You have a low score, so I’m going to guess you have some charged-off, unpaid or seriously delinquent accounts on your credit report. The damage to your credit score has already happened. What you can do initially is make sure the negatives reported on your credit file are accurate and not out of date. Look over your credit reports, and dispute any negative items that you don’t think are yours or are more than 7 years old. Once you have ensured your history is accurate, you can work on adding new, positive data.
If you have impossibly high interest on those credit cards, then do cancel them. It doesn’t help to have open credit cards if the interest rate makes it nearly impossible for you to get the balance down. In fact, banks currently have hardship programs, where they will reduce your interest rate TO ZERO if you agree that they will cancel your cards. Yes, you wll take an immediate hit on your credit score, but that will quickly improve as you pay down your credit cards, which you can now do because you don’t have those usurious interest rates to pay.
If you have missed payments, get current and stay current: the longer you pay your bills on time after being late, the more your FICO Scores should increase. Older credit problems count for less, so poor credit performance won't haunt you forever. The impact of past credit problems on your FICO Scores fades as time passes and as recent good payment patterns show up on your credit report. And good FICO Scores weigh any credit problems against the positive information that says you're managing your credit well.
Millions of Americans are suffering from dinged-up credit: the lingering result of the recession, the lack (until recently) of real increase in wages, the economy's sluggish growth. But a strong credit score is the backbone of an individual's financial health, and its importance goes beyond simply getting a low interest rate on a loan. A driver's credit score, for instance, is a major factor in pricing auto insurance.
However, there is a big myth that you have to borrow money and pay interest to get a good score. That is completely false! So long as you use your credit card (it can even be a small $1 charge) and then pay that statement balance in full, your score will benefit. You do not need to pay interest on a credit card to improve your score. Remember: your goal is to have as much positive information as possible, with very little negative information. That means you should be as focused on adding positive information to your credit report as you are at avoiding negative information.
A debt management plan is a formal plan to restructure and pay off your debt. A company will manage the plan and negotiate some cost reductions with your creditors, such as waived fees or a lower interest rate. You’ll make a single payment to the plan manager, who will distribute the funds to your creditors. While you’re in the program, you won’t be able to use your credit cards or open new ones. The plan is designed to get you out of debt in three to five years, after which all of your accounts should be reported as paid-as-agreed.
You could consolidation the loans with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. The Department of Education will issue you a new loan and use the money to pay off your existing loans. If you include your defaulted loan, that loan will be paid off, and your new consolidation loan will be current. To be eligible, you must agree to either repay the consolidation loan with an income-driven repayment plan or to make three monthly payments on your defaulted loan before applying for consolidation.
It sounds like you are in a Catch-22 – you can’t pay down your debt without consolidating, and you can’t consolidate until you pay down your debt. That makes me think that you could be a good candidate for credit counseling. A credit counseling agency does not care about your credit scores. Your interest rates and payments will likely be reduced, and you will have a plan for paying back your debt in a reasonable period of time. We talked about that more in this article: Does Credit Counseling Work?
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