Can I Fix My Credit in 30 Days?

Free Credit Report Summary - Payment History

See your payment history?

Payment history is the record of when—and if—you pay your bills. And, it’s one of the main things that creditors look at. Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score—the biggest part. Your report card shows your grade, total late payments and more. See your payment history now »

See How You’re Using Available Credit

How you use credit affects your credit score. Use too much and your score goes down. Your credit utilization ratio, or how much of your credit limit you use, makes up 30% of your credit score. Your credit report card shows your ratio, credit card debt, credit limit and how different factors affect your score. Get your debt usage now »

Free Credit Report Summary - Debt Utilization Free Credit Report Summary - Number of Inquiries

Take a Peek at Your Credit’s Age

Credit age, aka credit history, is the age of your oldest account, not how long you’ve used credit. Creditors want older credit histories. And older accounts are better for your score. Credit age makes up 15% of your score. See your credit history and the ages of the oldest and newest account on your credit report card. Know your credit age now »

See Your Account Mix

Revolving credit, installment loans and the mix of the two—student loans, auto loans, mortgages, etc.—make up 10% of your credit score. A good mix shows creditors you can handle different types of debts. See how many revolving credit accounts and loans you have in your free credit report summary. Check your account mix »

Free Credit Report Summary - Age of Accounts Free Credit Report Summary - Account Mix

Know How Many Inquiries You Have

Every time you apply for a new credit card or loan, it can show up as a hard inquiry on your credit report. That’s true even for denied credit. And hard inquiries make up 10% of your score and can cause it to drop. Applying for credit too frequently is a red flag to creditors. When was your last inquiry? See how many inquiries you have and how long you’ve had them on your report card. Check your inquiries now »

See Why—and How—Your Score Changed

If you want the details of why your score changed, it’s all there. Simply select “See details” for “Why did my score change” to see the historical view of your credit score—and what’s changed it.

Free Credit Report Summary - Age of Accounts


Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Credit Repair Ads

Let’s be honest: online credit repair has gotten a bad rap. Google “credit repair scam” and you’ll find thousands of sites dedicated to denouncing all credit repair companies, regardless of their reputation. To be fair, there are a few bad apples on the tree; companies that promise results, charge high fees, and do little to help your cause. But what about the good apples? Not all credit repair companies are created equal, and paying attention to online ads can be a valuable resource if you want to improve your financial life. Read on to learn why you shouldn’t ignore credit repair ads.

• Spot the money-suckers.

Sun Tzu said it best in The Art of War: “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.”

Credit repair is about improving your life and repairing unwanted problems. The last thing you want is to attach yourself to a money-sucking credit repair scam. The question remains, is it possible to identify the scammers (your enemies) without reading their online ads? Browsing the web for credit repair companies will help you accomplish a few things, including:

  • Spotting the “gimmick” text, e.g., “We guarantee results,” “We’ll remove all negative items from your credit report,” “We’ll increase your credit score by 100 points in 30 days,” etc. These promises sound great, but their reliability depends on your individual situation. Stick with someone who guarantees the truth rather than a one-size-fits-all sound bite.
  • Identifying the right qualifications. Bob’s Credit Repair Shop isn’t likely to provide the service you’re looking for. While it’s true that every person has the right to repair their own credit, why trust your information with a novice who has no expertise or skill? A reputable credit repair company will provide their qualifications, track record, and provide testimonials about their services. Make a list of the credit repair companies you find and begin excluding candidates based on this information. It won’t take long eliminate the weak links.

• Find free information.

The Internet has opened our society to a world of information that, until 10 years ago, wasn’t available to the average person. Credit repair is a perfect example. The average Joe didn’t have access to the resources we have today such as credit score anatomy, articles about identity theft, savings, credit utilization, and more. An advocate’s primary job is to help you improve your credit score, but their secondary job is to provide insight. Sure, they can help you fix your credit, but do they offer tools to help you sustain it? A worthy advocate will supply you with a place to gain free knowledge through a blog (like this one!)

• Find a true credit repair advocate.

As Sun Tzu pointed out, knowing your enemies is important. By identifying who you shouldn’t work with through credit repair ads, you’ll see the worthy candidates outshine the others. While you can’t learn much from a simple sidebar, taking the time to research your options will help you learn who you should work with, and who will waste your time. Keep your credit repair goals in mind and make the effort. It will be worth it.


