In a competitive market, credit card companies are always trying to lure customers with their frequent flyer miles and cash back offers. Even if you have found a new-and-improved credit line, keep your oldest account active and in good standing. While new credit is important, credit history has a larger impact on your score. Use your old card for occasional purchases to keep things balanced. It could help boost your score with little effort.
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.
Your goal with a balance transfer should be to get out of debt. If you start spending on the credit card, there is a real risk that you will end up in more debt. Additionally, you could end up being charged interest on your purchase balances. If your credit card has a 0% balance transfer rate but does not have a 0% promotional rate on purchases, you would end up being charged interest on your purchases right away, until your entire balance (including the balance transfer) is paid in full. In other words, you lose the grace period on your purchases so long as you have a balance transfer in place.
Kevin Han, a Minneapolis-based attorney who runs FinancialPanther.com, a blog focused on side hustles and reducing debt, says that after law school, he got in the habit of calculating the cost of his debt. His suggestion: "Figure out how much your debt costs in interest per year, then divide that by 365. When I did this, I found out my debt after I graduated law school cost me $17 per day. When I realized this, it got me super pumped to pay off my debt as fast as possible. Each time I paid off more of my debt, my daily interest that I was paying dropped," he says. Thanks to that strategy, along with smart budgeting, Han ended up paying off $87,000 in student loans in two and a half years.
If a collector contacts you, they could be breaking the law as they try to get you to repay debts. Rheingold said one common fraud is debt collection companies buying past-due debt for extremely low prices at “debt auctions” and then trying to collect it. Often, the debt collection company only has a little information about the debtor and no information about the actual debt. If you don’t pay, however, they may try to take you to court.
If you're living with bad credit, this probably isn't the news you want to hear. The good news, however, is that there are several things you can do right now that will start to improve you credit score. Just keep in mind that there are no magic fixes in the credit world. Credit repair done right takes patience, persistence, and an understanding of how your credit score is calculated. Here are a few ways you can start repairing the damage to your credit score:
Consolidating credit card debt allows you to develop an effective repayment strategy so you can get out of debt faster. At the same time, you minimize interest charges, which reduces your total cost and can lower your monthly payments. But debt consolidation is not a silver bullet. It won’t work in every situation and if it’s used incorrectly, it can actually make a bad situation worse.
Write a letter to the specific credit reporting agency that shows the falsehood, whether it is Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Explain the mistake and include a copy of the highlighted report along with your documentation. Although certain bureaus now let you submit disputes online, it’s not a bad idea to send this letter by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself. The reporting agency has 30 days from the receipt of your letter to respond. The Federal Trade Commission provides advice on contacting the credit bureaus about discrepancies. Here are the contact numbers and web sites for the three credit bureaus: