With credit counseling out of the way and a clear decision made to file Chapter 13, the next step is to review the district courts in your state to determine which court should receive your paperwork. After determining the right court, you’ll want to go to their website and download the local forms that the local court requires for your filing, most notably the Chapter 13 Plan, Form 113, which may require the federal form or a local form.
During the briefing, filers will learn alternative options for resolving their debt that can help them avoid filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The counseling ranges in price, with online classes offered by some providers for $14.95 per household and one-on-one phone sessions for $50 per person. Lastly, some providers charge an extra fee for the completion certificate sent to the bankruptcy court.
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Checking your credit report on a periodic basis, at least annually, is a good way to catch any instances where you might be the target of identity theft – or the credit bureau has accidentally mixed up your history with someone of a similar (it happens more than you'd think). If you are concerned about others accessing your credit report without your permission, you can freeze it, which will limit who can access the information and under what circumstances. If you think you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement authority immediately.
Your loan balances also affect your credit score in a similar way. The credit score calculation compares your loan current loan balance to the original loan amount. The closer your loan balances are to the original amount you borrowed, the more it hurts your credit score. Focus first on paying down credit card balances because they have more impact on your credit score.
Dispute any negative items on your credit report that aren't yours or are otherwise reported incorrectly. These could include late payments, charge-offs or collections errors that shouldn't be on your report. You can do this by requesting verification, and if the items cannot be verified, the credit bureaus have to remove them. If items older than seven years (10 years for bankruptcy) have not automatically been removed from your report, you can request that the credit bureaus delete them.
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.
The last major factor is your history of applying for credit. This accounts for 10% of most credit scores and may be holding you back if you applied for several credit accounts recently. This factor also takes time to correct, but any hard inquiries into your credit will only ding your scores slightly, and as they get older, they will have less of an impact. A year is generally when they begin to stop hurting your credit scores.
All credit scores are based on the contents of your credit reports. Any errors in those reports can cause undeserved credit-score damage. They can also indicate fraud. So check your reports, dispute any errors you find, and take steps to protect yourself from identity theft if necessary. In particular, look for collections accounts, public records, late payments and other bad credit-score influencers.
Although you may understand the concept of credit limits, few people take the time to examine their credit utilization—or the amount of debt owed vs. the total credit limit. An ideal credit score boasts a utilization ratio of 25 percent or less. If you have a $10,000 credit limit, you should never charge more than $2,500 at a time. The same goes for individual cards. For example, Margot has three credit cards with the following limits:
If you are unable to qualify for a balance transfer deal or personal loan that makes financial sense, and you prefer to not touch any of your assets, you may want to set up a chat with a reputable credit counseling firm to see if you are a good candidate for a Debt Management Plan (DMP). A DMP can make it easier for you to pay your credit card bills, but it will likely have a negative impact on your credit score.
If you are in the process of getting a mortgage and cannot wait sixty days for the updates to work their way through the system, you can force your scores up in a matter of four days using the Rapid Rescore tool. This high powered credit repair aid is only available through mortgage originators. To take advantage of a Rapid Rescore you must provide your loan officer with clear documentation to support the score update. This is especially easy if you have reduced credit card balances. Just contact the creditor and ask for a balance letter. Rapid Rescore can be used to update any info on your report as long as you can provide solid objective documentation. It’s a great credit repair tool.
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have (loans, credit cards, etc.), their status (open/closed, in collections), balances, credit limits and payment details. This may also include dates of missed payments or late payments, or when the accounts were sent to collections. From these details, your credit scores will be formed.