What’s the Right Way to Pay Off Debt?

paying off debt

When you get right down to it, any way you go about paying off debt is going to be a positive thing. So, do not let confusion over specific debt-reduction strategies get in the way of taking action. But, there are nearly as many different ways to get out of debt as there are to get into it, so it makes sense to consider the various alternatives and determine which method makes the most sense for you.

For the sake of this discussion, we are limiting the topic to actual debt-reduction strategies that rely on using your own income to fully pay off your legitimate debt. That is not to say that other options for eliminating debt are not worth considering. Depending on your circumstances, these can include negotiating debt with your creditors or even declaring bankruptcy.

We are also not discussing methods of consolidating, refinancing, borrowing against other assets, or otherwise replacing your existing debt with another form of debt, although these, too, have their place in every smart consumer’s book of options.

So, the rest of this article is going to focus on the three most popular and effective strategies for actually eliminating your debt, the pros and cons of each, and why you may choose one over the others.

The Avalanche Method

As defined by Investopedia, the “avalanche method” of debt reduction is, “A method of repaying debts in which a debtor allots enough money to make the minimum payment on each debt, then devotes any remaining debt-repayment funds to repaying the debt with the highest interest rate. Using the debt avalanche method, once the debt with the highest interest rate is completely paid off, the extra repayment funds go toward the next highest interest-bearing debt. This process continues until all the debts are paid off.”

To illustrate, imagine you have four separate debts you are working to pay off:

  • A credit card with a $3,000 balance, $50 minimum payment, and a 22 percent interest rate
  • A car loan with a $7,500 balance, $250 minimum payment, and a 6 percent interest rate
  • A home equity loan (HEL) with a $12,000 balance, $100 minimum payment, and a 8 percent interest rate
  • A personal loan with a $800 balance, $25 minimum payment, and a 15 percent interest rate

Using the avalanche method with this debt profile, you would pay just the minimum payment on every account you are paying off except for the account with the highest interest rate (in this case, the credit card.) So $375 of your $500 budgeted debt payments would go to the car loan, HEL, and personal loan, and the remaining $125 would go toward the credit card.

As time goes on and the highest interest account is completely paid off, you would continue making the minimum payments on all but the next highest interest balance, and move the remaining balance of your $500 to paying off that account. This continues on down the line until all the debt is gone.

Using these figures, and assuming you are not increasing any of these debts, here’s what it would cost you and how long it would take to eliminate all this debt using the avalanche method:

Account Time Until Paid Off Total Interest Cost
Credit Card 32  months $1,001.30
Personal Loan 32 months $216.92
Home Equity Loan 57 months $3,548.68
Car Loan 32 months $646.40
Total 57 months $5,413.12

From strictly a financial perspective, this is the best strategy you can use. That is because it focuses first and foremost on eliminating the actual cost of your debt — the interest payments — as quickly and efficiently as possible. So, in the long run, the avalanche method will always save you the most money.

But, that is only if you have the self-discipline to truly stick with it, month after month. And, that is why the other two methods are even more popular.

The Snowball Method

Made famous by personal finance guru, Dave Ramsey, the snowball method combines the payment strategy of the avalanche with a twist that’s based in human psychology:

Rather than starting with the debt with the highest interest rate, the snowball method starts by attacking the account with the lowest balance and works up towards the largest accounts. This can be powerful because of its potential motivational impact. By starting out paying down the smallest balance first, you establish what Ramsey calls “momentum” — basically a feeling of accomplishment that encourages you to keep at it — which can make it easier to stay motivated and disciplined over the long haul.

In fact, a study conducted by HelloWallet and the Harvard Business School determined that people using the snowball method paid off their debts 15 percent faster than those who split up their budget equally.

Compared to the avalanche method, the snowball method will almost always cost more in total interest, but when compared to its motivational power and the increased compliance that comes with it, most debtors find that a small price to pay. Still, you should research the numbers before making a final decision between the two.

Using the same scenario described above, this is how the numbers look using the snowball method:

Account Time Until Paid Off Total Interest Cost
Personal Loan 7  months $39.44
Credit Card 33 months $1,294.05
Car Loan 32  months $646.40
Home Equity Loan 57  months $3,568.66
Total 57 months $5,548.54

The Equality Method

The final method is definitely the easiest to manage and does a fair job of balancing out the “interest vs time” argument that rages among proponents of the other two methods described above.

