credit cards

Self-help often best when fixing credit

Dear Dr. Don,
Is there a person or corporation specializing in analysis of credit reports and mapping out specific actions to be taken to improve credit scores?
-- E.K. Gradation

Dear E.K.,
There are a host of companies out there. However, you can often boost your credit score without using these businesses. First, you have to decide how much help you need.

If you can't keep current on your bills, then credit counseling is likely to be the best approach to improving your credit. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, can help you find a provider in your area. Keep in mind that nonprofit doesn't mean free.

I also suggest that you read the FTC Facts for Consumers publication, " Credit Repair: Self Help May Be Best."

Your credit score is based on the information in your credit report. Most negative information on your credit report drops off after seven years. One of the most important things you can do to improve your credit score is to join the "paid as agreed," "never late" club for all your loans and credit cards.

The myFICO publication " Understanding Your FICO Score" has good tips on steps to improve your credit score.

Removing inaccurate information on your credit report will help improve your credit score. An earlier Dr. Don column, " Credit report dispute? Put it in writing," explains that process.

I don't recommend that individuals contract with companies to improve their credit reports (and, by extension, their credit scores). Instead, take steps to improve your score on your own. There's no magic pill. The passage of time and timely payments will bring your score up.

There is on exception to this advice, however. If you're ready to finance a house and need to immediately correct something on your credit report, you may try rapid rescoring. It's something you can't do on your own, but you can arrange through a lender that uses this service.

The Bankrate feature, " Tips for boosting your credit score" explains rapid rescoring in greater detail.

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