Death, taxes and credit – they’re unavoidable. And when it comes to credit – good or bad, extensive or nonexistent – we all have it. But if you’re like the majority of Americans who struggle with bad credit, debt and collections calls, credit is probably something you wish you could avoid.
We feel you. Credit, debt and money are stressful, even under the best of conditions. And when they don’t go as planned, they can cause fiery balls of anxiety to pool in the pit of your stomach: When will the next Past Due notice show up in your mailbox? When will the next collections call ring?
Luckily, there are dozens and dozens of methods, tips, advice and techniques to repair, rebuild and improve your credit whether you’re an average Joe or a small business owner. No, really – a score of 700+ is within your reach. The first step, the step you’ve already taken, is to seek help. Attack the problem. So go on, dig into these 50 credit repair resources; from federally-funded freebies to nonprofit organizations to informative blogs, they’ll get you on your way to credit bliss.
- First Port of Call (In other words, do this first!)
- Credit Monitoring, Associations & Organizations
- E-Courses, Podcasts & Blogs
- Videos & Webinars
First Port of Call
Before you dive into the work of building up good credit, there are a few steps to take. Namely, getting a handle on your current credit, making sure your credit report is accurate, and taking steps to ensure your credit is positioned for good things in the future.
1. Request Your Credit Report
The first step to fixing a problem is knowing how bad it is, so no matter how much you dread it, it’s time to get your credit report. You’ll want to get your credit score from each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Keep your eyes open for: 1) erroneous debts (debts you don’t think you owe, credit you never opened, etc.); 2) varying credit scores between bureaus, which could indicate a reporting error; and 3) your debt-to-credit ratio, which can easily ruin your score.
2. Dispute Errors
If you have damaged credit, it’s not uncommon for there to be errors on your credit report. For example, once an account goes into collection, it can be tough to close it, even after you pay the collection amount. (Collection companies are notorious for illegal behavior.) It’s important to dispute any and all errors you find in your report. To do so, notify in writing the reporting credit bureau, explaining the problem and including any supporting documentation. The credit bureau will have 30 days to confirm the dispute; if they do not, they are legally required to delete the error. You should also request an official accounting of debt from each item you feel is incorrect.
In the process, if you find easily fixable errors, such as an unpaid bill, go ahead and remedy them. For larger debts, set up a payment plan; you’d be surprised how many companies will be willing to work with you.
Note that all bad debts, erroneous or not, will fall off your credit report after about seven years.
Cost: Free. Simply contact the reporting credit bureau, and send a validation of debt letter to each creditor you feel has made an erroneous claim.
3. Pay Your Debts
The credit rule of thumb states that your debts, exclusive of rent and/or mortgages, should amount to no more than 20% of your after-tax, take-home pay. (In other words, $200 of debt for every $1,000 you bring home.) Any debt – balances that you carry from month-to-month – will likely affect your credit score, but debt in excess of 20% will undoubtedly drag you down. A second rule of thumb: for maximum credit score advantage, keep your debts around 10% of your available balance – $100 for every $1,000 worth of credit.
Now here’s the hard part: if you’re already carrying debt greater than 20% of your take-home pay, it’s time to start paying down your debt. Call each company and ask them to work out a payment plan; most are very happy to work with you to carve out payments you can stomach. Aim to pay off the highest interest rates and the largest debts first. Once you have your debt under control, keep your balances low (around 10% of your credit limit, mentioned above).
Cost: Free, not including the cost of your payments. Credit card payoff calculators can help you determine what to pay when.
4. Automate Your Payments & Set Up Reminders
Once you’ve assessed your credit report, disputed errors and set up payment plans, commit to being responsible with your current credit. Set up automated payments whenever possible and when not, set yourself automatic reminders to pay your balances before they’re due. Apps like Mint Bills or PageOnce will do most of the work for you; all you need to do is be sure you have money in the bank.
Cost: Free, not including the cost of your payments.
