Credit – Tips and Advice

Have you ever wondered about the specific impact on your FICO score would be if you made a late credit card payment? Or just how many points will you lose if you max out your credit card?

For years, consumers have had little (free) knowledge about how these and other negative actions would affect their credit scores. Thanks to some recently released information from FICO, developer of the most widely used credit score, we know a little more about how many points will be lost from some of the most common mistakes.

To illustrate the lost points, FICO gives us two hypothetical credit scenarios, one of someone with a 680 FICO score and another of someone with a 780 FICO score.
The person with the 680 score has:

* Six active credit accounts, which consist of three credit cards, an auto loan, a mortgage, and a student loan
* Eight years of credit history
* A 40% to 50% credit utilization
* Two late payments, a 90-day late credit card payment from two years ago and one 30-day late payment on the auto loan one year ago
* No accounts have been sent to collections and there are no public records (bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc.)

The person with the 780 FICO score has:

* Ten active credit accounts, which include seven credit cards, an auto loan, a mortgage, and a student loan
* Fifteen years of credit history
* 15% to 25% credit utilization
* No late payments ever
* No collections or other public records

Common Myths of Credit Repair

Click on the questions below for more information.
  • When I pay off a past-due account, such as a charge off or
    a collection account, will that repair my credit?
  • If I succeed in repairing a negative item, will it come
    right back on my credit report?
  • Are there negative listings, such as bankruptcies and
    foreclosures, that are impossible to repair?
  • I’ve heard that repairing the credit report is easy and any
    consumer can do it himself for the price of a few
    postage stamps. Is that true?
  • If I declare bankruptcy, will it repair my credit and can
    I begin my credit report all over with a clean slate?
  • Can I file a “100-word statement” on my credit
    report explaining my side of the story and will
    creditors read my statement and consider my credit
    repaired?
  • By changing numbers in my social security number or by
    using an EIN tax number, can I repair my credit and
    fool the credit bureaus into creating a completely
    clean, new credit file under my name?
  • If I build enough good credit, will it offset my bad
    credit and repair my credit?
  • If
    I’m having trouble paying my bills, can I go to
    Consumer Credit Counseling Service and will they help
    me to repair my credit?
  • Is it illegal for creditors to take a negative, accurate
    listing off my credit report? They tell me that the
    law requires that these items remain on the credit
    report for at least seven years and that they won’t
    repair my credit.
  • How hard is it to repair my own credit?

    When
    I pay off a past-due account, such as a charge off or a
    collection account, will it show “paid” and no
    longer be considered negative?

    It is quite difficult to repair your
    credit without somehow satisfying your outstanding debts.
    However, the act of paying off a debt will not improve your
    credit rating much, if at all. Negative credit is allowed to
    stay on the credit report for a maximum of seven and one
    half years, except for bankruptcy which may remain on the
    credit report for ten years. Under the old Fair Credit
    Reporting Act (FCRA), the seven year clock began ticking on
    “the date of last activity” or, in other words,
    when the last action took place on the account. Under the
    revised FCRA, the credit bureaus must start the seven year
    clock on the first payment that you missed that led to the
    collection or charge off status. Now, creditors and
    collection agencies aren’t allowed to extend the reporting
    period by passing the account back and forth between
    agencies.

    However, by paying an outstanding,
    delinquent debt you will change the account status to
    “paid collection,” “paid was late,” or
    “paid was charged off” – which will still stand
    out as a very negative listing. When you have outstanding
    debt, it is almost always prudent to seek professional help
    so that you may settle your debts without further damaging
    your credit. In some cases, it is even possible to negotiate
    the deletion of negative credit as part of the payoff.

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    If
    I succeed in deleting a negative item, will it come right
    back on my credit report?

    The credit bureaus have cleverly
    spread this myth through the news media and government
    agencies to discourage credit repair. In truth, the credit
    bureaus will sometimes temporarily delete a negative listing
    if they haven’t heard from the credit grantor after
    approximately thirty days. If the credit grantor reports
    late, say after six weeks, and then verifies the negative
    listing, the credit bureau will often reinsert the negative
    listing on the credit report and reverse the credit repair.
    This is often known as a “soft delete.” Usually,
    though, the creditor simply fails to respond and the
    negative listing is permanently deleted and repaired. If the
    item is verified by the credit grantor, either before thirty
    days or after, the account may still be repaired again at
    some future time.

