Clean Up your Credit Report

By: Ronnica Rothe

Your credit report is used by lenders to determine whether you are a fit candidate for a loan. If you want to buy a house or car in the future, now is the time to start working on cleaning up your credit report. Obtain a free copy of your credit report and look it over to see what the creditors use to determine your eligibility for loans.

There are probably both positive and negative items on your credit report. The positive items, such as staying current on your accounts, being employed, and having checking and saving accounts, will stay on your credit report indefinitely. You want these items on your credit report because they help to counteract whatever negative items you have. There is no need to act to have them removed. However, if you see that you are missing accounts that you have good history with, even if it is simply a small store card, you should contact the creditor to get them added to your report.

If you have made any financial mistakes in the past, they are probably present on your credit report. Negative items such as credit card defaults, repossessions, foreclosures, and chapter 13 bankruptcies will remain on your credit report for seven years. Chapter 7 bankruptcies will stay on your report for ten years, while any unpaid tax liens will stay on your credit report for fifteen years. These items remain because creditors want to see what risks they may take on when lending money to you.

If negative items have remained on your credit report beyond the limits specified above or if they are inaccurate, it is time to dispute them with the credit bureau. You will need to do so with each of the credit bureaus individually if the item existed on all three credit reports. Disputing items has been made simple and can be done easily when pulling your free credit report. You should expect to hear back from the credit bureau in about a month. When you receive the documentation on what corrections were made, check to make sure that the problem has been completely taken care of. If the report is still not quite accurate, you can do a second dispute by personal letter. Explain the problem fully, providing documentation to back up your case. Make sure to keep copies of all correspondence with the credit bureaus.

If you have defaulted on a credit card or other loan, you may want to talk to the creditor to negotiate a deal to get your account up to current. However, if you do not plan on paying the debt, do not contact the creditor because it may restart the clock for having the item dropped from your credit report.

There are several other steps you can take to build your credit. Open a checking or savings account with a bank or credit union. If you have enough self-discipline not to rack up debt, get a credit card and use it sparingly, always paying off your balance in full each month. Using credit responsibly can go a long way to proving that you are capable of handling larger purchases.

It is a good idea to check your credit report on a yearly basis to make sure that everything is doing well. Take advantage of the free yearly credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. If you have further questions on how to build or clean up credit, talk to a credit counselor.

Credit Matters
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Credit Matters