How to Fix a Bad Credit Report

The first steps toward good credit

A couple looks at a credit card.
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The specific steps to credit repair depend on what's on your credit report. Before you can start repairing your credit, you'll need to order your report and review it to stop any negative information. Many credit reports also include an explanation of the things that are negatively affecting your credit. This will give you an idea of what you need to fix to improve your credit.

While you may have one or two issues negatively impacting your credit score, all credit report issues are fixable with a bit of strategy and patience.

Key Takeaways

  • There are several issues that can be listed on your credit report, such as overdue account balances, outstanding judgements, or student loan debt.
  • Incorrect information is the easiest thing to fix on your credit report.
  • Many credit providers are willing to work with you to help you pay your debts.
  • You can use the dispute process to remove items from your report that are inaccurate.

Identify Incorrect Information

Relatively speaking, the easiest thing to fix on your credit report is inaccurate information. Clerical errors could easily lead to credit report errors. Don’t overlook these errors because they could be hurting your credit. You can submit a credit report dispute letter to have inaccurate information removed. 

Bring Past Due Accounts Current

Your payment history has the largest impact on your credit score. Late payments will hurt your credit score more than anything else, as payment history is 35% of your FICO score. Get current on any accounts that are delinquent. If you have accounts that are 30 or 60 days late, make those payments to keep them from taking a toll on your credit. Once accounts pass 90 days late, they're considered extremely delinquent and could go to collections.

If you have a debt collector call you, you can and should ask them to provide you with proof of the debt and that they are authorized to collect it.

Negotiate with creditors and debt collectors to remove charge-offs and collection accounts from your credit report. They don’t have to remove this information, but you may be able to negotiate with them by paying for deletion. If the account is already paid, a goodwill letter is likely your best bet.

Lower Your Balances

Your level of debt has the second-largest impact on your credit score, as it is 30% of your FICO score. Ideally, your credit card balances should be at or below 30% of your credit limit. That means you should have a maximum of a $300 balance on a credit card with a $1,000 limit. 

First, focus on bringing over-the-limit balances below your credit limit. Then, work on bringing all your credit card balances down to a more credit-friendly level.

Pay Any Judgments

Pay any outstanding judgments. They’ll keep hurting your credit until you’ve paid it, it falls off after seven years, or after the statute of limitations, whichever comes first. The limitations vary by state.

Work With Your Student Loan Provider

Student loan default isn’t always permanent. Talk with your lender to find out what your student loan repayment options are to bring them out of default. Often, you will have to submit several months of timely payments before your student loan will be considered current. In certain situations, you may want to consider a student loan forgiveness program.

Identify Other Credit Issues

You may have had a bankruptcy, foreclosure, paid tax liens, or paid judgments in the past that show on your report. With these types of entries, there isn’t anything to repair unless the entry is inaccurate. In that case, you would use the dispute process to have the item removed from your credit report. You might have to work with the courts and banks to have the records updated.

If bankruptcy or another serious delinquency is listed on your credit report, focus on rebuilding your credit by adding positive payment history and demonstrating you can ​manage your credit. If you can’t get approved for a regular credit card, apply for a secured credit card. Use the card to make small purchases and pay your bill in full every month.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I rebuild my bad credit?

The best practice is to make sure you pay your bills on time every month while not incurring any more debt. Then, focus on eliminating debt and ensuring you're not exceeding your credit utilization ratio.

Can I fix a 500 credit score?

Yes. It may take some time, but there are several ways to eliminate your debts and boost your credit score.

Can I pay someone to fix my credit?

There are companies you can pay that wil help you fix your credit. However, you can do everything these companies do yourself without the additional expense of paying someone to do it.

Article Sources

  1. MyFICO. "What's in My FICO Scores?"

  2. Federal Trade Commission. "Debt Collection FAQs."