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What can I do about bad credit?

Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with funding from American College of Bankruptcy
Reviewed October 2019

Late payments, bankruptcy, liens, and accounts given to a collection agency are negative information that give you bad credit.

If the negative information on your credit report is not true, see What can I do about a problem on my credit report?.

If the negative information on your credit report is true, you cannot change the report. The only way to get a better credit report is to improve your spending and bill paying habits. In time your credit report will improve.

Bankruptcy filings can be listed on your credit report for 10 years.  Most other debts can be listed for 7 years.1 

If your credit is bad, you can work towards building good credit. 

  • Pay back the debt you owe.
  • Do not borrow money that you cannot pay back.
  • Do not sign up for any new credit cards until you are sure you can pay the bills on time. Paying on time helps build good credit.
  • Use a calendar to keep track of when all of your bills are due and pay them on time each month.
  • Use your credit cards only if you can pay off the card on time each month to help rebuild your credit.
  • Find out if your landlord reports your payments to a credit reporting agency.  Pay your rent on-time each month to build credit.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a toolkit to help you Get and Keep a Good Credit History.

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