Dear Credit Score Report,
I have a credit score of 676 and am in the process of applying for a loan. I need help to raise the score by 30 to 50 points. The only derogatory item is a one-time late payment on a Chase credit card in September of 2009. I need your help in removing this from my credit report. What do you advise? Thank you. -- Sam
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It's unlikely you can delete that late payment from your credit history. With the traditional dispute process, banks and credit bureaus will remove inaccuracies from consumers' credit reports. But it sounds like you really did fail to pay on time, meaning that the item in question is accurate. Under that circumstance, you'll need to wait seven years from the original delinquency date for that late payment to be deleted. While you wait, you can -- and should -- focus on cleaning up your credit and becoming the most responsible borrower possible.
That may not be what you want to hear, Sam, since you want that loan now, but there likely aren't any quick fixes or short cuts to improving your credit score.
I asked Chase whether it might agree to stop reporting your late payment, but the bank doesn't appear likely to comply. "Chase has an obligation under law to report accurately any information reported to the credit reporting agencies," says spokeswoman Gail Hurdis. So expect that delinquency to remain on your report.
What about enlisting outside help? Experts say to beware of credit repair firms promising they can clean up your report. "While there are businesses that may promise to 'fix' credit problems, usually in exchange for an up front fee, any consumer considering such a step should proceed with caution," says Steven Katz, spokesman for credit bureau TransUnion. Others agree those firms are trouble. "The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says doyourself a favor and save some money, too. Don't believe these claims: They're very likely signs of a scam," the FTC's websitesays.
You'll be better served by working -- within the law -- on your own behalf. Begin by checking your other credit reports for inaccuracies and disputing any you find. Meanwhile, continue to make all your account payments on time. "Consider setting up an automated monthly payment from a bank checking account for at least the minimum due on credit cards and other accounts," TransUnion's Katz suggests. Additionally, don't apply for any new lines of credit that aren't absolutely necessary, and work at reducing your debt levels to improve your utilization ratios. You can also attach a 100-word statement to your reports explaining to lenders why you failed to make that payment on time.
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Over time, your credit will recover. "The further in the past the delinquency occurred, the less impact it will have on your credit scores," says Rod Griffin, director of public education for credit bureau Experian.
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