A secured credit card, in particular, is the ideal tool for rebuilding credit. They offer nearly guaranteed approval because you’ll need to place a security deposit that will double as your spending limit. Secured cards are also far less expensive than unsecured credit cards for people with bad credit. And you can’t tell them apart from unsecured cards on a credit report.
Before you consolidate credit cards, make sure you have a clear payment plan that can help you tackle your debt. Beware of simply moving your debt from credit cards to another form of debt; it may feel like you’re suddenly debt-free but you are definitely not. You’ve simply reorganized your debt and it should become more manageable now. If you fail to make sizeable, consistent payments toward your debt, you could find yourself back in the same cycle of debt. Also, when selecting your consolidation method — for example, an intro 0% APR credit card, personal loan, etc. — be sure to look closely at the fees you may be charged. The fees are typically outweighed by the amount you save in interest, but it’s a good idea to review them.
Since a good portion of your credit score is based on your ratio of debt balances versus your total available credit (called Utilization Rate – and about 30% of your score), a great way to improve your Utilization without paying down debt is by requesting a credit line increase. Simply call each of your credit cards or revolving debt holders and ask them if they’ll increase your total credit line. If and when they do so, your credit utilization ratio will automatically improve, and your score will rise accordingly. For instance, if you owe $5,000 on a tradeline with a $10,000 limit, your utilization ratio is at 50%. But if this same creditor increases your available credit to $15,000, your ratio instantly sinks to 33% – which is far closer to FICO’s ideal ratios! You may be able to achieve this with a simple phone call (and some convincing), and the worst they can say is “no.” Either way, it’s not requesting a new tradeline or opening new credit so your score will never go down.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.