5. Consolidate Your Spending
Tiny debts over several cards are what the credit world calls “nuisance balances.” But nuisance balances aren’t just a nuisance – they can wreck havoc on your personal or small business credit score. Here’s the deal: credit bureaus don’t just weigh the amount of your debt, but also how many places you carry debt. Using credit bureau logic, it’s better to carry $100 debt on one card than $20 on one card, $30 on another, and $50 on a third card. Consolidate your credit by paying off small balances, then sticking to your favorite cards (say, the Visa and MasterCard with the best interest rates) for all your purchases.
Credit Monitoring & Credit Repair Organizations
One of the greatest things you can do for your credit is stay on top of it. Signing up for credit monitoring, even the free basic version, and chatting with credit repair associations and organizations will get you on the road to a more robust, more competitive credit score.
The Holy Grail of free credit reports, AnnualCreditReport.com is the one and only, U.S. federally authorized source to get your free-of-charge credit reports – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can complete the entire process online, and start reviewing your credit reports immediately. The site also offers FAQs and free tips and how-tos, like how to set up fraud alerts and dispute claims.
When it comes to credit repair, it’s best to start with the Big 3 – the three largest credit reporting bureaus in the U.S. One of them, Equifax, offers its own brand of credit monitoring. The service dishes up access to not only your Equifax credit report, but also to reports from the other two bureaus, as well. You also get lost wallet protection, ID protection, credit alerts, fraud alerts, and other credit and ID-related monitoring to keep your report clean and accurate.
Cost: From $19.95/month
Experian, the second of the Big 3, offers a range of tools to monitor and track your credit, giving you unlimited access to your Experian report and FICO score, empowering you with daily credit monitoring and email alerts, and handing you other tools to better understand – and, eventually, to improve – your credit score.
Cost: From $15.95/month
Like its brothers, TransUnion offers pretty complete credit monitoring services. Sign up for unlimited access to your TransUnion credit report, credit monitoring and protection, identity protection, personalized debt analysis, and other tools to monitor, track and protect both your credit score and report. Plus, TransUnion monitoring plans roll in up to $1,000,000 in Identity Theft Insurance.
Cost: From $17.95/month
The Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA) is one of the largest national associations to represent U.S.-based, nonprofit credit counseling companies. All member companies and counselors are required to adhere to strict standards, and will help coach you from debt quicksand to financial freedom. Check the website to find an accredited member counselor near you.
Cost: Fees dependent on individual counselor
11. Credit Karma
If you don’t want to pony up for advanced credit monitoring, consider one of the mostly-free services out there. Among them, Credit Karma, a company that offers a suite of free offerings, like your credit score (updated monthly), ID monitoring, fraud and credit alerts, credit and loan analysis, credit card recommendations, and more.
Cost: Free basic account
12. Credit Sesame
Credit Sesame opens the doors to credit monitoring – for free. Sign up and you’ll get credit analysis, loan recommendations, credit monitoring and, of course, your credit report complete with credit score. Set up email alerts for whatever interests you, and if it concerns you, add on premium ID and theft protection to keep your identity vacuum-sealed against fraud.
Cost: Free basic account
The FTC has a lot to say – and advise – about good credit, bad credit and how to repair, improve and bolster your credit. They’ll clue you in to how to deal with debt; how to resolve credit reporting disputes; current scam alerts; and many other topics related to credit and debt.
If you’d like to see the big picture from the comfort of one handy dashboard, myFICO may be just the thing. The service gives you easy access to your FICO score from all three major credit bureaus, including FICO Score 8, which is the FICO score used by most major U.S. lenders. The site also offers email alerts for fraud and ID protection, credit card and loan recommendations, and a help center with tips on avoiding fraud, improving your credit rating, and more.
Cost: From $24.95/month
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) offers online, phone and in-person credit counseling throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The goal: to help you fix your money problems, from finding ways to pay down what you already owe to addressing the underlying root of your debt problems. NFCC certified credit counselors offer money management advice, solutions to current debt and credit issues, and personalized plans for future financial responsibility.
