If your credit rating has taken a hit due to a judgment, foreclosure, bankruptcy or charge-offs, you can rebuild it without professional help. Credit scores are snapshots of your current financial situation. They change over time based on the information lenders report to the three credit reporting agencies. Poor credit scores translate into higher interest rates and higher insurance premiums. Bad credit can keep you from buying a home, renting an apartment or buying a car. Take charge of your financial future and improve your lifestyle by finding ways to rebuild your credit score today. What’s in a Credit Score? Before you can work to rebuild your credit, you need to understand what goes into the score. The five main factors that contribute to your credit rating are payment history, debt to credit ratio, length of time you’ve used credit, different types of accounts and new account inquiries. Dispute Negatives Order a copy of your credit report from the three reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Pay attention to the negative entries in the public information section and the line by line account information. Collection accounts, judgments and foreclosures can only be listed on your credit report for seven years. A bankruptcy can be listed for up to 10 years. Disputing negative information and having it removed can improve a poor credit score. Each of the three main reporting agencies offer an online dispute method. Dispute all incorrect information listed on the report with all three credit bureaus. Payments & Debt Pay your bills on time, bring any past due payments current and pay down credit card debt. Your payment history is 35 percent of the overall credit score calculation. Recent payments within the past six months to two years impact your scores more than older payments. Collection accounts are the exception to this rule as they remain on your report for seven years whether they are paid or not. Outstanding debt accounts for 30% of your rating; paying down revolving accounts decreases debt and increases available credit. New Credit Another way you can improve your credit score is to open a new credit card account and make timely payments. It can be difficult to obtain a new credit card after filing bankruptcy or having judgments filed against you. If unsecured credit cards are out of reach for the moment, set up a secured credit card. Secured cards are backed by cash deposits. Monthly payment information is reported to all three reporting agencies, which will help repair your damaged credit. Make sure to read the fine print before opening an account; some secured cards have exorbitant fees, so shop around. Gas and retail credit cards are often easier to get than unsecured bank cards. Make sure that the company reports payment information before applying for the cards. Old Credit Reactivating an old credit card with a good payment history can also help rebuild your credit. Make a purchase on an old, paid-off account and pay it off in a timely fashion. Credit history accounts for 15 percent of your overall credit score calculation. If you have old cards but they have no balance, chances are that the creditor is not reporting them to the credit bureaus. To learn much more about information in your credit report and how you can improve your credit score, visit creditreports-creditscores.com.