After you know what your score is, what do you do next?
Be sure to check your report for any errors and if there are, dispute them with the credit bureau and reporting agency. Then, start by reducing the amount of debt that you owe.
• I recommend listing all of your accounts, what you owe and the interest rates that you are being charged with.
• Then come up with a payment plan that attacks the highest interest rate cards first and work your way down.
I know missed payments can hurt your score. How do you prevent this?
James: Like losing weight, it's all about staying on track and having a routine. Schedule certain times during the month where you pay your bills and never put it off. Some banks offer payment reminders and will send text messages or emails of when payments are due. Use these services to help you get into the habit of paying your bills on time. Like any fitness routine, when you miss a day, you really feel it.
When you're trying to lose weight, there are fitness trainers. Are there professionals out there that can help you build your credit?
Sometimes, it can be a struggle to manage your finances, especially if you have multiple credit cards and bills to pay. There are credit counselors from accredited nonprofit agencies that can help, but be sure they are reputable. Be aware of agencies that charge an upfront fee to "settle your debts for half of what you owe" or those that claim they can remove information from your report. If the information is true, no matter how much you pay them, that information cannot be removed.
Any last tips?
Building your credit is not something you can achieve overnight. It requires a lot of patience and discipline. But like any fitness program, think about the end results. A good credit score can help you get a better rate and have more money when you are ready to buy a car or even a house. It'll even help when you rent an apartment and try to obtain a job.