If you only know six things about credit, know these.

1. Talk to your debtors. Avoiding your credit situation just makes things worse.

Having less-than-great credit feels bad, and sometimes hopeless. We know – we help people improve their credit because we were once there too. But tough love: don’t avoid your credit situation. Face the facts. And remember that a low credit score is not an indication of what sort of person you are. It’s just a number, and it is fixable. So dig in and start now.

The first thing to do is communicate with whoever has (or might) put negative items on your credit report – your credit card company, collection agencies, the car loan folks, etc. Communicating with whoever you owe money to or have a bad history with paves the way to better credit.

2. Missed payments hurt. Do everything you can to make payments on time, but get smart about exactly when and how.

3. Credit cards are actually good for credit.

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4. Credit age is very important.

5. Collections are one of the easier, faster ways to improve your credit.

6. Disputing negative items with the credit bureaus is a small part of the equation.