How do I get and keep a good credit score?

There is no secret formula to building a strong credit score, but there are some guidelines that can help.

How do I get a copy of my credit reports?

You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You can request a copy from

Hold credit reporting companies accountable for incorrect reports and shoddy service

“This is an unfair system …” “This is predatory and life ruining and preventing me from purchasing a home.” “The credit reporting system is broken.”

In less than two years, we have received more than 800,000 credit or consumer reporting complaints. That averages out to more than a thousand complaints every single day.

Consumers have described the obstacles they encounter when incorrect or incomplete information persists on their reports: difficulties seeking new credit, moving into a new home, or landing a new job. When information is wrong or incomplete, consumers have the right to get that information corrected. But in their complaints to the CFPB, consumers talked about a system by which the nationwide consumer reporting agencies (NCRAs)—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—put up barriers, hampering their ability to exercise their rights.

We heard from consumers who expressed frustration that their attempts to have information corrected were ignored, seemingly tossed aside never to be heard from again. A consumer told us:

I was able to verify incorrect information on my credit report, since that moment I just started the process to get in touch with the Credit Bureaus in an attempt to get this issue corrected. The sad truth is that I never got an answer. I sent letters for at least 4 times and never got an update or any kind of correspondence. At this point I am very much frustrated to keep trying to receive an answer from the Credit Bureaus.


We heard from consumers who waste time, energy, and money to try to correct their credit. Some consumers paid bills they said they did not owe to try to make their problems go away. According to a consumer:

This case is about abusing credit systems and collecting to force consumers ‘ hands to pay regardless of whether or not they are truly at fault. … After going back and forth [the Company] simply turned the matter over to a collection agency, who then, in turn, reported to [NCRA] to force us to pay while we still did not get a statement of fact. We eventually paid the {$220.00} last year to make this go away, but this cost my credit score 60+ points. We filed a complaint with [NCRA] but they use their bureaucratic process to justify keeping this on my report. This entire process is stacked against us as consumers …


We heard from consumers who described being caught between furnishers and the NCRAs. Consumers said that when furnishers and the NCRAs point fingers at one another, they are the ones left damaged. A consumer, who had a late payment reported on their report, shared:

This action has caused harm to my credit and I am unable to apply for another loan. I would like the record corrected, the delinquency removed and for your company to stop incorrectly reporting. I have reached out to the 3 bureaus and they said they only report what they are given from [Company]. My wife has spoken to [Company] twice and they are claiming they did not report this loan as delinquent. Both parties are pointing the finger and we are the damaged parties. I want this issue escalated to a second level supervisor and the department that reports out the credit file information. This has caused irreparable harm to our credit file.


Here are steps you can take to monitor and address inaccuracies on your report and help hold the NCRAs accountable:

  1. Check your report. You should check your credit reports at least once a year to make sure there are no errors that could keep you from getting credit or the best available terms on a loan. Learn more.TIP: You can now request your credit reports for free weekly from each of the NCRAs through April 20, 2022, by visiting .
  2. Dispute inaccurate or incomplete information. If you identify an error on your credit report, you should start by disputing that information with the NCRAs. Learn more.TIP: Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have a legal right to dispute credit history errors yourself for free. You don’t have to pay a credit repair company to do it for you. Learn more.
  3. Submit a complaint. Consumers who have a problem with credit or consumer reporting can submit a complaint  to the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372). We use complaints to hold companies accountable in our enforcement and compliance work.TIP: Submitting a complaint is free. When submitting online, we recommend telling us about your problem in your own words. If you have supporting documents, include those when submitting your complaint.
  4. Take steps if your dispute is ignored. If an NCRA doesn’t respond to your dispute or doesn’t respond adequately, you have rights. Learn more.TIP: Some of these rights only apply under certain circumstances. There are also time limits on exercising your rights.


CFPB Issues Bulletin to Prevent Unlawful Medical Debt Collection and Credit Reporting

New Law Limits Surprise Medical Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today released a bulletin reminding debt collectors and credit bureaus of their legal obligations in light of the No Surprises Act, which protects consumers from certain unexpected medical bills. Companies that try to collect on medical bills that are prohibited by the No Surprises Act, or who furnish information to credit bureaus about such invalid debts, may face significant legal liability under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The bulletin advises credit bureaus that the accuracy and dispute obligations imposed by the FCRA apply with respect to debts stemming from charges that exceed the amount permitted by the No Surprises Act.

The CFPB will investigate claims and take action against companies that attempt to collect or report or furnish consumer information about debts stemming from charges that exceed the amounts permitted under the No Surprises Act.

“Too many Americans have been shocked by surprise medical bills and forced to pay up through credit report coercion,” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “Our action today should serve as a reminder not to collect on or furnish credit reporting information about invalid medical debt.”

“The No Surprises Act is the most critical consumer protection law since the Affordable Care Act,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. “After years of bipartisan effort, we are finally providing hardworking Americans with the federal guardrails needed to shield them from surprise medical bills. We are taking patients out of the middle of the food fight between insurers and providers and ensuring they aren’t met with eye-popping, bankruptcy-inducing medical bills. This is the right thing to do, and it supports President Biden’s vision of creating a more transparent, competitive and fair health care system.”

Concerns over unexpected medical expenses and medical debt have been magnified by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the Federal Reserve Board reported  that 17% of adults had major, unexpected medical expenses in the prior 12 months with the median amount between $1,000 and $1,999, and 23 percent of adults went without medical care due to an inability to pay. In 2014, the CFPB published a report showing that 43 million Americans had overdue medical debt on their credit reports, and more than half of all overdue debt on credit reports is from medical debt.