Basically, using the equality method, you again start with a budget and simply divide that amount up evenly among all your debts, regardless of minimum payments, balances or interest rates. That way, you’re working on paying all of them down at once, and you can easily use a “set it and forget it” bill pay arrangement to automate your debt reduction.

In a perfect world, you could always divide it evenly, but one of the downfalls of the equality method is clear looking at our example (which is pretty typical of real world debt reduction situations.) The minimum payment for the car loan requires an outsized piece of the pie. And, once that’s covered, it also puts the home equity loan’s minimum payment above the amount that can be relegated to cover it.

That is why the equality method is only practical in circumstances where someone is highly motivated and willing to do whatever is necessary to commit to a very high budgeted monthly payment toward debt reduction. For instance, if the same creditor we’ve been discussing made a number of difficult sacrifices and vowed to apply $1000 toward debt reduction per month, they would be able to use the equality method successfully, with the following results:

Account Time Until Paid Off Total Interest Cost
Personal Loan 4  months $21.64
Credit Card 11  months $357.63
Car Loan 21  months $449.58
Home Equity Loan 40  months $1,355.44
Total 40  months $2,184.29

In Conclusion…

So, after discussing all three of these popular methods for paying off debt, what’s the best option for you?

Look at it this way:

  • If you have plenty of money to spend every month toward eliminating your debt, the equality method is both the fastest and cheapest way to go.
  • If you have a limited amount (above and beyond the minimum payments) to spend, the snowball method will cost a little more in the long run, but it has a better success rate because it’s easier to stay motivated.
  • If you are highly motivated by saving the very most money, then spend your limited budget using the avalanche method and you will save the most on interest over time.

But, what if you are so deep in debt that even making all the minimum payments is too much? That’s where you would do well to work with credit repair and personal finance professionals to see what options are available to you for reducing or consolidating your debt to get those payments down to a point where you can start applying one of the three above methods to finally paying it all off.

Contact Lexington Law today if you would like to speak to an expert in credit law.

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5 Smart Things to Do With Your Tax Refund

Young mother spending time with daughter playing with dog.

We are coming up on that time of year again. No, not the holidays – I’m talking about tax season.

Trends from the last 10 years show that on average, about 80 percent of Americans receive a federal income tax refund each year, averaging around $2,800.

That’s no small sum, and if you are due a refund, it’s not too soon to start thinking about what you will do with the extra cash. While it’s tempting to think about a luxurious vacation or a new flat-screen TV, it might be wiser to put your tax refund toward some budget-friendly, credit-friendly alternatives.

Here are some smart money moves you can make with your tax refund.

1. Bolster your savings

According to a 2017 GoBankingRates survey, 57 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings, and 39 percent have no savings at all. A general rule of thumb when it comes to savings is to set aside enough to cover at least three to six months’ of expenses in case of an emergency situation (like unexpected job loss or a medical emergency).

This year, consider stashing away a chunk of your tax refund in a high-interest savings account. Not only is your money safely tucked away in case you need it, it continues to grow.

2. Invest in the market

Investing in the stock market is a riskier move than opening a savings account, but if you already have a decent savings cushion, investing could be a worthwhile option. The stock market generally offers much higher returns on your money over the long term (although it’s not always consistent). There are a lot of investing options depending on your financial goals and risk tolerance, such as individual stocks and index funds.

3. Invest in yourself and your family

If you have been looking to improve your career prospects, now might be the time. Consider furthering your education through online courses, new certifications or other professional development opportunities. You could also use your tax refund towards startup costs for your own small business. Or, if you have kids, you may want to consider starting a college fund if you haven’t already.

4. Buy insurance

You never know when you will need the protection that insurance offers. If you have holes in your insurance coverage, whether life, home, auto, or medical, consider filling them now. In many cases, you can do so for a relatively low cost. For instance, for about $200-$400, you can purchase an umbrella liability policy that protects you in case someone is injured in your home or car.

5. Pay off debt

Before you do anything else with your tax refund, your first priority should be paying off any high-interest revolving debt you’re carrying. If your tax refund will not cover the whole amount of your debt, you can at least make a dent in it. If you are paying 18 percent interest on credit card debt, collecting minimal interest on money sitting in a savings account doesn’t make much sense. Plus, if you need to fix your credit score, paying off your debt is a major step towards repairing your credit.

Investing your tax refund wisely can be a big step in improving your financial and credit situation for the future. If your credit has been damaged in the past and you’re in need of credit repair company, the legal professionals at Lexington Law Firm can help. Contact us today to learn all of the ways we can help you improve your credit.

