If your debt feels overwhelming, it may be valuable to seek out the services of a reputable credit counseling service. Many are non-profit and charge small or no fees for their services. You can review more information on selecting the right reputable credit counselor for you from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Credit counselors can help you develop a Debt Management Plan (or DMP) and can negotiate to reduce your monthly payments. In many cases, you'll be responsible for only one monthly payment to the credit counseling service, which will then disburse funds to all of the accounts you owe on.
After you download your credit reports, it takes several hours to review them for errors. Then, you must gather documentation and draft dispute letters, which could take up to a week or more if you aren’t already familiar with your records. Depending on the item and the reason it's in your credit history, this could involve writing a short letter or performing significant amounts of research.
Brittney Mayer is a credit strategist and contributing editor for BadCredit.org, where she uses her extensive research background to write comprehensive consumer guides aimed at helping readers make educated financial decisions on the path to building better credit. Leveraging her vast knowledge of the financial industry, Brittney’s work can be found on a variety of websites, including the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, US News & World Report, NBC News,TheSimpleDollar.com, CreditRepair.com, Lexington Law, CardRates.com, and CreditCards.com, among others.
Once you have your credit reports, read through them completely. If you have a long credit history, your credit reports might be several pages long. Try not to get overwhelmed by all the information you're reading. It's a lot to digest, especially if you're checking your credit report for the first time. Take your time and review your credit report over several days if you need to.
Credit scoring models usually take into account how much you owe compared to how much credit you have available, called your credit utilization rate or your balance-to-limit ratio. Basically it's the sum of all of your revolving debt (such as your credit card balances) divided by the total credit that is available to you (or the total of all your credit limits).