If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
Credit reports record your payment habits on all type of bills and credit extended, not just credit cards. And sometimes these items show up on one bureau's report, but not another's. Old, unpaid gym dues that only appear on one report could be affecting your score without you even realizing it. If you rent a house or apartment, some credit agencies count the history of those payments in their credit score calculations (assuming the landlord reports it to them). For example, credit rating giant Experian began including positive rental payment histories in its credit score ratings in 2010. TransUnion also figures positive rental payments into its credit calculations (look for it under “tradeline expense” on your credit report.)
We all have bills to pay, so why not leverage your payments to work for you? Making credit card payments ahead of schedule will reduce the accrued interest and your debt-to-income ratio. Staying ahead of the curve on rent and utilities will help strengthen your credit score as well. If you have a financial calendar, move your payments up by seven days—it could make all the difference.
If you’ve missed enough payments that an account was sent to collections, it can be a tricky proposition. Leave it alone, and it will continue to appear as a blemish on your credit report for a long time. But pay it off, and it still might hurt your score in the short term. Luckily, there’s another way to deal with collections that will help—not hurt—your score, and that’s paying for deletion. Just like it sounds, you’ll contact the collections agency (which will love to hear from you!) and make a deal; if you send in full payment, the collections company will erase the negative reporting from your credit. They may even take less than 100 cents on the dollar to do so – as many debts settle for far less than what was originally owed. Just make sure get this arrangement in writing and mail a check to them certified mail with “Cash only when you delete the account from my credit report” written right above the endorsement line.
If you’re not disciplined enough to create a budget and stick to it, to work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or to keep track of your mounting bills, you might consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But remember that “nonprofit” status doesn’t guarantee free, affordable, or even legitimate services. In fact, some credit counseling organizations — even some that claim nonprofit status — may charge high fees or hide their fees by pressuring people to make “voluntary” contributions that only cause more debt.
Common ways to consolidate credit card debt include moving all your credit card debt onto one card, or taking out a loan to pay off the balances. In addition to reducing stress, when you consolidate, you may be able to score a lower interest rate. That can make it easier to pay off the debt faster, which is one important factor that can help improve your credit scores.
If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.
Lenders will look at your income and current debts, such as credit cards, current mortgage, and student loans, to determine whether you’re able to take out a home equity loan. Lenders want to ensure you can pay back your debt so if you already have a substantial amount, you may not be an ideal candidate. Burkley said borrowers should have around a 40% to 45% debt-to-income ratio to qualify for a home equity loan.
If you are facing financial difficulties, it's always best to contact your lenders, creditors or service providers (such as your utility company or physicians) as soon as possible. Collection agencies and legal fees cost lenders a lot of money, so they are often open to negotiations, which are free. Call, email or write to explain your financial situation (for example, if you have experienced a job loss or unexpected set of expenses due to medical emergency). Discuss a new payment plan and make a good faith payment. At the least, you might be allowed to skip a payment without penalty or lower your minimum payments.
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.