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Top 3 Scams to Avoid This Holiday Season

Holiday Scams

‘Tis the season — the season for scams.

With more holiday shopping taking place online each year, more online scams are popping up than ever before.

Victims of online scams are at risk of fraud, identity theft, and serious harm to their credit. The FBI reported that total loss from cybercrime in 2016 exceeded $1.3 billion.

That’s why each year, everyone from the FBI to politicians to the Better Business Bureau issues warnings for consumers be on high alert for such scams.

Here are some of the most common ones to avoid this holiday season:

  1. Email and social media scams

You’re probably getting bombarded by marketing emails right now, but be careful what you click. Scam emails may well sneak into the bunch. Some emails will try to direct you back to scammy websites, which could then try to trick you into buying fake products from them in order to give up your banking information.

Another common email scam involves scammers masquerading as a tracking service like UPS or FedEx. They send you phony information about your “recent orders” and ask you to download an attachment or click a phishing link. These could contain malware that scammers use hack into your personal data.

If you’re unsure if a tracking email is a scam, call the company’s customer service line — but only use the number located on its actual website, not one you found in the email.

Also, be cautious of social media promotions or contests. Scammers will sometimes use this method to get you to fill in fake surveys, and then steal your personal information.

  1. Fake charities

Charitable donations tend to spike around the holidays each year. Unfortunately, so do the scams looking to take advantage of the spirit of giving. Fake charities are so common that they regularly appear on the IRS’s annual list of “Dirty Dozen” scams.

Fake charities often design themselves after legitimate organizations, using similar names and page layouts to fool you. You can check if an organization is legitimate on the IRS website. Don’t give out personal information to anyone claiming to represent a charity and solicit donations. And when you do make donations, use a credit card or check rather than cash or wire transfer. They’re easier to recover if the charity ends up being bogus.

  1. Scam job postings

Our spending tends to increase over the holidays, so the idea of making a little extra pocket money may be appealing. But be cautious. Some seasonal employment is completely legitimate, but some postings are created by scam artists who are also trying to get a little extra pocket money — yours.

If a prospective “employer” expects you to spend any cash up front, whether on job training, a start-up kit, or your own inventory — beware. Jobs are supposed to pay you, not the other way around.

If you do become the victim of identity theft or fraud as a result of scammers this holiday season, and your credit takes a hit as a result, Lexington Law can help you with credit disputes and credit restoration. Contact us today to find out how we can help.

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Does Comparing Loans Affect My Credit Score?

loans and credit score

When it comes to shopping for the right loan, it makes sense that you’d want to do your research in order to score the best rate possible. And the Internet has made it easier than ever to do so. But before you start comparing loans, it’s important to understand the effect this could have on your credit.

And the answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might think.

Credit inquiries

Whether or not comparing loans will affect your credit score depends on whether a hard or soft inquiry is required.

Soft inquiries happen when a business pulls your basic credit information without your directly applying for anything — for instance, when credit card companies check to see if you prequalify for a card. Soft credit checks have no impact on your credit report.

Hard credit inquiries come whenever you directly apply for a loan or new line of credit, such as a mortgage, car loan, or new credit card. The lender pulls your complete credit report to determine whether you’re a safe borrowing candidate.

Since you took the steps to apply, hard inquiries are considered “authorized,” and they do end up on your credit report and affect your credit score. Luckily, if your credit is otherwise in good standing, the effect is fairly minimal; your credit score will only drop by a few points, and it usually bounces back from the hit within six months. (However, the effect may be more impactful if your credit isn’t as strong.)

When credit checks are required

Hard inquiries may not be required until you’re further into the loan process. Lenders can get an idea of what interest rate you’d qualify for by performing soft inquiries using basic information including your name and annual income. So if you’re shopping around, this is the best way to look at all of your options.

However, to get an official rate quote, you will have to directly apply for the loan, which will result in a hard inquiry.

But here’s the good news: if you submit multiple applications for the same type of loan (say, a car loan) over a short period of time (usually between 14 and 45 days), it’s not considered risky behavior because it’s evident to the credit bureaus that you’re simply looking for the best deal. As such, credit bureaus will often count these multiple applications as a single hard inquiry.

(Note: This isn’t the case for credit cards. Submitting multiple credit card applications over a short period could not only bring down your credit score, it could also make you look like a risky borrowing candidate to lenders.)

