While a bad credit score may be every entrepreneur’s worst nightmare, it’s not necessarily enterprise-ending, nor is it necessarily your fault. The financial landscape is complicated, and all too often poor credit scores are the accumulation of unlucky breaks and ill-advised financial choices, both personally and professionally. Bad credit, however, bears consequences, regardless of blame or circumstances. If you have a FICO score of 619 or below, banks may not trust you to pay back loans and close many doors in your face.
You don’t have to stress out, though. Here are some ways to rebuild your credit up into a desirable range.
It’s tempting to close your eyes and pretend like your credit issues will magically solve themselves, but in order to rebuild your credit, you need to know what foundation you currently stand on.
How many missed payments do you have? Do you pay exactly the amounts you owe or are you ever proactive and pay a little more? Checking your report will help you get a comprehensive look at your habits.
Wise Bread notes that you “are entitled to a free report from each of the credit bureaus once a year (so, three total).” You can go to AnnualCreditReport.com for those free reports (which is the official site run by the ‘big three’ bureaus), or you can visit them each directly. They are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
If you need more than those three sources, you can also check out Credit Karma or Credit Sesame. There are also credit monitoring services available, but those are often for a price.
Now that you have your report in front of you, look for any errors. The Federal Trade Commission discovered in 2013 that one in five consumers have a mistake on at least one of their credit reports. Far more common than anyone would expect, right?
These errors could be impacting your score, which is beyond unfair. Why should you be paying for a mistake that’s not yours? You don’t have to live with those errors on your report, and it pays more often than not to dispute them.
Look for potential errors, including accounts that don’t belong to you, duplicate items, late payments, collections, judgments, or bankruptcy notations that aren’t yours, and even the accuracy of your credit limits. Errors can happen to anyone, so make sure they are not happening to you.
What should you do if you find inaccuracies? Make sure the proper people are aware of them. You can send a letter by mail or email, and it may help to use this dispute template.
Now that you’re aware of ways to remedy past credit mistakes (please also note that some negative items have fall off time limits, so check if you have debt that shouldn’t legally be on your report), you are equipped to start the process of rebuilding your credit with strong habits.
For example, the first step you should take is to catch up on all outstanding payments. Tardiness is perhaps the biggest factor impacting your score, so bring as much as possible up to date and resolve never to be late again (on all your bills, not just what’s connected to your credit lines—some of your history can still be reported to your creditors). Set reminders for yourself if you have to and budget each month accordingly.
If you can’t bring everything up to date, then you can discuss a payment plan with your creditors. Everyone has a unique situation, so by letting them know you are willing to put your best effort in and play fairly, rather than just missing payments and not letting them know why, they will be more likely to work out an arrangement with you.
A balance transfer isn’t for everyone, but it may be possible to transfer all your debt into one payment, potentially saving a fortune in interest and better organizing your debt to avoid late fees and penalties.
There are transfer fees involved (so make sure you don’t have too many accounts), but otherwise it may be in your best interest to get a new balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate. This route can be beneficial for the scatterbrained! And don’t close your other accounts afterward—you still want them open so they can keep improving your score once you’re on top of your payments.
If need be, you can also work with a credit repair service who knows the ins and outs of rebuilding credit—you don’t have to be alone in this (and a secured credit card may be a good idea, too).
If you need more advice when it comes to improving your credit score, reach out to the Currency team for guidance today. We’re always available for a call at 877-358-4595, and would love to answer your questions and guide you toward the best option for your business.