While it seems to make sense to pay off all of your old delinquent debts, this strategy can sometimes backfire and drop your score further. If a credit account is simply overdue and shows as outstanding debt, paying it off will improve your score – though it won't eradicate the record of late payments. But if you have an old debt on your credit report that has been charged off by the lender – meaning that they do not expect further payments – setting up a new payment plan can re-activate the debt and make it appear to be more current than it actually is. This is often the case with debt that has been turned over to a collection agency. The agency may register the debt with credit bureaus as new rather than reporting it against the written-off debt.
If you are a candidate for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will need to complete mandatory pre-filing credit counseling with an approved credit counseling agency. The cost of this type of credit counseling session is typically $50 to $100. During this meeting, a credit counselor will go over your finances, including your debts and your income, to counsel you on your options.
The debt management companies will refrain from making payments and attempt to negotiate a settlement with the creditors on your behalf. In general, credit card companies will collect aggressively for the first 180 days. After 180 days, the debt is written off. Many banks will then sell that debt to collection agencies at a fraction of the face value. Collection agencies are usually willing to take a discounted settlement from the borrower, because they did not pay full price for the debt. These programs can take a couple of years to complete and the negative information stays on your credit report for seven years.

You also may not want to close your old credit cards, as this can potentially ding your credit scores as well. By keeping your old credit cards open, you will not lower your credit utilization. Your credit utilization counts toward 30% of your credit score, and that’s why it’s important to keep that ratio low — under 30% and, optimally, less than 10% of your credit limits, overall and on individual cards.


Check over your credit report with a fine-toothed comb: Verify that the amount you owe on each account is accurate. And look for any accounts you paid off that still show as outstanding. If something seems incorrect or you are not sure of any items, then it is your right to contact the credit agency in writing and ask them to investigate the issue and make an amendment. The Federal Trade Commission recommends sending your letter via certified mail and requesting a return receipt so you know the bureau received it. According to the FTC, companies typically must investigate disputes within 30 days of receiving a correction request.
“Credit repair leverages your legal right to three standards: Credit reports must be 100% accurate, entirely fair, and fully substantiated,” Padawer said. “Too many lesser credit repair companies skip over those last two standards — which involve communicating with your creditors — in favor of depending upon simple credit bureau disputes by themselves.”
A personal loan may also help improve your credit score. One of the major factors in determining your FICO® Score is your utilization ratio: the combined balances on all your credit cards as a percentage of the overall credit limits on the cards. The lower your utilization rate, the better. Moving card balances to a personal loan might lower your utilization ratio.

Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.
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