How to shop for loans

In order to avoid damaging your credit as you shop for loans, make sure you’re aware whether your credit is being submitted for a hard or soft inquiry. Many websites will let you know, but if you’re not sure, call the company’s customer service to ask.

Also, make sure you’re protecting your privacy. A secure Web page will begin with “https,” so if you’re entering your social security number or any other sensitive personal information, make sure to double-check for that protocol.

If you’re having trouble getting approved for a loan, it could be that you need to fix your credit. For credit help, consider speaking with a credit repair expert. Lexington Law offers the legal expertise to help you repair your credit and ensure that your credit report remains fair and accurate.

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The LifeLock Security Risk and Why You Should Care

LifeLock Security Risk

In an age where data breaches are common, another company’s data has been exposed. It may come as a shock, but Lifelock, the company that millions of consumers turn to in order to protect their identities, has holes in its security that could potentially lead to more phishing scams and identity theft.

Lifelock’s site security hasn’t updated since 2015, which is a huge issue since technology is always changing making it easy for hackers to access sensitive information such as millions of users’ email addresses.

The holes in Lifelock’s security were discovered by security expert and blogger Brian Krebs. He found a vulnerability on the site that allows anyone to index millions of customer accounts on their web browsers when they unsubscribe from Lifelock’s marketing emails. This makes users vulnerable to any identity thieves out there who might be looking for easy prey. This is a huge disappointment for consumers, who seem to be facing the never-ending nightmare of the potential for identity theft.

Aside from causing headaches and costing lots of money, identity theft can destroy your credit. So where do you turn to for help when you trust a company to protect your sensitive information and they fail you? Luckily, there are trustworthy companies out there that can help you who haven’t been breached, and do everything they can to protect your sensitive information.

Who Can I Trust to Protect My Sensitive Information?

Lexington Law Firm offers credit repair services, but we also offer identity theft protection services. And we make every effort to protect our users’ data, because we understand how important it is. Lexington Law Firm is PCI-DSS and EI3PA compliant. PCI-DSS means that we are constantly maintaining and building a secure network, protecting card-holder data, maintaining a Vulnerability Management Program, implementing Strong Access Control Measures, monitoring and testing networks, and maintaining an Information Security Policy.

The EI3PA is Experian’s Independent Third Party Assessment. This means that we use Multi-Factor Authentication and run vulnerability scans on a quarterly basis, keeping us updated on any new security risks. This means that our users’ data is always secure. The EI3PA is performed by a third-party PCI Qualified Security Assessor. We work with theses third parties to make sure everything is secure.

Lexington Law Firm also has firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, file integrity monitoring, and physical access controls. Plus, we encrypt all sensitive client data. Lexington Law will never sell your sensitive data to any other companies and takes users’ security very seriously. Lexington Law will not ask for any sensitive information via text message or email either.

How Else Can Lexington Law Help Me?

On top of all of that, our credit repair services have helped consumers that have already been affected by identity theft. We have a dedicated team of attorneys and paralegals that will fight for your right to a fair and accurate credit report. We’ve seen removals of negative information on credit reports that was a result of identity theft.

Our clients are also covered under an identity theft insurance policy for as long as they use our services. Not only that, but some of our products include credit monitoring and protection, as well as identity theft restoration. These products allow users to receive alerts anytime there are changes to their accounts – including those that don’t show up on credit reports, such as checking accounts and savings accounts. If you’re looking for a company you can trust to protect your sensitive information, or are in need of credit repair from identity theft, call us today for your free credit consultation.

How Can I Protect My Identity?

Although the experts at Lexington Law are happy to help you with protecting your identity, there are steps that you can also take to protect yourself as well. Here are some precautions you can take:

  • Change your passwords. The longer and more complex the better.
  • Check your credit reports regularly. Doing so will allow you to keep track of what accounts you have and will help you spot fraudulent ones.
  • Keep important documents such as your social security card someplace safe.

Be careful who you provide sensitive information to – if you’re not sure who you’re speaking with, either find a brick and mortar location you can go to or find the correct phone number for the company you’re speaking with on the BBB’s website to call back


Lexington Law vs. Other Credit Repair Companies What Sets Us Apart

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Healthy credit is an essential bargaining tool that many Americans live without. According to, over 40 percent of the population’s credit scores dip below 700. When you are focused on finding reputable credit repair services, how do you know who to trust?

