off.
But you may be surprised to know that accounts with negative information—like getting turned over to a collections agency—drop off your credit report earlier. They should disappear 7 years after your original delinquency date.
So, make sure you don’t have any negative accounts lingering on your credit report longer than they have to. Otherwise, they’ll drag down your scores unnecessarily.
It’s important to understand that even after a debt falls off your credit report, creditors can still pursue you for payment. They can even sue you, depending on the statute of limitations for debt in the state where you live.
However, filing for bankruptcy is a different story. In general, it prevents creditors from attempting to collect debts. But the details of a bankruptcy can remain on your credit history for up to 10 years, which can be devastating for your credit.
See also: How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit