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Improving a bad credit history is not all about keeping your expenses low, paying your bills on time and keeping your outstanding balance to a minimum. Often to improve your bad credit history and make it fair or even good might need some digging into the old details and trying to find out why your credit history went to bad in the first place.
Credit reports can give you a lot of information. More importantly, they will tell you if something is wrong as well. Therefore it is advisable to avail your copy of the free credit report every year and checking where you have lost valuable points. Often your credit limit reported by the lender could be less than what it is. There might be other negatives like late payments, bankruptcy or missed payments which are not yours but have accidentally crept up into your credit report. All these negatives when eliminated can significantly improve your credit history.
If you are applying for too many credit cards, chasing for credit card rewards you must be aware that more the credit you seek, more it will affect your credit history. As more lenders ask for your report when you apply for credit, your credit scores will take a hit. Therefore just like it is a good idea to dust up and old card and start using it again to prevent it from being closed down, it is advisable to not keep applying for unnecessary credit.
Balance transfers and debt consolidation will negatively impact your credit rating. This is because there is a chance your credit limit will get reduced which will lower your credit rating as well. Similarly having smaller balance on many cards is better for your credit history than having a high outstanding balance on one of the cards, with the balance almost touching the credit limit. Therefore you should be careful before going both for new cards and for fewer cards. Either will affect your credit history.
This is a good question to ask before going for other measures to improve credit. Many negatives like charge-offs, and missed loan and mortgage payments can be gotten rid of, by talking to the lender, especially when you have a long standing relationship.