I'm still working on stuff, but I've finally gotten to the point where I can actually get approved when I apply for things, so I thought I'd try writing a success story.
The only FICO score I really have an ongoing record for is Equifax. But I do know that my Experian, while differing from the Equifax, has mostly gone up or down by just about the same amount at the same time. I admit I've paid almost no attention to TransUnion, but that's been because TU is always a little higher than EQ and/or EX.
In 2001 unexpected medical problems caused me to have a sudden large income drop. With the exception of a very few things I was able to pay off, all my debts went delinquent by March 2002.
In 2003 I was somewhere around 480 or 490, and got an auto loan, my first credit since my 2001 financial melt down. In October 2005, I finally got Social Security disability, along with a retro check. I used that money to settle the bad debts (except for one, but that's another story) from 2001/02. After paying everything, I started disputing all the bad account listings. By October 2005, the date from which I have FICO records, I was at 520. By March 2007 I had gotten rid of a decent amount of the bad listings and had managed to get a couple of not very good (high initial fees, high interest, low limit, etc.) MC/VISA cards, along with a couple retail accounts (gasoline, dept. store, etc.), and I finally broke 600, but by May I was back down to 580. What happened? Well, this was where I learned how badly too many inquiries can hurt your score. Breaking 600 had encouraged me to apply for too many things, almost all of which I didn't get approved for anyway. By September 2007 I'd only gotten back up to 590.
From that point on I just made sure I kept paying all my bills on time and didn't apply for new credit. By April 2008 I had gotten to 660. My revolving debt to credit ratio was 89%. The accounts I had gotten since '06 all had low limits, I'd gotten them a few months apart from each other, I had nearly maxed them all out, and had never paid very much more than the minimum required. At that point I had perfect payment records from 2003 on, but I still had a few "bad" listings from '01 and early '02, even though, except for one, they'd been paid off.
It seemed my utilization was the one thing I could do anything about at the time, so I did. I borrowed some money from the credit union and, using that and some of my own money, paid my revolving debt down during April and May, including paying at least 3 accounts down to zero balances. I had previously noticed that "too many accounts with balances" was something you could get scolded for by FICO, even if your ratio was fairly low, like below 20%. It seemed like they wanted to see at least one or two accounts with no balance at all. Right now my revolving debt to credit ratio is reporting as 21%, my EQ FICO is 685 and my EX FICO is 701.
There is an account on EQ that was mistakenly reported as closed, but that is in the process of being corrected, which will gain me a few points. Also, my ratio is REALLY a hair under 10%, and I expect that enough of my balances will have gotten brought up to date by the 20th or so of June to get my reported ratio below 15%, possibly even lower.
Barring some weird catastrophe, by the end of June I'll be above 700 on EQ and EX both, and, based on past experience, TU will be 10 to 20 points higher than EQ or EX.
480 in late 2003, something over 700 by the end of June 2008, with the most increase (590 to over 700) happening in the past 12 months. The one really big improvement came when I paid the revolving debt to credit ratio down from 89% to 21% (actually lower than that, but 21% is what my reports are showing now), along with paying a few accounts down to zero. Now I'm really waiting to break 720, which may well happen in the next 3 or 4 months.
As recently as 2 years ago I had been thinking it was hopeless, I'd never get my score out of the high 500s/very low 600s. Now I know better, and I've seen that once "the dam breaks", things can start improving much, much more quickly than they had in the past.
I started really looking at my credit in March because I want to buy a house in the next 2years. When I started the myFico the first week of march I was at EX:619 I just received an alert today which bumped my to EX:691 I didn't really have too many baddies on my report just did not have a mix of credit and had high UTL. I applied for a few new credit cards to mix up my revolving and installments, lowered my balance on my one existing credit card and had a collection PFD. I would not have known to do all these things had I not found this site. Thank you everyone for all the advice and help. I have two bad things left on my report. One a collection with Midland that will fall off in January 09 so I have decided to just be patient with that one and let it drop since I have heard all the headaches other people have had dealing with Midland. I figure it would take me months to deal with them and since it drops in 6/7 months its not worth the headache. The other is a medical collection that I am still working on PFD. I have sent two letters with no response as of yet but am hoping persistence will pay off shortly. My goal is to be in the 720-760 range come Feburary.
Check the dates on that Midland listing. They like to play with them. I have one where they show the account having been opened about 3 years after it became delinquent. Midland usually collects accounts that they have bought someplace. I don't know if they ever collect for another owner or not. They seem to like to "Open" the account when they bought it, if not even later, and they'll often put the date you paid them as the Date Of Last Activity. That DOLA MAY be legal, I don't know, But I do know they have to use the delinquency date from the original account. The FCRA says listings have to drop off 7 years and 6 months after the delinquency date. On the other hand, Equifax says in their explanations that they drop things 7 years after the DOLA. If the last activity or delinquency dates are wrong on your Midland account, you need to get them fixed so that the listing will go away when it should. If they're wrong, write the original creditor and ask for correct dates. Then use that response to try to get the CRA to change the dates. If all that doesn't work, and incorrect dates are going to keep it on your report too long, respond to THIS post, and I'll tell you how to get it fixed for certain, at least with Equifax.
