Consumers can apply for a debt management plan regardless of their credit score. Once they set up an initial consultation with a credit counseling agency, they will go over the details of their debts and their income with their agency who will come up with an action plan on their behalf. If the consumer decides to move forward with a debt management plan, it can take a few hours or a few weeks to get started. “Once the recommendation for a debt management plan is made, it’s up to you to decide how quickly to enroll,” said McClary.
The two primary forms of bankruptcy that consumers choose to file are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 allows a filer to liquidate nonexempt assets to pay off creditors and discharge their remaining debts. Chapter 13, called a wage earner’s plan, gives filers with regular income the opportunity to create a short repayment plan to pay off their debts.
To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must have little disposable income. A means test is applied that compares your income to the median income in your state. If your average monthly income for the six-month period leading up to your bankruptcy filing is less than the median income for the same household size in your state, you automatically qualify.
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.
“A good credit repair company will scrub questionable credit report items against other laws — like the Fair Credit Billing Act, which regulates original creditors; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which oversees collection agencies; and others that address medical illness, military service, student status and other life events,” Padawer said.
If one of your family members has good or excellent credit, ask to become an authorized user on one of their credit reports. As an authorized user, your relative’s account will be added to your credit reports. And as on-time payments are made, the resulting positive information will help to lessen the impact of your past mistakes. That will lead to credit-score improvement.
If you do not make your payment on time, most credit cards will immediately hit you with a steep late fee. Once you are 30 days late, you will likely be reported to the credit bureau. Late payments can have a big, negative impact on your score. Once you are 60 days late, you can end up losing your low balance transfer rate and be charged a high penalty interest rate, which is usually close to 30%. Just automate your payments so you never have to worry about these fees.
What can and DOES change is whether you have a collector pursuing you for the debt. If you are talking about a dormant account that has been in collections and has finally been left alone with no collections activity for a few years, messing with it can be problematic from the point of view that the collections people will start pestering you again to see if they can get money and if the SOL isn't up, they can start reporting on it again which can affect your score or they could even file suit if your state SOL isn't up.
According to Kim Cole, community engagement manager at credit counseling agency Navicore Solutions, bankruptcy can make sense when life circumstances cause people’s finances to spiral out of control. Very often, she said, her company works with consumers who have racked up insurmountable amounts of medical debt that they couldn’t pay off if they tried. Other times, bankruptcy is the result of job loss or another unintended loss of income.
The number of credit accounts you have open is also important to control. Credit cards are easy to get: Almost every store has a quick, convenient way to get you a new card. Attractive incentives, such as big discounts on purchases the day you sign up, add to the temptation. If you shop in that store often, it may be worth getting its card; otherwise, resist the urge.