    Under the new Fair Credit Reporting
    Act (FCRA), the credit bureaus must follow strict procedures
    to notify you if they decide to re-report an entry on your
    credit report. These new procedures have reduced the
    frequency of the re-reporting of listings, and they have
    increased the risk of lawsuit for the credit bureaus when
    they do it.

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    Are
    there negative listings, such as bankruptcies and
    foreclosures, that are impossible to remove from the credit
    report?

    There is no type of negative listing
    that hasn’t been reparied and removed from a credit report
    thousands of times. Negative items, such as bankruptcy or
    unpaid debts, are certainly more difficult to repair and
    remove from the credit report, but this has more to do with
    the operational systems of the credit bureaus than with the
    severity of the bad credit item. For example, judgments and
    tax liens are severely negative listings, yet are, overall,
    easier to repair.

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    I’ve
    heard that disputing the credit report is easy and any
    person can do it himself for the price of a few postage
    stamps. Is that true?

    Disputing the credit report is easy.
    Getting results (and actually repairing bad credit) is
    amazingly difficult, complex, and infuriating. It isn’t a
    coincidence that the Federal Trade Commission receives more
    complaints against credit bureaus than any other type of
    business. If you call the FTC today to report a complaint
    about the credit bureaus, their phone mail system will ask
    you if to press one if your complaint is about the credit
    bureaus, and press another number if your complaint is about
    anything else. Clearly, this situation evolved out of deep
    consumer frustration with the uncooperative nature of the
    credit repair process.

    Remember, the credit bureaus are
    primarily interested in protecting their profits.
    Investigating your challenge consumes these profits. Short
    of sparking a large number of lawsuits, the credit bureaus
    seem to do everything in their power to discourage consumers
    from making progress with their credit repair. Repairing
    your own credit is like repairing your own transmission or
    representing yourself in court; it is possible, but you must
    decide if your are willing to take the time and assume the
    risks of doing it yourself.

    Unless you hire a professional to help
    you, credit repair will have to become a full-fledged hobby.

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    If
    I declare bankruptcy, can I begin my credit report all over
    with a clean slate?

    Many bankruptcy attorneys do not
    adequately understand or explain the effects of bankruptcy
    to their clients. Stated simply, bankruptcy is to the credit
    rating what the atomic bomb is to the battlefield.

    When you file for bankruptcy, every
    credit account that you decide to include in bankruptcy will
    become an “included in bankruptcy” item.
    Additionally, a bankruptcy filing and bankruptcy discharge
    listing will appear in the court records section of your
    credit report. Because so many negative items are attached
    to the bankruptcy, it becomes very difficult to remove all
    trace of the bad credit. If at all possible, you should
    avoid bankruptcy.

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    Can
    I file a “100′word statement” on my credit report
    explaining my side of the story and will creditors read my
    statement and take it into consideration?

    No known creditor considers
    information given in a 100-word statement. It makes one
    wonder why they included this meaningless stipulation into
    the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

    Most creditors will not even look at
    the credit report when a credit application is made. Rather,
    they will simply take a numerical score from the
    credit report and make a determination as to whether or not
    they should extend the credit. This score
    does not take into consideration the contents of a 100-word
    statement.

    The statement does, however, verify
    that some of the negative listings on the credit report are
    technically accurate. This just makes your credit repair job
    more difficult. Make 100-word statements the first things
    you delete from your credit file (if you ever added one in
    the first place.)

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    By
    changing numbers in my social security number or by using an
    EIN tax number, can I fool the credit bureaus into creating
    a completely clean, new credit file under my name?

    Many credit repair operators have
    promoted this scheme, known as “file segregation”.
    Technically, we have seen some few people that have
    succeeded in using a false Social Security Number and have
    fooled the credit bureaus into giving them a new identity.
    The scheme is complicated: one must change almost all
    identifying information about oneself and be very careful
    never to use the old information again. Most often, we’ve
    seen people embark on these schemes only to slip and, at
    some time, provide the old information mixed with the new.
    Then, both credit reports merge and the consumer is left
    with a tangled mess of deception and suspicious credit
    reports.

