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Maybe you’ve been refused credit and found out your credit score is way lower than you expected. Or you’ve missed a few payments and are wondering if you can erase them from your credit report.
Whatever your circumstances, having a low credit score can be expensive, especially if you’re considering borrowing money or buying a car or a house, so you should do all you can to improve it. Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes, but checking your credit history, correcting mistakes and committing to healthy financial behaviour (plus reading this guide!) are the first steps in the right direction.
A negative item on your credit report can only be removed if the information listed is inaccurate or if it’s outstayed the rightful duration. When legitimate black marks are on your credit report, the only thing you can do is give them time and wait for them to be removed – most negative marks stay on your report for six years.
To improve your chances of clearing inaccurate marks from your credit report, follow these three steps:
To kick things off, request a copy of your credit report from any or all of the credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (formerly Callcredit). Once you’ve received a copy (or copies) of your credit report, start looking through your history to identify any black marks or defaults.
Keep in mind that the details on your credit report may vary between each agency, so cross-checking between reports to confirm complete accuracy is recommended.
The term “black mark” refers to any information on your credit report that may throw up a red flag for potential lenders. Some black marks can have a worse impact than others, for example, defaults can have more of a detrimental effect to your credit score.
When you receive your report, these are the negative items to look for:
Removing the black marks and defaults is a long process and in most cases there is nothing you can do except wait for the six years to pass.
However, there may occasionally be mistakes in your credit report that could be damaging your score. After you’ve requested your report and identified the negative items, here’s what you should do:
If, instead, the report is correct, fixing your credit score will probably be much harder work. It’ll involve waiting for the worst black marks to “expire” and maintaining a healthy financial behaviour that can have a positive impact on your credit score throughout. Consider:
Credit repair agencies will go through your credit reports for you, analyse them, look for any potential mistakes and help you have them corrected if they find any. In some cases, they’ll also advise on what to do to improve your credit score, even if there are no visible errors. However:
Consider your credit report carefully and what may be realistically achieved through a credit repair agency before you take on the expense of this service.
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