If you have bad credit, the first thing you should do is prevent it from getting worse. That might mean catching up on late payments to keep a past-due account from defaulting. It could include paying off collections accounts, tax liens and court judgments. Or, if your credit is very bad, it may just mean successfully completing bankruptcy.
Once you stop the bleeding, so to speak, you’d be wise to carefully review all three of your major credit reports. You can get a copy of each for free once per year through AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can get daily TransUnion credit report updates from WalletHub. Credit report errors are all too common, and you don’t want the rebuilding process to be any tougher than necessary. So make sure to dispute any inaccurate information you find.
After you stop the flow of negative information into your credit report and confirm that everything already there is correct, you’ll need to begin adding positive info to your file. Basically, you need to establish a track record of financial responsibility to counter and eventually cover up the mistakes from your past. The best way to add positive info to your credit reports when you have bad credit is to place a deposit on a secured credit card. Secured cards offer the closest thing you’ll find to guaranteed approval. Some don’t even check your credit when you apply. Yet all the major secured cards report account info to the credit bureaus each month. So if you manage a secured card responsibly, your credit standing will improve. In particular, that means making sure your account is always in good standing, not past due. You can do that by always paying your monthly bill on time or locking your card away with zero balance.
It’s not a complicated process, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. For your convenience, we’ll recap the steps below. You can also get more specific advice from WalletHub’s personalized credit analysis. We’ll identify the best approach to fixing your bad credit score, based on your credit history and numerous simulations, and we’ll lay out exactly what you need to do.
Here’s what to do if you have bad credit:
Catch up on missed payments, to bring past-due accounts back to current status, get rid of collections accounts, and otherwise stop bad credit from getting worse.
Review your credit reports for errors and dispute any you find.
Get a secured credit card so you can add positive information to your credit reports.
Pay your bills on time every month.
If you follow these steps, you should see credit score improvement within 12-18 months. For more information, check out our guides on how to rebuild your credit and how long it will take.