How to Reestablish Your Credit

The first step in re-building your credit is to request a copy of each of your reports from the three main credit agencies or from annualcreditreport.com. By law you are entitled to receive one free copy per year. The phone numbers to the three main credit agencies are as follows:

• Equifax: 800-685-1111

• Experian: 888-397-3742

• TransUnion: 800-888-4213

Once you receive a copy of your report from each of the above mentioned credit agencies or from annualcreditreport.com, carefully review the report and look for any inaccuracies. First dispute any inaccurate information with each or all of the credit agencies that reported the inaccuracies. Report all disputes online through the agencies websites. Equifax has an online dispute form, Transunion has a dispute section under the personal services area, and Experian has a dispute section on its credit services maintenance page.

Once you have reviewed your report and disputed any inaccuracies, you should start to rebuild your credit. This article discusses a variety of sources that you can use to reestablish your credit. Each of the following sources are a great place to start rebuilding your credit.

Secure Credit Card

A secure credit card is a credit card that requires a deposit. They are a great way to establish or reestablish credit after a bankruptcy, foreclosure, or divorce. Secure cards can be obtained online or at a local bank or credit union. The requirement to open a secure card is typically either very limited credit or at least a 500 credit score. A secure card is similar to a debit card, but unlike a debit card monthly payments are reported to the credit agencies. A secure card requires a down payment and then repayment of the funds as you use them. Most secure cards start between $300 and $500 dollars. Most have hefty initial fees and annual fees. Make sure you keep the monthly payments on-time. Over-time your credit should improve and the creditor will likely increase your credit limit and eventually (with on-time payments) convert your secure card to a regular credit card.

Must have secure credit card features:

• Make sure the creditor will report your payments to the three main credit agencies
• Reasonable grace period
• No early termination fee
• Allows for the card to switch to a standard credit card after so many on-time payments

Credit Union – Installment Loans

Credit unions are a great way to establish or reestablish credit. Belonging to a credit union gives you special privileges, such as better interest rates and installment loan and credit card options. Small installment loans from a credit union are great ways to establish or reestablish credit. Automatic withdrawal from a checking or savings account may ensure the payments are on-time.

Auto Loans

There are many buy here/pay here car dealerships that offer financing. This is an option for establishing or reestablishing credit. Just verify that the finance company or dealership reports to all three major credit bureaus.

Joint Credit Cards

If you are married and your spouse has good credit, asking them to open a joint credit card may be a good option to establish or reestablish credit. If you are not married, a parent or sibling may be willing to open a joint card for you.

Authorized User Credit Cards

An authorized user card is a credit card that someone else (usually a relative) is responsible for. The authorized user is not obligated to make payments on the card but if they are listed as an authorized user the payments will be reported to their credit report.

Other Ways to Establish New Credit

If your credit scores are below 500 or you are unemployed or in the middle of a bankruptcy or foreclosure, you may want to open a checking or savings account with a local bank or credit union. When you are ready to start reestablishing credit you will have already formed a relationship with a financial institution, therefore it will be easier to open credit with them.

Once you have opened credit, it is imperative that you use it monthly and make all the payments on-time. You may need a co-signer to open your first credit accounts. Be aware any late payments will not only appear on your credit report but also the co-signers. The last thing you want to do to someone helping you is hurt them by damaging their credit. If possible, set up an automatic withdrawal for the payment. Try to keep the balances on credit cards below 30% of the available limit. This should maximize your scores. After 12 months of on-time payments try and open a regular card and increase your available limit. The idea is to establish new paid as agreed credit. Ideally you should have an installment loan and two cards to reestablish your credit. If your credit cards and installment loan(s) at first have high interest rates, try and apply for new credit after 12 months. This will allow you to payoff the old higher interest accounts, but don’t close them out as this can hurt your scores.

The first place to start when you are attempting to reestablish your credit is at your current bank. If you have an established relationship with a checking or savings account, the institution that already knows you will be more likely to give you a chance than another institution. This will limit the amount of inquiries on your credit report. Remember inquires could cost 3 to 5 points per pulled credit report. Be careful, that applying for new credit does not lower your scores even more. Create a budget to see where you are spending your money. Eliminate any wasteful spending and focus on the long-term goal of credit independence. If you need help creating a reasonable budget seek a free non-profit agency that can help you create one. The key is Free! Be patient, reestablishing your credit takes time. Do not look for the quick fix; look at the long-term goal of available credit for what you need, and lower interest rates (big savings in interest expense). Be diligent and pay your bills on-time. This includes the open accounts listed on your report as well as your utility bills and unreported debts (possibly through a credit union).