By the way, a hint for folks whose scores get good enough. If you're at all like me, when you finally get over 700 (I just reached it on all 3 of my reports on Friday the 13th!!), you'll have a few things you've wanted to do, but didn't dare because you might not get approved, and adding useless inquiries to your reports would slow down your score increases.
I recently paid down my revolving debt from 89% to about 12% (INCREDIBLE score jump from that!!) including zeroing out 4 "bad" cards I'd gotten when my credit was shaky. You know - some cost $150 to $250 to get, then crazy interest rates and fees, and cost you $5 to $15 a month even if you have NO balance, and the "better" ones didn't cost up front, but still have ridiculous interest, low limits ($300 - $500), and monthly fees even if you charge nothing at all. When my credit got good, I couldn't just close them - I would have lost their credit limits, and it would have hurt my revolving debt to credit ratio, bringing my score back down. I had to replace their limits with the limits from something else, before I closed the old cards.
My credit union only uses Experian, unless it's a mortgage, then they pull all 3, and after my paydowns got me close, I reached 701 on EX on May 30. I went to the CU, asked a couple questions, and applied for the highest limit they normally let anyone have on a first application, $2,000. Approved. By June 13 I reached 700 on all 3 reports. But, I was only at 710 on EQ, and just a few higher on TU. Since I just opened a small installment loan at the CU in April, I knew that when the new CU VISA hit my reports in July, I'd lose points, and I'd likely be under 700 again for a few months. But it hadn't hit the reports YET.
I had wanted an American Express card (I figured for a long time that when I got another AMEX I'd know my credit had become good again.), and the truck needed tires and a little body work. I applied for the AMEX, and was approved. I hung up the phone, and went to the tire store (where I'd been turned down twice in '07), was approved and got 4 new tires. Then I went to MAACO, who advertises 12 months interest free credit for body work, but it turned out you have to apply for a Chase credit card, and he wouldn't be able to get an answer until Monday the 16th. But I'm pretty sure I'll get approved.
THEN I'll have a total of 5 new accounts since April, although the tire store MAY be classed as installment instead of revolving, I'm not certain, and there's NO doubt I'll be below 700 again. But I went ahead and got everything I needed before that first VISA from the CU got onto the reports to drop my score, so it doesn't matter that I'll drop back into the 600s. By the time I need any new credit, it'll have been more than long enough to get back into the 700s.
And that's the hint. If you break 700 by just a few points, go ahead and get whatever you'll need for the next about 6 months as quickly as you can, so none of the new accounts get to the reports in time to drop you back down.
I am out of the country for work, and thought I would check my e-mail. I got a score alert that my EQ score had gone up 85 points!!!!! I am shocked and elated! I fought and fought to get a medical collection and an old DirectTV(CA was CBCS) bill that went to collections off of my CR. I actually had to get a lawyer friend to assist with CBCS, but they finally fell off! I paid the OC for the medical, so the CA for that dropped as well. I am so excited, I don't know what to do! The other 2 did not rise as much, but this is a blessing at a time when have worked very hard to bounce back from a violent marraige that I ended less than a year ago. I just wanted to let everyone know that it can be done! I was in the 500's during my marraige because of things my ex had done, but I did not start smartly repairing my scores until I came here in March '08/ In 3 months, my EQ has gone from 634 to 728! Don't give up guys....I am a believer that it can be done! I was almost giving up hope, but staying faithful and dedicated did the trick! Wooohoooo!
Had some GW success with American Honda Financial where they removed 3 30 day lates from 18 months ago. My Orchard card has gone from $400 to a $2700 limit in just over 3 years. Also my Nordstrom card started reporting the higher CL as well, which helped utility.
I am going to send some more GW to Best Buy (already paid it 3 years ago, but see if they can help me out)
I have an account that is not mine that TU has already removed, but I need to get EQ and EX to get it removed as well
I am not having the huge success that many people have, but seeing the 6-10 point jumps each month are encouraging. Just paying on time and lowering the UTIL% any way I can. One month at a time.
Your Orchard limit went to $2,700? Wow. Somehow, I never realized that they ever went that high. I've had one since some time in '06, and it's still at $310. But until very recently, my scores weren't that high, and my utilization was over 80%. I just broke 700 on the last day of May, and I just went up a little today on Equifax, to 724, and my utilization now is only 13% (actually 8%, if everything suddenly updated). However, I've had a fraud alert on my reports since May, so regular promotional pulls don't go through, and Orchard has no idea what my credit is like now.