The bulletin released today by the CFPB includes the following reminders to debt collectors, information furnishers, and credit bureaus:

  • Consumer financial protection law prohibits debt collectors from misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of any debt. This prohibition includes misrepresenting that a consumer must pay a debt stemming from a charge that exceeds the amount permitted by the No Surprises Act. In addition, debt collectors are also prohibited from using unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt, including the collection of any amount unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law. Courts have emphasized that collecting an amount that exceeds what is owed would violate the prohibition on unfair or unconscionable debt collection practices.
  • Many debt collectors furnish information about unpaid medical debts to credit bureaus. Furnishers must have reasonable written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of consumer information provided to credit bureaus. Credit bureaus preparing a consumer report must follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of information contained in the consumer report. Both credit bureaus and furnishers must conduct reasonable and timely investigations of consumer disputes to verify the accuracy of consumer information.
  • For furnishers and credit bureaus, the accuracy and dispute obligations imposed by federal consumer financial protection law apply with respect to debts stemming from charges that exceed the amount permitted by the No Surprises Act.

The CFPB will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other partners to address medical debt abuses.

Read today’s bulletin, Medical Debt Collection and Consumer Reporting Requirements in Connection with the No Surprises Act .

Visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) No Surprises Act website. 

Read more about debt collection and the Debt Collection Rule.

Read more about credit reporting requirements.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that implements and enforces Federal consumer financial law and ensures that markets for consumer financial products are fair, transparent, and competitive. For more information, visit


Bankruptcy filings continue to decline despite skyrocketing credit balances

Bankruptcy filings declined when the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020 as revolving credit balances sharply dwindled. Although revolving credit balances have abruptly risen in 2021, bankruptcy filings have continued to steadily fall.

Personal bankruptcy filings fell 29.1% for the year ending Sept. 30, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The annual Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings totaled 418,400 in 2021, compared with 590,170 in 2020.


There are several reasons why bankruptcy filings have fallen since the pandemic began. For one, consumers have been carrying less revolving credit card debt during this time. Increased government benefits like stimulus checks, foreclosure moratoriums and eviction bans may have also “eased financial pressures in many households,” according to the U.S. Courts report.

But recent data from the Federal Reserve shows that revolving credit balances have risen 7.7% nationwide in 2021 alone, which means that some consumers may be considering filing for bankruptcy to discharge unsecured debts like credit cards and personal loans.

Keep reading to learn how to decide if you should file for bankruptcy, as well as your alternative debt repayment options like debt consolidation loans. If you decide to borrow a personal loan to pay off debt, visit Credible to compare interest rates across multiple lenders.


Rising credit balances haven’t yet spurred bankruptcy demand

Outstanding revolving credit balances dramatically declined at the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Fed, as Americans aggressively paid down credit card debt and avoided taking out new loans. But as the nation’s economy hums back to life and unemployment rates recover to pre-pandemic levels, consumers are returning to their old borrowing habits.

Revolving credit balances have grown nearly every month of 2021, rising from $961.5 billion in January to $1.04 trillion in November. This suggests that consumers are carrying higher balances on their credit cards, car loans and personal loans.

Revolving credit balances, April 2020 - present


For consumers who are struggling to repay their debts, bankruptcy can provide much-needed financial relief. But there are other debt repayment options, like credit counseling, debt management plans and debt consolidation loans, which is why it’s important for debtors to know their options.

If you’re considering borrowing a personal loan for debt consolidation, visit Credible to view your estimated terms for free without impacting your credit score. This can help you decide if this option is right for you.


How to decide if you should file for bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding that’s meant to help consumers regain control of their finances. There are two types of bankruptcy for individuals: Chapter 7, which is known as a liquidation bankruptcy, and Chapter 13, also known as a reorganization bankruptcy.

Filing for bankruptcy may help you repay your debts on more favorable terms and reduce the amount of debt you owe. But it comes with serious penalties, including a long-lasting blemish on your credit report. Plus, the bankruptcy process is a public court proceeding that typically requires the services of a bankruptcy lawyer. Because of these consequences, bankruptcy is often seen as a last resort.

Despite its drawbacks, there are circumstances when filing for bankruptcy is worthwhile, according to The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Here are a few reasons to declare bankruptcy:

  • Your outstanding debts are larger than your net worth and assets
  • Your income isn’t sufficient to meet your financial obligations
  • Creditors are suing you over your debts, resulting in wage garnishment
  • You’re considering borrowing money to pay for bills and necessary expenses
  • Your home is in danger of foreclosure

Any of the situations above may be reason enough to file for bankruptcy, but you should also consider your alternative debt management options. You may be able to recover your financial situation without resorting to bankruptcy. Visit Credible to get in touch with a knowledgeable loan officer who can help you navigate your debt consolidation options.


Alternatives to filing for bankruptcy

Bankruptcy can provide a fresh start for consumers who are struggling to manage their debts, but it’s not the only way to get out of debt. Consider your alternative debt repayment methods:

  • Negotiate with your creditors. If you’re struggling to make mortgage payments, call your loan servicer to discuss your options like mortgage forbearance or a loan modification. If you owe money to the IRS, enroll in a payment plan or settle for less than you owe with an offer in compromise (OIC).
  • Enroll in credit counseling. A nonprofit credit counselor can teach you how to cope with your debts through financial education. A credit counseling agency may also help you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP) and negotiate with your creditors on your behalf.
  • Consolidate credit card debt. It may be possible to get a lower rate on your credit card debt through a balance transfer or debt consolidation loan. You’ll need good credit to qualify for the best offers on balance-transfer credit cards and personal loans for debt consolidation.

You can visit Credible to compare offers on balance-transfer cards and debt consolidation loans for free with a soft credit inquiry, so you can see if this debt management strategy is right for you.


Have a finance-related question, but don’t know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.


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