Despite the rosy national picture, we see regional and age-based disparities. A minority of Southerners still rank below prime credit. In contrast, credit scores in the upper Midwest rank well above the national average. Younger consumers struggle with their credit, but boomers and the Silent Generation secured scores well above the national average.
This is easier said than done, but reducing the amount that you owe is going to be a far more satisfying achievement than improving your credit score. The first thing you need to do is stop using your credit cards. Use your credit report to make a list of all of your accounts and then go online or check recent statements to determine how much you owe on each account and what interest rate they are charging you. Come up with a payment plan that puts most of your available budget for debt payments towards the highest interest cards first, while maintaining minimum payments on your other accounts.
Rapid rescoring is a little-known strategy explained by credit guru Liz Pulliam Weston in her book, "Your Credit Score: Your Money and What's at Stake." Unlike credit repair services, which are almost always a scam, rapid rescoring is a legitimate way to improve your credit score in as little as a few hours – if there are verifiable inaccuracies on your credit report. For rapid rescoring to work, you must have proof that negative items on your credit report are incorrect.
Risks: Overall, a student card can be a great asset for your teen to have in college, but there are a few risks to beware of. If your teen overspends so much that they max out their credit limit, they risk harming their utilization rate — which is the amount of credit they use divided by their total credit limit. For example, if your teen has a $500 credit limit and uses $400, their utilization rate would be 80% ($400/$500). That’s very high, and we recommend keeping utilization below 30%.
The best way to consolidate debt is to consolidate in a way that avoids taking on additional debt. If you're facing a rising mound of unsecured debt, the best strategy is to consolidate it through a credit counseling agency. When you use this method to consolidate bills, you're not borrowing more money. Instead, your unsecured debt payments are consolidated into one monthly payment to the agency, which in turn pays your creditors each month. Your credit counselor works with your creditors to try to reduce your interest rates and eliminate extra fees, like late charges or over-limit charges.
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Also, after the payment plan is done, a completed Chapter 13 bankruptcy can show on your credit report for up to seven years. As Albaugh noted, however, a filer will usually have already negatively impacted their credit rating through charge-offs, delinquencies and repossessions before moving on to bankruptcy. In that case, Chapter 13 can actually help the credit restoration process and limit the amount of damage their score will incur.
Applying for and opening up a new credit card increases your overall credit limit compared to the amount you have used. This, too, can result in a nice credit score bump the following month, but only works if you have good credit. One drawback: You may initially receive a 10 to 25-point new credit score ding which will readjust after a few months of responsible credit behavior.
As with any major debt management process, Chapter 13 bankruptcy has both positive and negative aspects to analyze before you proceed. One of the biggest pros for many debtors is that they can usually keep their nonexempt assets when filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Nonexempt assets are generally defined as owned assets that are not necessary to maintain a home or job. These would be property such as a vacation home, a recreational vehicle (RV) or a boat.
If you find that you're always struggling to have enough money in your account, establishing automatic payments is a simple way to pad your savings. "When you get your direct deposit from your payroll, you can set it up with your bank that a certain portion automatically goes into your savings account," says Danial Tariq, vice president at Quontic Bank in New York City. "The idea is that you do not spend what you get. You are not tempted to spend a portion of your income because you don't even see it. It's human [nature to think] 'Oh, I have $500. I can spend $500.'"
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.