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If you are in credit trouble, you aren’t alone. There are so many military families and Americans in general who have had issues with their credit. I am even going to get vulnerable and share that I personally managed to get my credit down to such a low number it makes me cringe thinking about it. But, I brought it back up to over 800. It wasn’t easy though.

So, what are the things that impact your credit score?

  • The length of your credit history
  • If you’ve filed Bankruptcy
  • Payment history (this means making payments on time, which is vital)
  • Having a variety in your credit history (credit cards, loans, etc.)
  • If you have anything in collections

Repairing your credit is a process that takes time. It requires paying off debt, anything in collections and then showing you are a good credit risk for a good length of time. Although much of your credit history will remain on your report for seven years or more, once you pay off collections they are removed within 30 days. This will add a significant bump to your score if this is something impacting you.

It took me two years to get my number up to a respectable one and then a few more to get to where I am today. It wasn’t easy either. You may have to start with a secure credit card. This is where you personally put up the money to secure it and the limit is usually between $500-$1000. You’ll utilize it for purchases and pay it off every single month for up to a year. This will slowly bring your score up, demonstrating you are responsible and will pay your debts. If you are all in, you can do this. Just be prepared for the time it requires.

The good thing to know is that if you utilize your VA Home Loan benefit, a minimum credit score isn’t required. The VA requires that the lender look at the entire profile and not just that number. That being said, most lenders doing VA Home Loans will want to see something at minimum between 580-620, which is actually considered a poor score. With this in mind, you may still be able to purchase a home but the important thing to consider is whether you can afford it, if your credit isn’t in the best shape. Setting yourself up for success (especially as a homeowner who will have unexpected expenses) is key.

According to Experian, these are the things you need to do to have improve your credit score:

  1. Pay your bills on time
  2. If you've been making utility and cell phone payments on time, there is a way for you to improve your credit score by factoring in those payments through a new, free product called Experian Boost. Through this new opt-in product, consumers can allow Experian to connect to their bank accounts to identify utility and telecom payment history. After a consumer verifies the data and confirms they want it added to their Experian credit file, an updated FICO® Score will be delivered in real time. Visit experian.com/boost now to register. By signing up for a free Experian membership, you will receive a free credit report and FICO® Score immediately.
  3. Pay off debit and keep balances low on credit cards and loans. This impacts your debt to income ratio and shows a low risk level.
  4. Don’t apply for extra credit cards, it is unnecessary and can damage your credit score too. Stick with one or two, unnecessary credit can harm your score.
  5. Look at your credit report every quarter and dispute anything that is inaccurate.

You are taking an important first step in repairing your credit just by prioritizing it. There are many guides and self-help books out there to encourage your journey, too. Dave Ramsey is certainly popular but may be a little extreme for many. A good first step may also include seeing an accountant and having them draw up a budget planner for you to outline a plan for decreasing debt and rebuilding credit.

Whichever path you take to repairing your credit, it’s headed in the right direction.

If you are a servicemember on active duty, prior to seeking a refinance for your existing mortgage loan, please consult with your legal advisor regarding the loss of any benefits you are entitled to under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act or applicable state law.