Good credit can open doors and save you money. Despite these basic facts, many people choose to adopt the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to financial issues. Don’t join the group by waiting to get serious about credit repair. Improving your score could save you thousands in mortgage interest, car payments, credit card debt, and more. Consider Lexington Law as an advocate to help you navigate the road ahead. We aren’t your average credit repair law firm. During 20 years of service, we have helped over a half-million clients find better credit. Aside from our demonstrated results, client comfort and satisfaction is our top priority. We:

1. Invest in your confidence. You don’t have to pay up-front to see our credit repair services at work. We offer a free, no obligation consultation where our qualified staff will help you understand:
o The positives and negatives of your credit report
o The components of credit scoring
o The importance of good credit
o Ways to improve your score in everyday life
Moreover, clients engage our service for discrete monthly servicing periods and pay only for services previously (and completely) delivered. The bottom line: we want you to feel confident in your credit repair decisions. We want our skills to speak for themselves.

2. Design solutions to fit your needs. Different clients have different needs, and we work to fill them. Our three-tiered levels of service are designed to address your issues and suit your budget. Each level includes free support and anytime cancellation. Choose from:

o Lexington Regular—This option covers credit repair basics, including credit report consultation and credit bureau-directed investigations, challenges, and disputes as applicable.
o Concord Standard—Clients enrolled in this level enjoy everything provided in the Lexington Regular service but also benefit from the firm’s legal interventions directed to creditors and others who report information to the credit bureaus.
o Concord Premier—Lexington’s most popular and comprehensive level affords everything available in the Lexington Regular and Concord Standard services as well as TransUnion Credit Monitoring, monthly credit score improvement analyses, ReportWatch™ comparative alerts, and InquiryAssist™ for problematic credit report inquiries that can also damage your credit scores.

3. Don’t make empty promises. While other credit repair companies may offer guaranteed results, we follow the letter of the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), which prohibits such claims. In the world of credit repair, there are no guarantees. What we can promise is exemplary service, legal and fair billing practices, and accurate representation. Our track record speaks for itself. Visit us at to learn more about our services.


Can I Fix My Credit in a Week?

If you’re getting ready to apply for a car loan, mortgage or credit card, you may have heard it’s a good idea to check your credit before doing so. But, waiting until the last minute to check your credit before applying may have you surprised — if you find you have low credit scores for any number of reasons, you may be wondering just how quickly you can fix your credit.

“Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for credit because it took time for this problem to arise and it generally takes much more than a week to resolve it,” John Heath, a credit expert and consumer attorney for Lexington Law, a affiliate, said in an email.

Timing Is Everything

Credit scores are based on information in your credit files, which includes new data about how you handle your accounts reported by your creditors every month, according to Jeff Richardson, a spokesperson for VantageScore Solutions.

This monthly reporting date differs from lender to lender and the monthly date your credit scores update also differs depending on the reporting bureau, which is one of many reasons the cycle for fixing your credit may take more than 30 days, Richardson said.

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Another example of timing limitations arises when you attempt to fix your credit by disputing errors on your credit reports, according to Heath. These disputes may include a current account, collection, bankruptcy, public record, tax lien or late payment that can’t be substantiated, isn’t yours, is inaccurately reported or is outdated.

“One of the major rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act grants the credit reporting agencies 30 days to review your challenges to items on the credit report,” Heath said.

According to a 2012 VantageScore report, showing the impact of different positive and negative credit behaviors, you can typically improve your credit scores by 10 to 15 points within a few months with simple credit management techniques such as paying bills on time and paying down debt. For larger score improvements, it can take even longer depending on your specific credit report and account history.

Credit Fixes Accomplished in 30 Days

In general, the negative score impact of running up the balances on your credit cards can usually be corrected by a payoff the next month, according to Richardson.

“Pay down the balance all the way to zero, or at least under 30% of your total available credit, and you may see a credit score bump back up the next month, so long as there are no other negative credit events on your report,” he said.

Again, depending on timing, there might be one way you might improve your credit score in one week, according to Richardson.

“A score increase or decrease will depend upon when the lenders update your file,” Richardson said. “If you can find out when, say, a credit card issuer is reporting to the credit bureaus and reduce your balance significantly beforehand it is possible to see a score increase in a short time period.”

He favors taking a longer view of your credit health and improving your credit before you need to apply for any new credit, if possible.