Cost: Fees are nominal; contact your local agency for details
If you don’t want to sign up or pay for full-fledged credit monitoring and credit reporting, try this FICO score estimator on for size. Just answer a few questions, click submit, and the calculator will give you a basic estimate of your FICO score. It’s not foolproof, but it’ll give you a good place to start.
Cost: Free search
The U.S. Trustee Program/Department of Justice offers a full list of approved credit counseling agencies throughout the United States. The website offers an easy search by state, and also has a search for agencies that offer credit counseling in languages other than English and Spanish.
Books on Credit Repair
Before you shell out the big bucks for credit repair, consumer attorneys, or other credit experts, look no further than your favorite bookstore. As you’d expect, plenty of those experts have turned their credit know-how into popular, highly-rated books that teach you how to evaluate your credit, repair the bad, and encourage new, better habits. Do your wallet a favor and take advantage of these low-cost (or no-cost, if you visit your library!) credit repair resources.
There’s almost no better credit know-how out there than the word of a former debt collector – the author of BestCredit. The former bad guy ditches the Dark Side to deliver meaty tidbits on how to negotiate your debt, legally remove negative credit from your report, and prevent identity theft, as well as how to remove late payments, collection accounts and liens to improve your credit score. Perhaps the best advice here comes in the form of negotiating tips, which are golden for getting a handle on your currently out-of-control debt.
From a former credit-card disaster to current credit-card diva comes this been-there-done-that tome of debtor advice. If you’ve spent years racking up credit-card debt and never paid attention to your credit limits, and now feel like you’re drowning in debt and worry, author Beverly Harzog understands. This book puts a little fun – and a lot of empathy – into the topics of credit and debt, and helps you get a handle on your situation.
Did you know that credit card debt is the third-most popular source of debt for the average American household? The Credit Repair Kit is for all those families struggling with bad credit and suffocating credit card debt. Learn about the basics, like what constitutes a good FICO score and how to deal with collection calls, and move on to current events in credit, like updated Vantage Score info and what the Debt Relief Act can do for you. Revised in 2014, this Dummies edition also includes information on the new credit score ranges, IRS exceptions to Mortgage Forgiveness, and more.
21. How to Remove ALL Negative Items from your Credit Report: Do It Yourself Guide to Dramatically Increase Your Credit Rating
If you’ve ever considered hiring an attorney or debt counselor, pick up this book first. The step-by-step guide serves up good advice on everything credit and credit repair, like how to remove negative items from your report and what, exactly, affects your score. You’ll learn about charge-offs, short-sales, late payments, and more. The promise: follow the tips and steps included within, and your FICO score improve.
How to Repair Your Credit Score approaches credit from the standpoint that good credit will save you thousands in the long run. With that in mind, the book shows you how to leverage your legal rights to repair your credit and improve your score – all legally, all DIY, all at low cost. You don’t need a credit repair clinic; you just need this book.
23. Rich Dad’s Guide to Becoming Rich Without Cutting Up Your Credit Cards: Turn “Bad Debt” into “Good Debt”
You’ve probably heard of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series, but did you know that Rich Dad knows about credit, too? Instead of counseling you to cut up your cards and cancel all your credit, Rich Dad focuses instead on how to use credit wisely – both responsibly and in such a way that it benefits you. This highly rated book teaches you about bad and good debt, and how they both affect your credit. Like others in the series, Rich Dad also talks financial education – the essential foundation to building a brighter, better-scoring credit future.
You know your credit score is important, but how can you snag a higher number? The answer’s here, in this how-to book that covers everything you need to know about that three-digit number. You’ll learn just how, exactly, a late payment or bankruptcy affects your score, the difference between “FAKO” alternative scores and the FICO 8 Mortgage Score, and plenty of other details from the murky world of credit. Author Weston also offers expert guidance on how to raise your score, bounce back from bad credit, and increase your trustworthiness.
Credit Repair E-Courses, Podcasts & How-to Blogs
Once you’ve worked your way through your chosen credit repair books, the credit education bug may have hit. If you have a thirst for all things credit, from knowing what’s what to leveraging your current actions to best improve your score, the following e-courses, podcasts and credit repair blogs are here to serve.
