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.
You need to work to get credit card utilization down below 30% (below 10% would be even better). But high utilization alone should not have brought your score down quite so low. Here’s how to get your free credit score along with a personalized plan for improving it. Because the scores come from information in your credit reports, you should also check those for errors and dispute any information that is inaccurate. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.

In addition to a cashback program, this card provides valuable credit resources such as free access to your FICO® Score and a Credit Resource Center — just note these services are available whether you’re a cardholder or not. Discover also takes the guesswork out of wondering when you’re ready for an unsecured card (aka a regular credit card) by performing automatic monthly account reviews, starting at eight months of card membership.


Along with saving money that you can use for vacations, holidays and retirement, experts suggest putting money regularly into a savings account dedicated to emergencies. If you don't set aside money for emergencies, you can easily get saddled with – and stay in – debt, says Erika Jensen, president of Respire Wealth Management in Houston. "Debt occurs when income minus expenses equals a negative number," she says. "In the absence of savings, that extra spend is going on credit cards. We all know that there will inevitably be months where our expenses exceed our income," she explains. "Everyone knows that scenario. If there isn't any savings, then both of those expenses are covered again by debt."
It’s likely that the debt collector has the incorrect amount for your debt or has tacked on high fees — Rheingold said you may owe $500, but a third-party debt collector may inflate that number to $2,500 with fees. Both of these practices are illegal. Third-party debt collectors cannot misrepresent the amount you owe or collect fees or interest above what’s stated in your original contract.
You’ll use your own money as collateral by putting down a deposit, which is often about $150 – $250. Typically, the amount of your deposit will then be your credit limit. You should make one small purchase each month and then pay it off on time and in full. Once you prove you’re responsible, you can get back your deposit and upgrade to a regular credit card. Read more about secured cards here.
The Island Approach also gives you a built-in warning system for overspending. If you ever see finance charges on an account earmarked for everyday expenses, you’ll know you’re overspending. Separating everyday expenses from a balance that you’re carrying from month to month will help you save on finance charges, too. Interest charges are based on an account’s average daily balance, after all.
I applied for a home loan - wasn't approved - the loan company works with people with subpar credit though.  She gave me list of action items that needed to be done. She figured it would take me about a year to take care of it all. Gave me a deadline of 1 year out.  I sat down did all her action items in a week - waited 30 days, credit jumped to 620. She got an approval on a home loan but it wasn't ideal.  Waited another 30 days, credit was 651... she said we could get an ideal approval with a credit score of 640.  I don't know how, but I was so happy. signed on house at 3 months instead of 1 year. The loan officer couldn't believe it!  I now own my home, have lived in it for over a year.  Love my house!
"Unlike a credit card exchange, where you swipe your card and get it back, you actually give away your cash when you spend it," says Joshua Schumm, a financial coach who owns Kansas Financial Coaching in Hutchinson, Kansas. Using cash "creates a loss-type feeling in your mind and makes you less likely to make impulse purchases." Schumm says that until he and his wife began using cash at the grocery store, they often missed their budget goal. "Now, with cash, we can't overspend it," he says.
Having bad credit can tempt you to use your child’s credit. You might think you’d never do that but you never know what you’ll do when you’re desperate. Say you have to have electricity turned on, but your credit’s too bad. You could easily rationalize using your child’s credit to have the electricity turned on. Keep your own good credit and you won’t think about exploiting your child’s.
Improving your credit score is a bit like losing weight: It takes a while. Unless there are major errors on your credit report that you can easily get erased, there is no quick fix. Often, it takes at least a couple years to go from a low score to a high one. But at least, you'll be improving your financial position, and building up good financial habits, in the interim.
Check what your monthly payment on a debt consolidation loan would be. Are you at least paying that much towards your credit cards now? If the loan payment is more than you pay towards your debts (and it fits into your budget), it might be time to up the ante and just put more money to your credit cards. If the loan payment is less than you pay to your cards, you'll likely wind up paying way more interest over time, since your loan term will probably be long.
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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