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.
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.
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.
Although you may understand the concept of credit limits, few people take the time to examine their credit utilization—or the amount of debt owed vs. the total credit limit. An ideal credit score boasts a utilization ratio of 25 percent or less. If you have a $10,000 credit limit, you should never charge more than $2,500 at a time. The same goes for individual cards. For example, Margot has three credit cards with the following limits:
While this might seem like an obvious debt-repayment strategy, Cavalieri – and many personal finance experts – suggest that you set up your payments with your bank or debit card, so that anything you owe is automatically paid every month. "Automation is key. Setting up payments to go automatically will help keep things humming and ensure you do not miss any payments," Cavalieri says. That way, not only will you start filling the debt hole, you'll avoid late fees and you'll improve your credit score, which may allow you to refinance some debt for better interest rates.
This story is long winded and all, but the point is, it doesn't matter how bad you have screwed up. It happens to the best of people (I'm an alright kind of guy). But the only way to fix it is to put your foot down, get dirty and fix it. It won’t always be as quick as this and will most likely take a year or more to get in a good place. Then years of maintenance. But if you need a quick hit to your score in a good way, read through your reports carefully (with a credit advisor if you need to. Many personal banks will do this with your for free if you have accounts there in good standing) If it looks like there's something off or something you can fix, call your broker, go over the report with them and STRONGLY insist on a rapid rescore. They will get all your info and see what they can do.
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A credit card could very well be the source of your credit-score sorrow. But it’s also your score’s best chance at recovery. You can’t remove negative records that are accurate from your credit reports. So the best you can hope for is to devalue them with a steady flow of positive information. And credit cards are perfect for the job because anyone can get them, they can be free to use, and they don’t force you to go into debt. Plus, they report information to the major credit bureaus on a monthly basis.
While it seems to make sense to pay off all of your old delinquent debts, this strategy can sometimes backfire and drop your score further. If a credit account is simply overdue and shows as outstanding debt, paying it off will improve your score – though it won't eradicate the record of late payments. But if you have an old debt on your credit report that has been charged off by the lender – meaning that they do not expect further payments – setting up a new payment plan can re-activate the debt and make it appear to be more current than it actually is. This is often the case with debt that has been turned over to a collection agency. The agency may register the debt with credit bureaus as new rather than reporting it against the written-off debt.
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.