The Better Credit Blog covers everything from credit repair tips to secured credit cards to build credit. But it doesn’t stop there: you can ask questions of your own, review articles on topics like debt settlement and collections, check out credit letters, and more. Basically, if you have not-so-good credit but would like better-than-average credit, this blog has plenty of free resources to help get you there.
26. Credit.com Blog
What else could you expect from Credit.com but an awesome blog about repairing and rebuilding good credit? We love that the blog goes deeper than most of its peers, offering up not only daily (yes, daily) blog posts, but also insightful news & current events, credit advice, and credit repair tools.
27. Credit eCourse
Jeanne Kelly, a credit coach, offers a free ecourse on building (or rebuilding) your good credit. All you need is an email to sign up, and she’ll send you easily digestible lessons on how to build solid credit. Her tips, techniques and tricks are not unique, but the ecourse format is well paced and simple to follow.
Credit Karma is a credit monitoring service with an awesome blog. (Makes sense, since their services are mostly free they don’t pressure you to buy anything.) The posts are broken down into three main categories: credit scores, credit news & trends, and Credit Karma. Often, they’ll invite readers to, or recap their regular Tweetchats (real-time conversations via Twitter).
If you want to learn about credit via inbox, check out Credit Sesame’s excellent blog. They post almost daily on topics related to credit cards, home & auto loans, ID theft, credit scores, and related topics. They also cover current events, for example recent online security breaches, and discuss how these affect your finances and credit.
From About Money comes the Debt Diet eCourse, a sometimes fun, always helpful online class on getting debt under control and improving your credit. The course includes five week-long modules, which are references to factual articles. The lesson-by-lesson, week-by-week format makes debt and credit repair a bit more palatable, and the topics are absolutely spot on.
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy, and his site is an awesome resource for consumers. Ask questions, report scams, submit your own tips, and read up on almost everything debt and credit. The site is supported by consumer attorneys, so there’s lots of free legal advice, and you can even get a free debt consultation from Rhode himself.
From About.com comes this free, 8-part tutorial on how to repair your credit. The focus is on DIY credit repair, and despite the 8-part format, the course is fast, simple and easy to follow. Think of it as a primer to credit repair – something to get you started before you dig deeper into the world of better credit.
One of the most popular personal finance podcasts out there, Listen Money Matters covers a lot of important ground. What’s better, they know how to have fun while they’re at it. Granted, this isn’t a podcast for the faint of humor: the hosts aren’t afraid to curse – the “raw” and “uncensored” personal finance podcast’s tagline is manage your money like a badass – and they readily exchange their knowledge for beer [money]. But this infusion of personality is one of the reasons we love the show.
34. Mint Life
Fresh from Mint.com comes the Mint Life blog. Since the company offers personal finance software, their blog obviously covers topics beyond standard credit building and repair. And that’s a good thing – Mint’s how-tos, consumer IQ posts, and financial planning advice is absolutely golden for learning how to manage your money and, in the process, build solid credit.
NPR’s Planet Money podcast isn’t strictly about credit repair; rather, it’s about all things personal finance and money. But stay with us for a moment, because the truth is, if you’re going to have good credit, you have to be good with money. This excellent and long-running podcast seeks to help you do the latter, talking about all things money and some things personal finance. This podcast, though excellent, is definitely one we’d recommend you explore after you’ve taken the first steps toward credit repair.
ReadyForZero makes a debt management app, so it’s no surprise that the company also operates a solid blog about credit repair and credit building. Some of the posts are promotional, but most of the content is factual and useful: there are topics on getting out of debt, debt consolidation, proper budgeting, credit card debt, your credit score, various loans, and more.
What’s better than getting out of debt? Stacking up the Benjamins, of course. That’s because knowing how to save and knowing how to spend are essential to learning how to use (and pay off) credit wisely. Like most podcasts, Stacking Benjamins mixes cold, hard facts with entertaining conversation, making this a money podcast you’ll actually enjoy.