Heath said you could spend one week reviewing your credit reports thoroughly making sure you recognize all the listings on the report and creating a budget that assures timely payments. Both of these actions, easily completed in one week, go a long way toward improving your credit in the long run.

No matter what steps you take to improve your credit scores — whether it’s to repair errors you discover or simply improve your habits — it’s important to note that these are things you can do on your own. There are also professional credit repair experts who are available to help you, but opting to turn to one for help is not essential.

If you are unsure where your credit currently stands, you can view two of your credit scores for free, updated ever 30 days, on

Image: Rawpixel Ltd

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4 Things to Do If Your Credit Is Giving You #PhelpsFace

Michael Phelps is one of the greatest swimmers of all time. He has the most Olympic medals of all time. And, as we have now learned, he has the greatest side-eye of all time. Last night, #PhelpsFace became an instant meme after cameras caught Phelps’ epic death stare, directed toward rival swimmer Chad le Clos of South Africa, who beat Phelps to the wall (and a gold medal) by 0.05 seconds in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2012 Olympics.

#PhelpsFace is the perfect image of deep frustration, and because I needed something to write today, I figured I’d swim with the tide of the internet and give you this: What to do if your credit gives you #PhelpsFace.

1. Pull Your Credit Reports

In case you didn’t know, you’re entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. On those reports, you can see what’s affecting your credit, whether it’s a lot of unpaid debt, late payments, collection accounts or high credit card balances. That information can help you identify what you need to work on to improve your credit.

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Looking at your credit scores can help, too. When you get a credit score, you also tend to get some information about what’s affecting your score most. (For example, you can get two free credit scores every month on, along with the top factors driving your scores and the ability to make a personalized action plan for building credit.)

2. Dispute Errors

At one point during the intense stare-down, Phelps appeared to shake his head at Le Clos (though it could have been nothing more than Phelps moving his head to whatever music was pumping through his headphones, and while we’d like to insert a GIF of that, we can’t, because the International Olympic Committee apparently isn’t a fan of, well, the internet). But that head shake looked a lot like a physical way of saying, “Are you kidding me?”

That’s a familiar feeling to a lot of people when they’re looking at their credit reports. Credit reports often contain errors, which people tend to discover only after the error has messed up their plans to get a loan, rent an apartment or get a new credit card. It’s incredibly frustrating.

The way to avoid such problems is to regularly look at your credit (as described above) and dispute any errors you find on your credit reports. You’re entitled to challenge anything on your credit reports you think is inaccurate or unfair, and while you can do all of that yourself, you can also consider enlisting the help of a reputable professional. You can learn more here about how credit repair works.

3. Pay Down Debt

Your amount of debt has a huge effect on your credit standing, and of all the things that factor into your credit, your debt problems can be a relatively quick fix. (Consider the fact that negative information generally stays on your credit reports for 7 years — ideally, you can make a huge dent in your debt in less time it takes for past mistakes to age off your credit history.)

Take a look at your overall credit limit and how much of it you’re using — that’s your credit utilization rate, and the lower it is, the more positive affect it has on your credit. The industry rule of thumb is to keep your credit utilization lower than 30% (so if you have a total of $10,000 of available credit across your credit cards, your total credit card balances should be no higher than $3,000). If you can keep it even lower than that — say, less than 10% — that’s even better.

Credit scores also take into account how much unpaid debt you have, so chipping away at student loan balances or a mortgage can also help you make progress in this department.

4. Exercise Patience

Again, let’s turn to Phelps as an example: He’s sitting there, glaring at Le Clos, waiting for the opportunity to race him on the Olympic stage after losing to him 4 years ago. He’s clearly wanted to reclaim his spot on the top of the podium for a while.

With a long-term goal like that, patience is crucial.

If you had credit problems in the past, like late payments or collection accounts, there’s not a lot you can do about those black marks on your credit history, other than wait for them to fade with age and focus what you can change going forward (see the three examples above). Here’s a guide to how long things stay on your credit reports, and while you can sometimes get things removed before they’ve reached their maximum age, remember that your recent behavior has a greater impact on your credit. The older a late payment gets, the less it’s going to hurt you.

So stay focused out there. Channel your frustration into dedication, and you will be a credit champion. Dive into your debt-payoff plan, and don’t let up until you’ve reached the finish line. To get the credit score you’ve never had, you must do with your finances things you’ve never done. (Is that enough sports clichés? USA! USA! USA!)

Image: YouTube

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