    In the worst cases, people have been
    charged with crimes, or terminated from jobs, for using the
    false information.

    This scheme has proven to be complex,
    difficult, and (according to the FTC) illegal. Lying about
    any personal information on a credit application is usually
    a federal crime. Using these “file segregation”
    credit repair schemes requires an enormous amount of
    coordination, not to mention personal risk.

    Recently, the FTC has gone out of its
    way to shut down any credit repair company that promotes
    literature discussing file segregation. It remains to be
    seen if they will be successful under the First Amendment.

    If asked for our recommendation as to
    whether a person should try a file segregation credit repair
    program, our answer is always, “No, it is too risky,
    difficult and legally problematic.”

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    If
    I build enough good credit, will it offset my bad credit and
    make me credit worthy?

    Any amount of bad credit is
    devastating to your chances of being approved by a credit
    grantor. Most credit grantors never actually look at your
    credit report. A computer pulls your credit report, rates
    your credit standing, income, indebtedness, and stability,
    generates a number (or FICO score,) then spits out an
    acceptance or denial. Even one or two slow pays will usually
    trigger a credit card or personal loan denial. The slightest
    amount of negative credit will cause the interest on an auto
    loan to skyrocket. You will probably find that even a little
    bad credit, regardless of how much good credit you have, is
    an unacceptable barrier to credit approval.

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    If
    I’m having trouble paying my bills, can I go to Consumer
    Credit Counseling Service and will they help me to repair my
    credit?

    Consumer Credit Counseling Service or
    CCCS is a nonprofit debt counseling service that assists
    consumers who are over their heads in debt. CCCS is funded
    and controlled by the credit grantors and the credit
    bureaus.

    Often, CCCS provides a beneficial
    service to the consumer. Because of the obvious allegiance
    between CCCS and the credit bureaus, you cannot reasonably
    expect CCCS to do anything that the credit bureaus would
    frown upon, such as help you repair your credit.

    In fact, if you decide to leave CCCS
    before you have finished their program, they can list your
    failure to complete the process as a negative listing on
    your credit report (though this is rare.) When you are
    participating in the CCCS program, your creditors will often
    note it on your credit report. If you have perfect credit,
    and wish to keep it, you may not want to use a credit
    counseling service. These services usually create negative
    listings because their process will generally make you late
    on your bills at least 30 days.

    The fact that you resorted to a debt
    counseling program is a red flag for prospective credit
    grantors. Remember, paying off your debts is a step in the
    right direction, but it does not repair your credit.

    With these factors in mind, consumer
    credit counseling can be a life-saver if you’re over your
    head and need some help and some breathing room.

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    Is
    it illegal for creditors to take a negative, accurate
    listing off my credit report? They tell me that the law
    requires that these items remain on the credit report for at
    least seven years.

    When you speak with credit grantors,
    collection agencies, or credit bureaus, their typically
    under-educated staff may tell you all manner of such
    pseudo-legal nonsense. The law demands that negative
    listings appear on your credit report for no longer than
    seven years. The credit grantor or the credit bureau can
    choose to delete the negative credit listing whenever they
    see fit.

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    How
    hard is it to repair my own credit?

    Repairing your credit by yourself is
    possible. But remember, the credit bureaus are committed to
    the failure of credit repair efforts, and the credit bureaus
    have far more experience in discouraging hopeful consumers
    than you have in beating giant credit bureaus.

    Yet, some consumers have achieved
    results in repairing their credit without professional
    assistance. The following is a guide to help you determine
    whether or not you should seek professional assistance in
    your credit repair efforts.

    Attempting to repair your own credit
    while failing to dedicate sufficient time or attention can
    result in further damage to your credit rating and may make
    it impossible for anyone to repair your credit for you. For
    this purpose, we’ll give you a preview of the time
    commitment required to repair your credit. Examine very
    carefully your capabilities and your schedule before
    deciding to repair your own credit.

