Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it® Student Cash Back was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students.
So, the first thing you should do is assess the damage by looking at a current credit report issued from one (or all) of the three major credit bureaus. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, every American has the legal right to receive one free report from each one of the companies per year, which will save you some money on processing fees. You can get access to each one at the site annualcreditreport.com.
One of the main benefits of consolidating your credit card debt is getting a reduced interest rate. Reducing your interest rate allows you to lower your monthly payment and pay off your debts sooner. As a result, if you can’t lower your interest rates by consolidating your credit card debt, then it is probably not worth the extra cost and fees you will have to incur to do it.
Taking out a loan to pay off debt is counter-intuitive, right? Especially when taking on a new loan requires hefty fees, rolled into your total balance, or a long repayment period. The InCharge Debt Consolidation Alternative, or debt management plan, is a program that gives you all of the benefits of debt consolidation without having to take out a new loan. With the debt management program, all of your payments are consolidated into one monthly payment that you pay to InCharge. InCharge then pays each of your creditors. InCharge helps you secure lower interest rates on many of the credit cards you do have (with exceptions), meaning that more of your monthly payment will go to pay off the balance, and less to interest. This will help you pay off your debt faster. The InCharge debt management plan is designed to help you get out of debt in 3-5 years, paying less than you would if you continued on your own, or even with traditional debt consolidation with higher interest rates.
My wife and I recently decided we wanted to buy a home better suited to starting a family and sell our townhouse (which she owned when we met). I didn't have the best, let's say, track record with financials in my past and my credit was abysmal. I hit rock bottom 2.5 years ago when my car ( a beautiful fully loaded Jeep) was reposed on Xmas eve morning. Even then, although angry and ashamed, I didn't do much to help myself out. My 20's, which were years of partying, spending and generally speaking not caring had finally caught up. I was 29. So, we got to work with fixing things. Paying off creditors, paying down debts, making on time payments, etc. When we had my credit run about 6 weeks ago, it was 588. This was much higher than the 410 I had a couple years ago, but still a far cry from good. (Side note here, be mindful of using credit cards that track your fico score, or having a credit bureau account that gives you your score. There are around 30 different scores that are used, and different scores are used for different types of inquires (auto loan is different than mortgage)). So we got to work, paid off the last couple things and really started paying attention to what was happening. One thing I can't stress enough is every year, you're allowed to get 3 free credit reports, 1 from each bureau. You MUST do this each year. This is where I found my credit windfall. I was able to uncover the fact that a debt that had been paid of was still being reported as open and late. I also found a debt that wasn't mine! A big one. $1700 showing open and late for 2 years with a collector. I filled a report with the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and they started an investigation. The company that had this debt wrote me a letter saying that even though I had no proof that the debt wasn't mine, they would absolve it and would contact the 3 credit bureaus to have the reporting removed and cleared. At this point, I called my broker and said it's time to run the simulator. They ran it, and then performed what is called a Rapid Rescore. Some brokers charge for this; good ones don't. Since they are trying to get your business they will do it for free. If it's at cost, it's roughly $10 per item per report. If you have a lot of issues it can add up. Anyhow, they did the rescore, did the simulator, ran a hard inquiry and BOOM, 657.
You'll probably have a limited amount of money to put toward credit repair each month. So, you'll have to prioritize where you spend your money. Focus first on accounts that are in danger of becoming past due. Get as many of these accounts current as possible, preferably all of them. Then, work on bringing down your credit card balances. Third are those accounts that have already been charged-off or sent to a collection agency.
Get the advice of a nonprofit credit counselor before consolidating your credit card debt. Credit counseling offers free debt help and the expert advice could save you time and money. You may find out that your debts are indeed overwhelming and bankruptcy is best your option, or that your debts are judgment proof and thus you have nothing to lose by defaulting.
You cannot use your existing credit cards while you’re on a debt management plan, nor can you open new accounts. McClary also said that if you do manage to open new credit card accounts during your debt management plan, existing creditors who find out may stop participating in your debt management plan and reset your account to its original terms and interest rate.
If you don’t address the exact cause of your bad credit, the damage is likely to worsen the longer it goes untreated. For example, if you’ve missed a few credit-card payments, repaying at least the minimum amount needed to change your account’s status from “delinquent” to “paid” on your credit reports will prevent your score from falling further. The same is true of collections accounts, tax liens and other derogatory marks — at least to a certain extent.
A good idea would be to keep three to four credit card accounts open, but only use one or two of them; put away or cut up the others. Once you have paid off a card, though, keep the account open, even if you don’t want to use it anymore. Closing a card will lower your credit score, even if you always paid on time and never carried an outstanding balance. If a card's high annual fees are making it undesirable, try asking the credit card company for a downgrade to one of their free or lower-fee cards. This allows you to maintain a longer history with the company, which is important for a healthy credit score. The company will report to the credit bureau that you have a good record with them, which will increase your credit rating.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.