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How to Repair Your Credit

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Do-it-yourself projects are so popular, the
market for them could be worth close to $14 billion by 2021. From home renovations to
credit repair, consumers are taking control back into their own hands.

That’s right: Anybody, including you, can make
DIY credit repair their next personal project.
If you’re suffering from bad credit and want to get your personal finances in
order, credit repair is a process that can help ensure your credit report is
totally fair and accurate—and that your score is fair and accurate as well.

Get a Free Credit Report Consultation Today

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Did you know the Federal Trade Commission
found 1 in 5 Americans had an error on their credit report?
Those errors could make you pay more for auto loans, home insurance and more.
Hidden credit report mistakes can be as harmful as hidden leaks around the
home.

Want to roll up your sleeves and fix the
situation yourself? We’ve got you covered. Here’s our step-by-step guide for
how to repair your credit on your own.

What is DIY credit repair?

First off, let’s clear up what credit repair
is and isn’t.

Mistakes on a credit report can happen. That’s
reality. Credit reporting agencies employ real people, and so do lenders and
creditors. Human error can lead to inaccurate data reporting that negatively
impacts your credit history and credit score, like an on-time payment being
marked as late.

The credit repair process involves three basic
steps:

  1. Identifying credit report mistakes.
  2. Disputing incorrect information with the credit bureaus.
  3. Getting errors removed or corrected.

The upside is that you can undertake all the
necessary action on your own. Just be aware that DIY credit repair will require
its fair share of elbow grease and effort. If that’s not your style, a credit
repair company can help.

However, credit repair only works for negative
information that is inaccurate, unfair or unsubstantiated. If the information
is accurate and timely, credit repair is probably not an option. That said,
there’s no telling what credit report mistakes could be hurting you until you
take a look! Your credit score affects a lot, including your eligibility for
loans and the rates you are offered. Without a fair credit score, you might not
get a fair quote or interest rate, which is why ensuring your score is accurate
has long-reaching implications.

Step 1: Request your free credit
report(s)

Credit repair all starts with your credit
report. Your FICO score alone can’t tell you much about the
specific negative information affecting it. You need your entire credit report
to give you the full story.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are entitled to a free credit
report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. Requesting
your report from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion is the first step in credit repair.
You have a few options for getting a copy.

Online

The FTC instructs consumers to visit www.annualcreditreport.com
for requesting credit reports online. It is the
only website authorized by the federal government
for such purposes, so be
diligent and make sure you are using the right URL. Scammers often create
similar-sounding websites or use “free credit report” in the URL to
trick unwitting consumers.

Once you’ve verified your identity, your
credit report(s) will be sent to you immediately.

Phone

You can also call 1-877-322-8228 and go
through the verification process by phone. Your credit report will be mailed
within 15 days of a phone request.

Mail

Download the official request form, print it
and fill it out according to the instructions. Then mail it back.

Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Your credit report will be sent within 15
days.

One thing to think about is whether you want
to request all three reports at once or stagger them over 12 months. The
stagger strategy can help you keep a closer eye on changes in your credit
report over the year. If you find an error in one report, though, you won’t
know if it’s replicated in your other reports unless you check them, too. The
bureaus don’t gather or report all the same information.

Step 2: Read the report line by
line

Once you’ve got the hard copy, it’s time to
dig in!

Don’t be surprised if you find it hard to read
your credit report at first. Unless you have experience with such documents, it
can look like a jumble of names, numbers and boxes.

Basically, it’s a summary of your accounts,
payment history and other information reported by lenders and creditors. To
help make sense of all that content, let’s break down what appears in a credit
report (this example from Experian is useful in
following along):

  • Personal identifying information: Identity-related
    information like your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth
    starts off the report.
  • Account information: These are records related
    to your credit accounts; broadly, this category covers type, age, ownership and
    payment status of accounts.
  • Inquiry information: Hard and soft inquiries
    are listed out on your report. Soft inquiries don’t impact your score, but hard inquiries do and can remain on your
    report for up to two years.
  • Bankruptcies: Any public records related to
    bankruptcy type and filing date will appear here.
  • Collections: Past due accounts that are with
    collection agencies will be noted.

Step 3: Look for credit report
mistakes

This step is where the real meat of the credit
repair process is at: checking your credit report for errors.

