When you have bad credit, it can hold you back from getting a job, renting an apartment or getting the loan you need to get ahead. The good news is that there are many ways to fix your credit and the process is relatively easy once you know how to do it.

Whether you choose to do credit repair on your own or work with a company that specializes in it, the first step is to check your credit reports from each of the three major bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Read through the reports carefully, checking each for inaccuracies. Errors can cause your score to suffer, so it’s important to dispute them if possible.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to dispute any information that appears on your credit report that you think is inaccurate. To do so, you must send a letter (a dispute letter) to the credit reporting agency that issued the report. Your letter should include copies of any documentation you have that supports your position. The credit bureau has 30 days to investigate your claim, and if they find the information is inaccurate, they must correct it and remove it from your report.

While you’re working on fixing credit be sure to pay accounts that have been charged off; they will remain on your report for seven years. In addition, make a point to pay your bills on time. Late payments hurt your credit scores, so making on-time payments can help raise your score.

Other factors that influence your credit are also important, including the amount of credit you have compared to how long you’ve had credit. While paying down debt will have the biggest impact on your credit score, lowering your utilization by increasing the amount of money you have in savings is a close second.

It can take a while to improve your credit, but it’s a necessary step if you want to qualify for financing, rent an apartment or save on things like car insurance. You’ll also want to have a strong credit history in order to save on utilities and cellphone plans. A poor credit score can also keep you from qualifying for jobs or even from getting a new phone or home. So, it’s well worth the effort to make sure your credit is in the best shape possible at all times.

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