The Credit Score Playbook
If you read this blog before, you know how to find your credit report and credit score.
But what’s your game plan if you don’t like what you see? A low credit score can make getting and/or paying for a mortgage or car loan much more difficult since lenders are more likely to charge you higher interest rates.¹ Insurers, employers, and even landlords sometimes factor your score into their decision-making process.¹ There are few parts of your life that will be unaffected!
Boosting your score is a key step in helping to achieve financial independence and pursuing your dreams. You basically have two plays at your disposal to start putting credit score points on the board. Read on to see what they are!
Defend your score. Let’s say you get your credit report back and notice something’s wrong. Maybe your credit card company incorrectly reported a late payment or there’s negative information that’s now expired and can come off the report. Errors on your report can sabotage your credit score, so it’s important that you rally to defend your creditworthiness!
First step is you’ll need to write a letter to the credit reporting agency that’s in error. State your name and address and exactly what you’re disputing. Hunt down documents that will support your case and include those as well. The Federal Trade Commission has a sample dispute letter you can access on their website.²
If the credit agency agrees with your dispute, they’ll adjust your credit report accordingly and send you a new copy. You can also request that they send the revised report to companies that viewed the flawed version. If the credit agency denies your claim, you can take the dispute to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.³
Attack your score. You might see your score and realize that it’s on the low end. You’ve been late on payments, you always max your credit cards, and it shows. So what can you do? How do you go on the offensive and start lifting your number?
Your first volley is to start paying your bills on time. See if there are ways of automating your payments to make them as hassle free as possible. Second, make sure that you don’t max out your credit cards. Borrowing as much as possible at every opportunity can wreak havoc on your score. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily close all of your credit cards (that can negatively impact your score as well). But come up with a plan to limit your temptation to use plastic and start paying with cash as much as possible. Finally, avoid opening up new lines of credit, especially all at one time. Credit reporting agencies will look at how many creditors have inquired about your records to get an idea of how much debt you might accumulate.
Taking your credit score from a landslide win for lenders to a win for your bank account takes time and work. Remember that you have resources. The Federal Trade Commission has pages of consumer information on credit reporting and scoring that are 100% free and just a click away.⁴ And having a financial advisor in your corner can help boost your chances of turning around your credit score!
¹ “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby, The Balance, Apr 2020, https://www.thebalance.com/side-effects-of-bad-credit-960383
² “Sample Letter for Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report,” Federal Trade Commision, Aug 2013, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0384-sample-letter-disputing-errors-your-credit-report
³ “What can I do if I disagree with the results of a credit report dispute?,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Feb 2020, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-can-i-do-if-i-disagree-with-the-results-of-a-credit-report-dispute-en-1327/
⁴ The Federal Trade Commission, https://www.ftc.gov/