Recently, The Wall Street Journal posted a tip of the week about fixing bad credit. You can read that here.
Advice from financial gurus is always great, but been there, done that advice is even better, don't you think? So, here's a true story of how bad credit early in my marriage was fixed.
When I got married nearly 20 years ago, my husband had some credit issues. What we did was get a copy of our credit report to see what showed up as negatives. Back then, this wasn't covered under the annualcreditreport.com site, where you could get a free copy each year from each of the reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). All creditors don't necessarily report to all three bureaus, hence you could easily miss something if you don't get them all.
We once had something show up when we applied for a car loan, and this was a couple of years after we thought we had taken care of all outstanding issues. Even better --- years later, he had a medical bill show up, but the hospital could not provide any information on dates of service, billing, or any other information to prove it was his, so they had to take it off his credit report. This is one of the main reasons you should continue to monitor your credit reports even after you think you've paid off or settled the negative reports on your credit reports. Things can pop up unexpectedly.
Once we had an idea of what was out there, we systematically paid the debts (small ones, really, but on a minimum wage job, a huge debt to us). Fortunately, debt collectors did not have a phone number for my husband, so we weren't bombarded by calls. Some debts appeared on the report under the original creditor and again under a collection agency. We made every effort to pay the original creditor, obtain a receipt, and ask in writing for them to report the debt favorably paid to the credit reporting agencies. Always get a receipt and self-report any debt paid in full for double measure. You can also use proof of payment as a way to dispute a bill if you need to later on if it's not removed from your report.
My own tip: If you have moved within the past year, be sure to get credit reports just to be sure that all final bills have cleared and that there's nothing outstanding and left as unpaid on your reports.