WARNING: Credit report mistakes can come in all shapes and sizes, some of them
not easily detectable. Here’s what to look for:

  • Negative items that are outside
    the statute of limitations (i.e., older than seven years for most credit
    information and older than 10 years for bankruptcy information).
  • Misspellings in your name or inaccurate
    personal information.
  • Accounts that don’t actually
    belong to you or are mistakenly attributed to you.
  • Closed accounts being reported as
    open, or accounts incorrectly listed as “closed by grantor.”
  • On-time payments that were marked
    as late.
  • The same debt being listed more
    than once.
  • Accounts that were opened as a
    result of identity theft.
  • Inaccurate or unapproved inquiry
    information.
  • Wrong credit limit or paid balance
    amounts.

So how can you root out these errors? It’s
going to take a very close reading of
your report. Your credit repair to-do list should, at the least, include the
following:

  1. Making sure your personal information is all correct and your file isn’t mixed with someone else who shares a similar name.
  2. Taking a fine-tooth comb to your account information, specifically looking at account number, status, individual vs. joint responsibility, open/close dates, credit type, term, highest and current balances, credit limit, monthly payment, late payments and statements or remarks.
  3. Verifying the origin of hard inquiries, confirming you gave your consent.
  4. Looking for bankruptcy information that is older than 10 years.
  5. Searching for anything else that may be reported incorrectly, as certain protections exist for consumers with active duty military status, for example.

Step 4: Dispute errors with
credit bureaus

If you’ve found one or two errors, or three or four—or even 28, as the average customer for CreditRepair.com did in 2018—it’s time to dispute the inaccurate information.

A formal dispute consists of a letter you write to the credit bureau officially notifying it of the error(s). It helps to use a credit dispute letter template so you can make sure everything is in the right place. Your letter should include the following:

  • Your personal and contact
    information.
  • Each mistake you found and the
    outcome you desire, like removal or correction of inaccurate information.
  • Copies of records, documents and
    other evidence showing credit report information is inaccurate or outside the
    statute of limitations. Never send originals!
  • An annotated copy of your report,
    like red circles around suspect data.

Once the credit bureau receives the letter, an
investigation will be started and you should have a response within 30–45 days. That means the credit
bureau will either remove the information, correct it or confirm the negative
information with its own evidence. It must also send results to you in writing.

Here’s contact information for the credit bureaus and
options for getting the dispute process started.

Equifax

Equifax Information Services LLC
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348

Visit this page or
call 866-349-5191

Experian

Experian
PO Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013

Visit this page or
call 888-397-3742

TransUnion

TransUnion LLC
Consumer Dispute Center
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Visit this page or
call 800-916-8800

Step 5: Dispute errors with
lender

You will need to dispute inaccuracies with
your original creditors as well, not just the credit bureau. This entails
contacting the furnisher of the inaccurate data, usually the lender or creditor
associated with an account. If you don’t dispute the information with the
creditor, they may end up re-submitting the errors to the credit bureaus,
resulting in it being re-added to your credit report.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
(CFPB) has some helpful resources on this front, including a
sample letter you can send to businesses that supplied the information.

This step is very similar to disputing errors
with credit bureaus. You’ll want to cover all the bases in your formal letter,
including your contact information, clear identification of mistakes and copies
of supporting documents. These companies are required to respond to disputes,
so they often have a dedicated address for sending letters.

According to the FTC, if the information is
found to be inaccurate, the provider may not report it to credit bureaus again.

Step 6: Build your credit

And there you have it—a step-by-step guide to
DIY credit repair. But the task doesn’t exactly end there. It may take six
months or more for any change to appear in your credit report and then later be
reflected in your score.

In that time, you can still take more steps to
build credit yourself. Monthly budgeting, making timely payments and
not maxing out your credit cards are all good strategies for smarter personal
finances. Understanding the five factors that go into your credit score—payment
history, credit utilization, account mix, inquiries, and age of accounts—can
also help you target areas for improvement.

Another thing to think about is preventative
credit repair. Regularly reviewing your credit report can help you uncover
inaccurate negative information more quickly. If you know it’s there, then you
can better address it. Besides regularly reviewing your free copies of your
credit report, consider signing up for Credit.com’s free
Credit Report Card.
We show you your Experian credit score, updated
every two weeks. If your score falls, it could mean that it’s time to look more
closely at your full credit report for errors and inaccuracies.

Want to learn more about the credit repair
process and whether it’s worth working with a credit repair company? Visit
Credit.com for more information, tips, articles and reviews of some of our
favorite credit repair companies, like Lexington Law and CreditRepair.com.


Disclosure: Credit.com and
CreditRepair.com are both owned by the same company, Progrexion Holdings Inc.
John C. Heath, Attorney at Law, PC, d/b/a Lexington Law Firm is an independent
law firm that uses Progrexion as a provider of business and administrative
services.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?

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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances

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Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit

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Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.

 

 

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