Isolating your financial needs on different credit-card accounts will help you get the best possible terms on every transaction that you make. For example, you could get the best cash-back credit card for everyday expenses, the best travel rewards card for airfare and hotel reservations, and the best balance-transfer card for reducing the cost of your existing debt.
The right way: You should expect some fees, but avoid excessive fees when you consolidate. You don’t want to make your journey out of debt any steeper than it has to be. It’s worth noting that a debt management program has fees, but they get set by state regulation. They also get rolled into your program payments, so you don’t actually incur an extra bill.
If you are facing financial difficulties, it's always best to contact your lenders, creditors or service providers (such as your utility company or physicians) as soon as possible. Collection agencies and legal fees cost lenders a lot of money, so they are often open to negotiations, which are free. Call, email or write to explain your financial situation (for example, if you have experienced a job loss or unexpected set of expenses due to medical emergency). Discuss a new payment plan and make a good faith payment. At the least, you might be allowed to skip a payment without penalty or lower your minimum payments.
That is for you to decide. You do have to weigh the certainty that your credit score would take a hit (and some time to rebuild) against the advantage of a program that will allow you to make progress and pay off your debts. A bank loan is another option. You could check on the interest rate . . . but you should do this knowing you will not run up credit card balances again. Otherwise, you end up in an even worse situation than you are in now.
We’ll explain each of the four pillars of credit repair in detail below. Just remember, each step on its own will not be enough to completely fix your credit. Credit repair, after all, is like peeling an onion: You have to peel away a few layers before you get to the good stuff. But we’ll try our best to make sure your credit recovery doesn’t bring you to tears.
The best way to consolidate debt is to consolidate in a way that avoids taking on additional debt. If you're facing a rising mound of unsecured debt, the best strategy is to consolidate it through a credit counseling agency. When you use this method to consolidate bills, you're not borrowing more money. Instead, your unsecured debt payments are consolidated into one monthly payment to the agency, which in turn pays your creditors each month. Your credit counselor works with your creditors to try to reduce your interest rates and eliminate extra fees, like late charges or over-limit charges.
A third of your overall credit score is based on the credit utilization ratio across all of your cards. Because of the way credit scoring works, it's better to carry a $1,000 balance on a card with a $5,000 limit (20% credit utilization) than to carry a $500 balance on a card with a $1,000 limit (50% credit utilization). That's why, in discussing payment pecking order, we recommended paying off the cards closest to being maxed out. That's also why you shouldn't terminate accounts. It'll increase the percentage of total available credit that you’re using – and that will reduce your score.
We all have bills to pay, so why not leverage your payments to work for you? Making credit card payments ahead of schedule will reduce the accrued interest and your debt-to-income ratio. Staying ahead of the curve on rent and utilities will help strengthen your credit score as well. If you have a financial calendar, move your payments up by seven days—it could make all the difference.
It doesn’t cost anything to dispute mistakes or outdated items on your credit report. Both the credit reporting company and the information provider (the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights, contact both the credit reporting company and the information provider.