A poor credit score will reduce your chances of qualifying for any type of borrowing, including VA loans. Your status cannot improve overnight, as it is affected by a combination of factors ranging from outstanding debts to outdated information. Veterans should check their status in advance — ideally, once a year or at least six months before applying. If the result is too low, consider the following ways to get a boost.
1. Check If Repair Is Possible
On average, every 5th American has issues with official histories through no fault of their own. Unfortunately, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are not infallible. Any of these bureaus can include false information on your records. As the assessment is automatic, they are dragged down by these derogatories. To see if this is the case, you should collect your records and take a close look at them.
If there is any information that looks suspicious, you may be able to remove it through formal disputes. Professional fixing is a large industry with quite a few trusted providers — check the review on Creditrepairpartner to learn more. Experts can save you a lot of time, as they will collect, analyze, and dispute the information on your behalf.
To find the records, go to www.annualcreditreport.com. Now, due to the economic toll of Covid-19, the state allows you to collect these records weekly free of charge. Previously, this was only possible once a year. After downloading the files, print them and examine all three histories. Here are some of the mistakes you may find:
- accounts that do not belong to you;
- legal events like bankruptcies or evictions that never happened;
- consequences of misspellings: inclusion of someone else’s debts, or absence of positive events in your history;
- incorrect information about missed or late payments, etc.
In any of these cases, you have grounds for disputes. Note that there is only one official source of information. Be wary of any sites that promise to get your records for a fee. The law also allows you to dispute any inconsistencies on your own. However, this is laborious, demanding, and time-consuming process, which is why so many citizens resort to delegated repair.
2. Reconsider Credit Card Transaction
Any credit cards you have contribute to the utilization ratio. This is the proportion between the sum of their balances to the sum of their limits. Essentially, it shows how much of the available funds you are using at any time.
For example, if several cards give access to $15,000 in total, while the outstanding balance is $5,000, the ratio is roughly 33%. According to Experian, this is just over the highest accessible level (30%). However, other experts place it even lower — only 10%, we should require spending just $1,500.
This proportion affects around a third of your score. Pay down your balances — at least, most of them — to utilize less borrowed funds. If you cannot afford to do this at the moment, consider the alternatives below.
3. Ask for Bigger Limits
This is the second way to approach the same equation. Request an extension of your credit limit to boost the volume of available funds. If the bank refuses, try another issuer. To increase your chances, apply for a secured credit card. It requires a deposit, so lenders are more willing to grant approval.
The limit of the new card will be added to your overall utilization. As long as you keep balances unchanged or keep producing them, the proportion will work in your favor. For example, an additional card with a $2,000 limit in our example would bring down the ratio to roughly 29%. This is still not ideal, as you should go as low as possible. Thus, you can work on both fronts — reduce the balances and increase the limits.
4. Get Access to a Reputable Account
If you have a friend or family member with an excellent borrowing history, you may ask them to let you become an authorized user on their account. This formality will add their limits and balances to your records. Of course, you should explain that you are not going to spend any money, and this is only necessary to give you a status boost. The effects can be immediate.
5. Negotiate Your Debt
If you have any debts in collections, this is guaranteed to drag your total down. Try to negotiate a settlement. After all, the financial institution is interested in getting paid, not in filing a lawsuit against you. They may agree to let you pay less. Meanwhile, a settlement will remove the “outstanding” mark, and your score will rise.
A Few More Tips
Different components of your borrowing history have different effects on the score. Pay special attention to the history of payments, as this is the single most influential element in FICO and VantageScore. Other factors are the size of overall debt, the age of your history, new accounts, and credit mix.
If you understand how the calculations work, it is easier to see which areas need improvement. A credit restoration company will help you remove any errors and rebuild your history in the right way. Negative information may stay on your history for seven or even 10 years, which is why the correction is absolutely indispensable.