Orchard is one of the accounts I was thinking about closing, now that I don't need the "poorer" cards anymore. But maybe I ought to call them and see if they'll do anything about raising my limit. During the time you've had them, have they ever offered any better interest rates as your credit improved? I will say that one thing I've liked about them has been that, once I had the account, they didn't keep hitting me with monthly "maintenance" fees, fees for making payments electronically, etc., like all the other "bad" VISA/MC accounts did.
Your Orchard limit went to $2,700? Wow. Somehow, I never realized that they ever went that high. I've had one since some time in '06, and it's still at $310.
I got the card in December of 2005. My scores were probably in the low 500's. I didn't know the difference between cards and such. I didnt have a Visa/MC so I got it as an emrgency card. I have never ever been late with it. I once did pay the $50 to get a CLI from $600 to $1000, but after that, they have increased it from $1400 to $1900 to $2700. I do make double payments on it. Like when it is due and then about 15 days later I send them in a smaller payment. I do have a balance on the card, which is $1100. I plan on it getting that down by the end of the year.
My interest rate is 14.9%. They have never offered nor have I asked for an interest rate decrease. I do get the occasional call from them asking to refi my car loan. I only have 14 more payments remaining on my Acura, but one of the conditions for the refi is that I need to be under a certain amount of miles.
Most of my bad stuff will fall off in March/April of 2009. Right now I am saving to pay off 2 judgements that are killing me most likely. I have never really posted my accounts and asking the readership here what to do. I am taking the "be patient" method. maybe soon I will post my bad stuff and let people take a look at it to see how I can get from the 620's to the 700's
I am not in the same boat as many people who post of 400-500's scores, so I do consider myself lucky. My goal was to be by 680-700 in October, which may happen? I am sure I just need to lower the UTIL%, gather some age, pay on time and things migth work out that way.
Oh my God, judgments can kill you. DO NOT just pay them. I'm assuming (and hoping) that there's some reason they can't easily collect on them, or they already would have. Most bad stuff, once it's been paid, has less and less effect on the score as it gets older. It has seemed to me that the "lessening" of the bad effect is a lot slower with judgments than it is with even collections. Be aware that paying them will not get them off your reports, and you will notice, in fact, that paying them has effectively no good effect on your score right away. The trick is to get rid of the darned things. And you do have leverage.
Almost nobody who goes and gets a judgment ever expects to collect the full amount awarded. They expect to settle for some lesser amount. And that is your leverage. What you do is offer to pay the full amount, in return for them having the judgment dismissed. If there is some good reason that they have been unable to forcibly collect the thing, your leverage is even stronger. In a case like that, you're essentially giving them the choice between getting nothing and getting the whole thing. And in cases where they could forcibly collect if they wanted to bother, you're still offering them a larger sum than they'd get if you agreed to and paid a settlement. And the only work they have to do is fill out and sign a dismissal request. Many, even most, creditors, will go along. They're looking for money, and you're offering them money in return for almost no work on their part.
One thing - make sure you have their signed agreement to dismiss the judgment (after you pay) in hand before you give them one cent.
This will end up costing you more than the "settlement" amount they would be willing to take, but the effect on your credit of eliminating a judgment from your record is more than worth it, and I am speaking from experience.
About your auto loan. I'd been getting those refi notices from both Orchard and Capital 1 for some time. I never responded because I knew my truck was both too old (11 years) and had too much mileage (155,000). Either one of those, all by itself, would have kept lenders from touching it.
However, a credit union, one I didn't even belong to before the loan, just refinanced my 21.9% finance company loan, at 5.49%, and I could have had it for 4 years, although I didn't want that long. My credit had finally gotten back to being "good" (701 on Experian, which is what they used), and I discovered that if your credit is "good", they don't even care about the age or mileage. They're making the loan based on your good credit, not the vehicle's value, because they don't expect to ever have to repossess and sell the thing.
So if your credit gets good enough before your current loan is paid off, you ought to see about refinancing the thing, no matter how old it is or how many miles are on it.
And, finally, do whatever you can to get the revolving utilization down. I was at 82%, with a score around 650 or so. My credit had gotten good enough, although just barely, to let me borrow from a credit union. I applied for $4,000, got $2,500, put it together with my own $1,800, and paid my revolving down to about 23%. That was at the end of May. I further paid things down to 14%. My scores now are Eq 724, Ex 715, and TU around 730. (TU is "around" because it hAS A SINGLE ERROR THAT IS COSTING ME AT LEAST 50 POINTS).
They really havent come after me to get me to pay them. No phone calls to the employer or anything like that. I had hoped to get them taken care of by October, but I am pushing it back another year. I was hoping to get into a house, but I think I am going to wait it out just a bit longer.
I do plan on covering my backside when it comes to the PFD.
Almost nobody who goes and gets a judgment ever expects to collect the full amount awarded. They expect to settle for some lesser amount. And that is your leverage. What you do is offer to pay the full amount, in return for them having the judgment dismissed.
This was kinda confusing. They expect less, but you offer the full amount?