Credit is like a fine wine. It gets better with age, but it takes some patience.
There’s no quick fix for past credit fumbles, but it is possible to rebuild your standing by taking charge of your credit use and practicing good habits. Depending on the severity of the damage it could take you anywhere from a few months to a few years to see an improvement in your credit score.
What is meant by credit score?
Your credit score is a three digit number — also called a FICO score — that reflects your ability to use and pay back credit in a responsible manner. Your credit score fluctuates based on your credit habits and can always be repaired, no matter how bad the situation.
There are five main things that go into determining your credit score: payment history, amount owed, length of credit history, amount of new credit and types of credit used. You can find an in-depth look at each category in our blog post about credit score ranges in Canada.
How much time should you dedicate to credit repair?
Doing the work takes time but a better credit score is worth it. Here’s an idea of how long each credit repair step should take:
Step 1: Getting your credit report = 30 minutes to a few weeks
In Canada, everyone is entitled to a free credit report from each bureau once a year. With both TransUnion Canada and Equifax Canada you can submit a request to have a free version of your credit report mailed to you within 5-10 days or you can pay about $20 to access your credit report immediately online.
Step 2: Reviewing your credit report = 1-2 hours
Credit reports are complicated and you should take the time to go through each report with a fine tooth comb. Watch for misspelled names and mistakes in your personal information, public records listed on your account, existing credit products and inquiries.
Step 3: Writing dispute letters = A few hours to a week
Incorrect information is common on many credit reports and it could be dragging down your score. TransUnion and Equifax require letters of dispute to be filed before they change anything on your report. You should write a clear, concise letter for each dispute and provide as many supporting documents as possible. Find more tips for writing and filing dispute letters in this handy checklist.
Step 4: Receiving a response = Up to 30 days per dispute
Each credit bureau is required to respond to disputes within 30 days of receiving a letter. But that doesn’t mean the issue will be resolved in a month. Sometimes the bureau requires more documentation or clarification on the dispute.
How long do negative marks stay on your credit report?
Late payments, outstanding balances and bankruptcies tend to overstay their welcome on your credit report. Negative marks like these drag down your score and can remain on your report for 7 to 10 years — even if you pay off the balance and remedy the issue.
Here’s a few examples of negative marks and how long they stick around:
- Late payments
- Accounts sent to collections
- Debt settlements
- Civil judgements
7 to 10 years
- Unpaid liens (once paid, the negative mark stays on for seven years)
Negative marks can stay on your report for the better part of decade, but it doesn’t mean you can’t improve your credit score during that time. Keep in mind that most people have at least one negative mark on their report.
Proven tactics for rebuilding your credit history
A poor credit score (anything less than 620) can make interest rates unaffordable and loan approvals unattainable. If you started with an excellent credit score (anything above 780) and now find yourself on the lower end of the scale, it can take a few years to rebuild.
However, even moderate improvements — like moving from the poor to average credit score range — can get you better loan terms and a higher chance of approval.
Here are some tactics for rebuilding your credit history:
- Check your credit report at least once a year and report errors,
- Set up automatic monthly payments for your loan, and
- Pay back what you owe on time and in full.
Birchwood Credit Solutions specializes in bad credit car loans, which means you don’t have to wait to rebuild your credit to get a new car. Give us a call or visit one of our three locations to learn how to get approved today.