Videos & Webinars
If you’re a visual learner or simply like to sit back, listen and take notes, there are plenty of video credit repair resources out there for you. We’ve compiled a few of our favorites, from 5-minute shorts to hour-long webinars.
This 12-part video series from the Credit InfoCenter offers a great start to repairing your credit. Part 1 starts with a simple question, what is credit?, and by part 12 has covered enough information to see you through to now that you’ve fixed your credit, here’s how to maintain good credit. We’re definitely on board with that.
The Center for Financial Social Work and Experian teamed up for this free webinar on credit – the hows of credit scoring, credit facts and fiction, and an overview on how credit affects life. Though the webinar is directed more toward credit repair service providers, consumers will glean plenty of helpful information from the webinar.
This 7-minute video dives into a very frustrating topic: why it’s so hard to repair your credit, even when you do everything right. The culprit, in many cases, are collection agencies and credit bureau bureaucracy, which can make it very difficult to remove resolved (or even erroneous) issues from your report.
If you have five minutes, you have enough time to get started on repairing your credit. From CreditRepair.org, this informative video touches on the basics of credit scoring and credit repair. Since it’s just five minutes it’s obviously very brief, but if you’re looking for a simple primer this will get you started.
Dan Beck and the Credit Management Specialists offer more than a half-dozen videos related to credit scores and credit reports. If you’re in a rush or just like straightforward info, you’ll appreciate their brevity – 5-7 minutes usually does the trick. Learn about types of credit, FICO scores, debt ratio and more at this free, informative resource.
EZ Choice Financial offers a series of YouTube video shorts (usually around 2-3 minutes) on dozens of credit topics: Are credit repair companies misleading you? How does credit repair affect your life? How to check your credit health. As a credit repair agency, they also pepper in the testimonials but they’re easy to avoid, if you’re so inclined.
Need to break down that credit dispute letter? This’ll do the trick. In under four minutes, you’ll follow all the steps necessary to write a properly formatted, properly cited letter to dispute any and all errors on your credit report. Click through for more videos on credit repair, as well.
If you’ve ever wondered how credit repair actually works, this webinar has the answers. We like that it’s packed with great and important info – do you know the three criteria that all credit accounts must meet, or be removed according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act? – and focuses not just on repairing credit but on building better credit, too.
This candid, no-holds barred credit lesson, hosted by Corey Gray, Founder and CEO of Credit Assistance Network, gives a pretty thorough overview of credit and all its shades of gray. Note that this webinar is from a credit repair agency, but we think it’s good enough to earn a spot on our list of helpful webinars.
Hop on over the Money Management International for three straightforward webinars on budgeting, debt and home loans – basically, three of the biggest factors that ultimately affect your credit.
Just like not all dieters lost 10 pounds in a week, we’re not promising you can raise your credit score by 100 points in 100 days. But if it’s possible, this webinar helps you down that path. Note that this comes from ChristianMoney.com, so there’s a religious approach contained within.
Credit scams abound – could you fall victim? This YouTube pick clues you into to some of the greatest scams out there, so you know what to avoid. (Unfortunate note: You may be surprised at how tricky scammers can be.)
This Slideshare presentation on credit reports and credit scoring covers the basics in a series of slides, so if you like visual presentations that move at your own pace, you’ll love this one. Note that the slides complement a webinar presentation, so get in contact with the company (NAFCU) if you’re interested in the whole shebang.
About Direct Capital
Direct Capital has been helping small businesses access the capital they need since 1993. In that time, we’ve helped over 100,000 small businesses and we won’t stop there. From equipment financing to inventory and payroll loans, Direct Capital does it all. For more information on who we are, what we do, and how we can help your business grow, visit our website!
- Computer Equipment Financing
- Laptop Financing
- Medical Equipment Financing
- Dental Equipment Financing
- Construction Equipment Financing
- Forklift Financing
- Restaurant Equipment Financing
- Catering Equipment Financing
- Commercial Vehicle Financing
- Commercial Truck Financing
- Fitness Equipment Financing
- Printing Equipment Financing
- Machine Tool Leasing
- More Equipment We Help Finance…