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Having good credit is essential when it comes to things like getting approved for new credit cards, opening utilities in your name and renting or buying a home. Unfortunately, not everyone has the best credit, whether its by the fault of their own mistakes, such as missing payments, or circumstances out of their control, like falling victim to identity theft. The good news is that you dont have to have bad credit forever, as there are several things you can do to help undo the negative marks on your credit reports and credit scores. It should be noted that if you're a victim of identity theft, you can get fraudulent information removed from your credit reports, but it will take some time. As such, taking some steps to alleviate your bad credit will help revamp your credit history sooner. Weve detailed a few things you can and should do if you want to make changes to your bad credit.

Check your credit reports

Its important to know where your credit stands, which is why you'll want to be sure you not only check your credit reports before you start making any steps to improve your credit, but also make sure you continue to check them after you implement any changes. Its also important to know what your credit reports look like so you can report any errors, which may be dragging your credit scores down, as soon as you spot them. Although many people may be unsure exactly how to check their credit reports, its a fairly simple process. In fact, every US citizen is legally allowed to view all three of their credit reports -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com. If you want check up on your reports more than once a year something you'll definitely want to consider if you're rebuilding your credit you may want to look into a credit report monitoring service, as most services allow you to receive regular updates of all three of your credit reports and scores as well as alert you if there are any changes to your credit reports.

Pay your bills on time

While this may seem like an obvious one, missing just one payment on a credit card, loan or mortgage bill can and will affect your credit. And if you begin missing multiple payments, or worse, you miss multiple payments over a period over time and the account is sent to collections, the damage to your credit scores can take quite some time to repair. Thats why its vital to pay all of your bills on time, even if it's only the minimum payment, as any on-time payments will have a positive impact on your credit reports. That said, paying a little more than the minimum payment even if it's just an extra $5 will help you pay off the balance more quickly, which will have a positive impact on your credit reports.

Look into a secured credit card

If you have bad credit and keep getting denied for the credit cards youve applied for, a secured credit card may be the option for you, as these cards are designed to help people build credit. In fact, most secured credit cards report to all three of the credit bureaus so you can rebuild credit with responsible use. These types of credit cards look and function like traditional credit cards do, but the difference is secured credit cards require a security deposit when you open the account. This security deposit serves as a safety net for the card issuer or bank in the event that you don't make your payments. The amount of the deposit depends on the type of card you decide to open. For example, your available balance with the Discover it Secured Credit Card No Annual Fee matches your security deposit. So if you put down a $250 security deposit, you would have a maximum line of credit of up to $250. On the other hand, the Capital One Secured MasterCard gives you an initial $200 credit line after you make a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200 the amount required is determined by your creditworthiness. Regardless of the security deposit you put down or the card you select, if you use it responsibly, you can build a positive credit history in no time. Visit our secured credit card reviews to find the best option for you.

Consider using a credit repair service

Although any combination of the options above will help you build a positive credit history, sometimes you may need a little extra help. That's where credit repair steps in. Sometimes confused with credit monitoring services, credit repair is something entirely different. While credit monitoring allows you to view your credit reports and scores, credit repair can help you to fix any errors on your credit reports. Whether the errors on your reports are due to identity theft or if its an error on the end of a creditor or a credit bureau, credit repair services can help address and fix any mistakes that may be on your credit reports, which could help to raise your credit score. These services will communicate with credit bureaus on your behalf to help contest, dispute and remove the necessary incorrect items. Its important to note that these services are only effective in removing inaccuracies on your credit reports, and they wont help to remove any factual negative marks on your credit, such as late or missed payment history.

Follow our personal finance blog to learn more about credit cards, credit scores and other things that affect your financial health.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are authors alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

Credit reports play an important role in your life beyond the world of credit cards, mortgages and student loans. As you build a credit history, youre developing a key component of your future that may affect your job, where you live and even the phone in your pocket.

Loan officers and credit card companies arent the only ones who use credit reports when making decisions, but many people dont realize how influential credit reports are until theyve been burned by their own.

Credit reports are becoming important in almost every facet of our lives, said John C. Heath, a credit expert and attorney with Lexington Law, a Credit.com partner.

Credit reports can carry significant weight in the following scenarios, much to many consumers surprise.

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Privacy Policy 1. Applying for a Job

A company or hiring manager will generally review your credit report for one of two reasons: reliability or security, said Rod Griffin, Experians director of public education. Some employers feel that a credit report can address both of those concerns.

Employer credit checks are a little different than others. First, the employer has to get your written consent to review your credit report (unlike other credit report requests) and an employer will never see your credit score, Griffin said.

Because credit reports contain so much data, they can be used to verify an applicants identity, like their name, address and previous employers. The financial insights provided by credit reports can also be valuable to employers filling positions that involve handling money or require security clearance.

It can show signs of financial stress, Griffin said of a poor credit report. It makes you a greater security risk. Youre potentially more subject to bribes Thats sort of the underlying thought process.

