Statistics show that many Americans have bad credit, and one element that is a common factor is unpaid credit cards and how they affect your credit.
According to the statistics, VantageScore says there are about 220 million scorable people and 68 million of them have bad or poor scores (lower than 601), which is how they got to that 30 percent estimate. Figures from credit bureau TransUnion also say that 30 percent have subprime credit based on the VantageScore 3.0 model.
The good news is that you can fix it, but how do you repair credit when you have unpaid credit cards that, and possibly some in collections?
The First Step
Wondering how to fix your credit or how to improve your credit score? First thing is to find out your credit score and exactly what is on your credit report. Sometimes, there are items that should have been removed yet remain long after. These items are affecting your score and ability to do things like buying a home, buying a car, getting insurance, getting security deposits on utilities or, even worse, getting certain jobs.
If you have unpaid credit cards, they are often sent to third-party collection agencies that will try to collect the debt. One of the first things they do is list it on your credit report, which hurts your overall credit score. These debt collections remain active for seven years unless you take care of the charge, dispute it, or have it erased.
Disputing a Debt Collection
It is best to dispute a debt collection as soon as possible, generally within 30 days of when you were first contacted by the agency. This time frame is important because it allows you to request that the collection agency provide proof that you owe the debt. If they ignore your request or cannot prove the debt, then it has to be taken off of your credit report. If the debt does not belong to you in the first place, it has to be removed if they cannot prove it is yours.
Seven Year Dispute
After seven years, past due accounts have to be removed according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Keep in mind that some agencies do what is known as re-aging the account, which keeps the debt collection on your account longer and makes it look like the debt is more recent than it really is. If seven years have passed and the debt is still remaining, you can then dispute it and any backup information you have about the age of the account is helpful. The date of the collection starts from the moment you first went delinquent.
Deletion by Payment
How to dispute a credit report when it comes to deletion by payment is fairly easy. The one thing that debt collectors want is their payment. In some cases, the debt collector may agree to delete the debt collection from the credit report if you work out a deal to pay some or all of what you owe on your unpaid credit cards.
There are a few caveats to this deal. Make sure that if you are able to work out this type of agreement, do not rely on an oral agreement over the phone. You must get the agreement in writing so that the collection agency has to abide by what they agreed to do.
Any written correspondence should be sent by certified mail with a return receipt and if the collection agency does not follow through with their promise to delete the entry, you can then dispute it with the Credit Bureau by providing proof of what you were promised. Paying off the debt in collection alone will NOT improve your credit score.
Active Credit Cards
Strategic payments and credit line increases help with what is called your utilization rate. This is the percentage of credit limit you use and agencies that score credit look at this rate to determine your credit score. A good number to be at in your utilization rate is no higher than 30 percent.
If you have credit cards that are active and not in collections, there are ways to improve your score using these methods. This is done by having a lower utilization rate, where you are spending a lower portion of credit than what you have.
If your payments are on time and you have good standing with a credit card company, one way to improve your credit is to ask for a credit line increase without using it. It won’t be helpful to raise your score if you use up the credit line increase as soon as you get it.
For strategic payments, send in early payments and make fewer purchases to see results. Keep in mind that it is best to do this with all credit card accounts, not just the one you owe the most to.
For instance, you have three credit cards – $500, $300 and one with just $100 owed – do not just choose the largest to send extra payments. Instead, if you have planned on paying $100 extra, break that into three payments that you send to each debt equally. So, if your payments are $40 a month on all three, instead of paying $140 to the first card and $40 to the other two, pay $70 to all three to see faster results.
There are plenty of ways to help repair your credit even when you have unpaid credit cards. These are a few of the best that will help you on your way to a higher score.