Do the math on your credit cards and their interest rates, and figure out how long it would take you to pay them all off at your current payment rate. Compare that to the length of the consolidation loan you're looking at taking out. Your average 5 year (60 mo) debt consolidation loan, even at a lower interest rate than your credit card, may cost more over the long haul than if you just paid your cards down faster. Photo by 401(k) 2012.
My wife and I recently decided we wanted to buy a home better suited to starting a family and sell our townhouse (which she owned when we met). I didn't have the best, let's say, track record with financials in my past and my credit was abysmal. I hit rock bottom 2.5 years ago when my car ( a beautiful fully loaded Jeep) was reposed on Xmas eve morning. Even then, although angry and ashamed, I didn't do much to help myself out. My 20's, which were years of partying, spending and generally speaking not caring had finally caught up. I was 29. So, we got to work with fixing things. Paying off creditors, paying down debts, making on time payments, etc. When we had my credit run about 6 weeks ago, it was 588. This was much higher than the 410 I had a couple years ago, but still a far cry from good. (Side note here, be mindful of using credit cards that track your fico score, or having a credit bureau account that gives you your score. There are around 30 different scores that are used, and different scores are used for different types of inquires (auto loan is different than mortgage)). So we got to work, paid off the last couple things and really started paying attention to what was happening. One thing I can't stress enough is every year, you're allowed to get 3 free credit reports, 1 from each bureau. You MUST do this each year. This is where I found my credit windfall. I was able to uncover the fact that a debt that had been paid of was still being reported as open and late. I also found a debt that wasn't mine! A big one. $1700 showing open and late for 2 years with a collector. I filled a report with the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and they started an investigation. The company that had this debt wrote me a letter saying that even though I had no proof that the debt wasn't mine, they would absolve it and would contact the 3 credit bureaus to have the reporting removed and cleared. At this point, I called my broker and said it's time to run the simulator. They ran it, and then performed what is called a Rapid Rescore. Some brokers charge for this; good ones don't. Since they are trying to get your business they will do it for free. If it's at cost, it's roughly $10 per item per report. If you have a lot of issues it can add up. Anyhow, they did the rescore, did the simulator, ran a hard inquiry and BOOM, 657.
Assuming you are consistently paying on time (the No. 1 thing you can do to help your credit), take a look at your debt-to-available credit ratio. You want to get that to under 30% (under 10% is even better). Your credit mix is also a factor. If you have the income to make more than minimum payments, though, that is the best way to make an impact. You can read more here:
Credit utilization is the second most important factor when calculating an individual’s credit score. Simply, credit utilization is how much credit you have used in comparison to how much lenders have provided you. For example, if you have three credit cards with a limit of $3,000 on each card, your total credit would be $9,000. Now, say after a weekend of house decorating, you spent $4,500 on your credit cards – your credit utilization would be 50%. Credit utilization is another facet in which credit holders have complete control over. By landing your utilization in the 25%-45% bracket, your credit score will be optimized.
Credit repair can take some time. The process of disputing reporting errors with the credit bureaus is almost always a drawn out business, often requiring repeated efforts. And the task of rebuilding credit can take several months before new accounts are reporting and seasoned enough to create the credit repair benefit desired. On the other hand, there are some actions you can take to accelerate your credit repair progress dramatically.
One of the biggest mistakes that any borrower can ever make is trying to dispute their entire credit report. Typically, traditional credit repair companies will utilize this tactic; however, it has been proven very risky and potentially debilitating to the overall purpose. By disputing your entire report, you may remove some of positive aspects that are boosting your score.
One of the most underestimated factors of calculating your credit score is one’s credit mix. People tend to not even think about the importance of diversifying their credit portfolio. There is a reason why wealthy individuals always talk about diversifying your credit portfolio – it directly impacts your credit score. If you only have a few lines of credit open, and they all happen to be credit cards, this will not look as good as if you had three different lines of credit, like a credit card, mortgage, and car loan. While it may only accumulate 10%, this is still a significant portion to consider.
Along with saving money that you can use for vacations, holidays and retirement, experts suggest putting money regularly into a savings account dedicated to emergencies. If you don't set aside money for emergencies, you can easily get saddled with – and stay in – debt, says Erika Jensen, president of Respire Wealth Management in Houston. "Debt occurs when income minus expenses equals a negative number," she says. "In the absence of savings, that extra spend is going on credit cards. We all know that there will inevitably be months where our expenses exceed our income," she explains. "Everyone knows that scenario. If there isn't any savings, then both of those expenses are covered again by debt."
The cause of your debt may be due to overspending, and that’s where creating a budget can help. You can view a snapshot of your expenses and see where you’re able to cut costs and hopefully save money to pay off debts you may have. There are plenty of budgeting apps that are free and allow you to link various accounts to get a holistic view of your finances.
If the debt is due to drop off of your report in the next several months because it is almost seven years old, consider waiting until then to pay it, as it will have no affect on your score once it disappear. If the debt shows as written off but will still show on your credit report for longer than a few months, collect all of the funds together to completely pay it off before making contact with the lender. That way, you will potentially re-activate the debt but will also show payment in full, which will minimize the damage to your score.
Following these 6 steps people with bad credit are sure to succeed. I would like to add while paying down your credit card debts one option that may help you get ahead is to take advantage of credit card transfers. Normally banks will let you transfer your balance (they’re more than happy to take it) for a small fee. One word of caution however, is that this doesn’t really fix the underlying issue, which as Sarah mentioned budgeting and keeping on top of your payments will.