2. Getting Insurance

In some states, insurance companies review an applicants credit history to assess the likelihood that they will file a claim or make timely payments on their premium, Heath said.

3. Setting up Utilities

Internet, heat, water and electricity are all necessities, but the companies that provide them want some assurance theyll be paid. If you have a poor credit history, a utility company may require you to pay a deposit when you start your service to protect it from loss, Griffin said. You can often get that deposit back after making a certain number of on-time payments.

4. Buying a Phone

The majority of American adults have smartphones, but those devices arent cheap. Your payment options for a new device may depend on your credit standing, and as with utilities, starting cellphone service may require a deposit if you dont meet a certain credit standard, Griffin said.

5. Becoming a Volunteer

Your credit probably isnt top of mind when signing up for a volunteer gig. But Griffin said credit reports are a common component of background checks, so inaccurate credit report information can cause problems.

6. Looking for Housing

Just because youre renting a home (as opposed to paying a mortgage) doesnt mean your credits not important. Credit reports are a common part of the tenant-screening process, Griffin said, but its one people tend to overlook. As if its not challenging enough to try and find an affordable place to live, bad credit can seriously intensify the frustration of it all.

If past mistakes or tough financial times have damaged your credit, there are many things you can do to try and build a good credit history while you wait for negative items to age off your credit report.

Keep in mind, a low credit score can also be the result of inaccurate information, which is why its important to monitor your credit reports for errors or signs of identity theft. Even something seemingly insignificant like a misspelled name or wrong address can indicate bigger problems, so its helpful to regularly review your credit reports for accuracy. (You can get a free overview of your credit report every month on Credit.com.)

[Offer: If you need help fixing errors on your credit report, Lexington Law could help you meet your goals. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

More on Credit Reports amp; Credit Scores:
  • The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
  • What's a Good Credit Score?
  • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report

Image: cigdemhizal

If you used your credit or debit card at a Noodles and Co. in the last few months, you might want to check your credit report.

Noodles and Co. locations across the country were exposed to a data security breach that could have compromised the payment information of customers who used credit or debit cards since late January.

Noodles and Company said in a statement that the malware, which caused the breach from Jan. 31 through Jun. 2, was contained once identified.

"In an era where sophisticated and determined criminals have proven capable of successfully attacking a wide range of computer networks, we must all increase our level of vigilance," CEO Kevin Reddy said in a press release. "We encourage you to review your account statements regularly and monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity."

Noodles and Company began investigating unusual credit card processor activity May 17, and worked with a third-party forensic experts to investigate the reports. Suspicious activity on computer systems that indicated "potential compromise" of guest's debit and credit card information was discovered Jun. 2.

The information at risk of being stolen included the cardholder's name, card number, expiration date and CVV. The incident did not involve transactions at www.noodles.com, according to the release. Noodles and Company is encouraging all guests to be vigilant in monitoring credit and debit card statements for suspicious charges.

The company has detailed the Wisconsin locations affected, which include those in Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Manitowoc, Appleton, Oshkosh and Sheboygan, among others. The breach affected 26 other states and Washington DC

Noodles and Company said in the press release customers can now safely use their credit and debit cards at any location.

A new survey from WalletHub shows some consumers continue to struggle to understand credit reports and how theyre used.

The survey revealed that 34 percent of consumers believe that their credit scores and reports are public information.

But the survey also finds just how serious people are about their credit scores.

People told WalletHub that they would rather go bald, be overweight or prefer bad eyesight to poor credit.

The survey found 34 percent of consumers wouldnt date someone with bad credit and 49 percent wouldnt marry someone with such a rating.

How far are people willing to go for excellent credit? The survey found 32 percent of people would get a tattoo that reads I Love Credit Scores in return for excellent credit for life.

Predictive analytics uses different statistical models to predict outcomes, not only outcomes regarding credit but predictive outcomes on all sorts of things.

In the case of your credit file, the more information in the #x201c;history#x201d; file #x2014; your payment history, good or bad #x2014; the easier it is to predict what you are likely to do next #x2014; good or bad.

FICO scores are not only the sum total of all your past credit behavior, they#x2019;re also a pretty good estimate of what you#x2019;ll do next too.

Today, FICO has more than 100 patents on analytic and decision-based software and has offices around the world. It processes millions of files each year to provide #x201c;the market#x201d; with clearer choices on how to offer and manage credit to millions of consumers.

What#x2019;s the take away?

Just a reminder that all this confusing jargon and numbers didn#x2019;t just happen and that there were actual people #x2014; a couple of guys in 1956 #x2014; who started it all.

Also, to empower you to find out what your FICO score is and to check it occasionally. You can do so by going to www.myfico.com, where you can buy copies of your credit reports, your FICO scores, and credit monitoring services.

You also can get free copies of all three credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com. The reports are available once a year and don#x2019;t include your FICO scores, although you can purchase them as an option ... using your credit card!

Have an #x201c;around the house,#x201d; construction or real estate question or comment? Send it to Matt Le Vesque at PO Box 108, Yucaipa, CA 92399 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and he will consider it for his column.