Ask the Expert: How Do You Raise Your Credit Score?

When lenders won’t allow you to borrow because of your score, it’s time to act.

I thought I had pretty good credit – and I did the last time I checked when I got my new car. But when I went to apply for that new cash back on everything card from Capital One I was rejected.Turns out some problems with my mortgage payments and a medical bill that I thought was paid but went to collections have ruined my decent score. The mortgage payments are really frustrating because I actually paid. But my condo association failed to send a flood insurance certificate to the lender, so they assessed fees for a few months and I “didn’t pay” them because I had automatic payments set up through my bank account.What’s done is done and it’s my fault for not paying more attention, but now what can I do to raise my credit score?

Kathleen S.
Front Royal, VA

An expert answer from April Lewis-Parks

Hi Kathleen,

Rebuild your credit for a better credit score

Medical bills often have a way of winding up in collections because of coverage gaps in insurance (that’s when you think your insurance will cover something, but it doesn’t). The mortgage discrepancy may be another issue, since it sounds like more of a clerical mistake than a missed payment. The good news is you might be able to do something about them. Even if that’s not the case with a little work and discipline you should be able to raise your score.

Get a copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com and download a free copy of your report from each of the three main credit bureaus. This will help you begin the process to repair your credit.

The next step in credit repair is to review your reports and identify mistakes and/or information you feel is incorrect. If you believe something is inaccurate, by law you are allowed to dispute the item(s) with the credit bureaus to attempt to have it removed.

Submit your dispute letter, along with any documentation or proof that you have that the information is not accurate. The credit bureau then asks your creditor or lender to verify the information provided. If it can’t be verified, then the item must be removed from your report. There’s no guarantee you can have the mortgage late payments removed as this will depend on your lender’s response, but it’s worth a shot.

Please note that if an item appears on your credit reports from all three bureaus, you will have to make your dispute to each bureau separately. The bureaus do not communicate and share information with each other, so you have to handle each one individually.

If you haven’t already, you should contact the medical debt collection agency, the original lender or hospital and let them know you would like to negotiate. Find out who is in charge of collecting the debt and discuss your payment options with them. You may find they are willing work with you if they see you want to pay back the debt.

So, that should take care of everything that occurred in the past. Now you need to rebuild your credit. As I mentioned, you may be able to have the negative items removed from your credit report. This alone can boost your credit score in some cases.

Raise your credit score for a better financial outlookFollowing that, it’s just a matter of keeping your outstanding debt low, making payments on time and avoiding taking an action that would have a negative impact on your credit score. It may take some time, but in about six months you should see positive results. You may also want to sign up for a credit monitoring service so you can see where your score is. I wish you luck and if you need more information, or have further questions, give us a call.

April Lewis-Parks
Director of Education and Corporate Communications

Read April’s Bio

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