Credit repair is more important than ever. In a recent interview with MarketWatch, a Wall Street Journal website, the Consumer Operations manager for the MyFICO division of Fair Isaac spoke out about the importance of checking your credit reports. In the words of the article, “There may be some surprises waiting for you.”
A New Credit Repair Landscape
Creditors everywhere have tightened their guidelines. This new credit environment has made credit repair more important than ever before. And to make things even more difficult in these already challenging times, credit card issuers have begun to reduce cardholder’s credit limits in order to reduce their own risk.
The Limit Reduction Problem
This action is doubly hard for consumers. First, these limit reductions are happening unexpectedly, even to those who have never made a late payment. And second, and even more damaging, is the snowball effect that follows. A major part of your FICO credit score is based on the relationship between your current balance and your credit limit. When a creditor cuts your limit your balance-to-limit ratio increases and your credit score will fall, through no fault of your own.
The Snowball Effect
And the snowball starts rolling. Once the first creditor drops a limit and your scores fall, other creditors are likely to drop your limits as well. And the lower your scores the more prone you will be to this perfect storm of credit repair trouble. What to do?
Good Credit Repair Advice
The Consumer Operations Manager for MyFICO suggests that you do everything in your power to insure that your credit report is as clean as possible and your scores are optimized. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that paying your bills on time (as important as it is) is you need to do. Credit repair knowledge is power. Here is a summary of his credit repair tips, and our extrapolation.
Check Your Credit Reports
Look for changes in your account limits. And while you’re at it, check for errors. Errors come in many shapes. Derogatory information should cease reporting, generally, after seven years. You should know that the seven year reporting period clock starts on the date of the original default with the original creditor. The original default was the first reported late payment in the sequence that led to the charge off or collection status.
Collectors cannot reset the clock with subsequent reporting. And while we are on the subject of collectors, you should know that if a collector no longer owns the debt, he is supposed to remove the account entirely from your credit report. When in doubt, challenge the item with the credit bureaus or hire a credit repair professional to manage the process for you.
Don’t Get Close to Your Credit Card Limits
A significant percentage of your credit score is based on your balance-to-limit ratio. Reduce your balances as much as possible. Less than 20% of your limit is the optimal balance. Many people are blindsided by precipitous drops in the scores when they max out a card, even when they have never been late on a payment.
Keep Accounts Active
Use your cards to keep them alive. Dormant cards are in danger of being closed by creditors and unless you have plenty of open accounts this could cause a drop in your scores and send you in search of credit repair solutions.
Pay Your Bills on Time
This seems like a no-brainer, but it is so important. Make sure you understand the impact your purchases will have on your budget. Try not to let yourself get spread too thin. A single late payment can have a big effect on your scores, and may even trigger adverse action, such as limit reduction, by your creditors.
Don’t Apply for New Credit Cards
We have warned against store cards for years, and MyFICO agrees. Store cards can be credit repair suicide as they often present a triple threat. First, you will have an inquiry. Second, you will have a new account which will weigh down your credit scores for several months. And last, and worst, is the fact that most store cards offer a credit limit only marginally over the amount of your purchase. Put these together and you get credit repair trouble.
Call for Credit Repair Help
If you are confused by all of the components of credit report and score management, or don’t have the time to handle the task on your own, don’t give up. Call a credit repair professional for help. A credit repair professional will manage the process for you and insure that everything possible is done to optimize your credit. Good luck!
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