    Example of
    a Month’s Activities in Restoring Your Credit (for a
    couple)
    Activity Hours Required
    Monitored calendar
    daily to check deadline of each of six credit bureau
    correspondences
    2 hours
    Drafted six new
    original credit bureau query challenges
    4 hours
    Visited post office
    six times to mail correspondences by Certified
    Mail/Return Receipt Req.
    2 hours
    Carefully analyzed and
    marked six credit reports to find
    negatives/deletions/ positive changes
    3 hours
    Drafted 4 tardy credit
    bureau response follow-up letters
    2 hours
    Visited post office 4
    times to mail follow’up letters by Certified
    Mail/Return Receipt Req.
    2 hours
    Responded to 2 credit
    bureau stall letters by providing further
    information/ challenging time loss
    2 hours
    Visited post office 2
    times to mail stall responses by Certified
    Mail/Return Receipt Req.
    1 hour
    Responded to 2
    “frivolous or irrelevant” credit bureau
    rejection of dispute letters
    2 hours
    Visited post office 2
    times to mail “frivolous or irrelevant”
    claim Certified Mail/Return Receipt Req.
    1 hour
    Requisitioned six new
    credit reports at $8.00 each through local credit
    bureau
    2 hours
    Contacted ten
    creditors and made creditor-direct challenges
    8 hours
    Drafted 20 letters to
    creditors (one per spouse) to challenge and demand
    further documentation
    4 hours
    Visited post office
    once to mail letters to creditors Certified
    Mail/Return Receipt Req.
    2 hours
    Contacted ten
    creditors by telephone to negotiate deletion of
    negative listing
    4 hours
    Carefully analyzed ten
    responses from creditors with billing histories and
    promissory agreements
    5 hours
    Contacted six state,
    federal, and licensing organizations to locate
    addresses and forms for complaints
    2 hours
    Prepared complaints to
    six state, federal, and licensing organizations
    3 hours
    Visited post office to
    mail complaints Certified Mail/Return Receipt Req.
    .5 hours
    credit repair
    Total hours per month
    (first month)
    51.5 hours

    This chart shows liberal estimates of
    time required to repair your own credit. If you are a single
    person working on his/her credit alone, you can subtract 25%
    from the total time required. This time investment will
    continue on a monthly basis, gradually shrinking as
    creditors agree to delete their listings. On the average,
    you can expect the process to take between twelve to
    eighteen months, unless you have very little negative credit
    (meaning, one negative item per report.)

    Each response to a creditor or a
    credit bureau must be an original and must pertain
    specifically to your present situation or you may be
    red-flagged as a frivolous credit repair troublemaker or be
    ignored altogether. There are no effective “form
    letters” or “fill in the blank” responses
    that yield results. Credit bureau checkers spot form letters
    easily as the sign of someone attempting to repair their
    credit. As such, these letters generally earn a swift
    “frivolous and irrelevant” response.

    Dueling with the credit bureaus and
    credit grantors requires an aggressive and tenacious
    personality. You must be willing to wade through rejection
    after rejection until you achieve your desired credit
    repair.

    The credit bureaus will shoot down the
    majority of your claims and disputes. They will treat you
    like a disreputable person and a liar. You must take this
    rejection without becoming discouraged. If you are the kind
    of person who tires quickly from an emotional struggle, you
    should seriously consider hiring a professional to repair
    your credit. If you are the kind of person who becomes angry
    when dealing with the slow, bureaucratic employees of big
    bureaucracies, you will not fare well. Patience is an
    absolute requirement. If you are thick-skinned and have the
    fortitude to fight the credit bureaus and your creditors for
    as long as it takes, then you may have the proper
    disposition to repair your own credit.

    In the process of repairing your
    credit, you will have to track and monitor dozens of
    communications at once. This will require organized,
    disciplined habits. Every day, you must check up on each of
    these communications to make sure that the credit bureau or
    credit grantor hasn’t overextended their time limit. You
    must spend at least one-half to one hour per day tracking
    your responses, results, and taking appropriate actions.
    Remember, you will be dealing with three credit bureaus per
    person, plus you will be communicating with each credit
    grantor appearing on each credit report. In most cases, the
    number of simultaneous communications will exceed twenty or
    thirty. If you are not a very organized person, you are
    definitely not in a good position to attempt to repair your
    own credit. Click Here To Learn More About Credit Repair.

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