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.
Your credit score partly depends on your credit utilization – the amount of debt you carry as compared to the total amount of debt available to you. If all of your credit cards are maxed out, opening a new one increases your available debt and causes your utilization ratio to go down, and that could help your score. But your score will take a ding any time you carry a high balance on any one card. So if you transfer multiple balances to a single card and get close to (or reach) your credit limit, your score will suffer even if your other cards are paid off.
If you are considering using a debt relief or debt consolidation company, arm yourself with information. For a fee, they negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, resulting in lower balances or interest rates. Legitimate debt relief companies will obtain a written agreement from each one of your creditors, detailing the terms of the agreement, your obligations, and what will be reported to the credit bureaus. In some cases, if your balances are lowered the creditor might report bad debt or a charge-off, which will negatively impact your credit history and score. Also keep in mind that debt relief companies generally charge higher interest rates than your bank or mortgage lender, particularly if you have less than stellar credit. So you might not save much in the long run, especially once you factor in fees. It’s up to you to do the math.
Credit reports typically have a space for you to provide your comments at the bottom: explaining why a particular debt hasn't been paid or to point out any factual errors. While this is another area of recourse, with the credit bureaus you're seen as guilty until proven innocent, and the burden's on you to correct things. When you write to the credit bureau, be sure to send copies (not the originals) of any proof that can be used. 
A key indicator of your financial fitness, your debt-to-income ratio allows financial institutions to weigh your current debt against your income. This helps lenders determine your ability to keep up with new loan payments. Your debt-to-income ratio is calculated by dividing the total sum of all your monthly obligations by your gross monthly income. According to guidelines set by Wells Fargo, a good debt-to-income ratio is 35% or less, a decent one falls into the 36% to 49% range and one that needs improvement is 50% or higher.
Unsurprisingly, consumers across the southern United States are far more likely to have subprime credit scores than consumers across the north. Minnesota had the fewest subprime consumers. In December 2016, just 21.9% of residents fell below an Equifax Risk Score of 660. Mississippi had the worst subprime rate in the nation: 48.3% of Mississippi residents had credit scores below 660 in December 2016.35

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer has the longest intro period on our list at intro 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers* made within 4 months from account opening. There is also an intro 0%* for 12 months on Purchases*. After the intro periods end, a 14.99% - 24.99%* (Variable) APR applies. The balance transfer fee is typical at 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. This provides plenty of time for you to pay off your debt. There are several other perks that make this card great: no annual fee, Citi® Private Pass®, and Citi® Concierge.


Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance student loans, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.
If you're hopelessly drowning in debt, know that you can't negotiate any lower interest rates with your credit card companies or creditors, or if the math works out, a debt consolidation loan may be a good decision for you. Similarly, if you're in serious trouble with high interest rates, high monthly payments (that you're having trouble with already), and too many bills, a debt consolidation loan might help. Combined with a debt repayment plan or credit counseling, it can be used to pay off all of your debt at a fraction of their original cost. If it may be a good time to strike, pay it all off, and walk away debt-free. Photo by erules123.
Improving your credit score is a bit like losing weight: It takes a while. Unless there are major errors on your credit report that you can easily get erased, there is no quick fix. Often, it takes at least a couple years to go from a low score to a high one. But at least, you'll be improving your financial position, and building up good financial habits, in the interim.
What is it? A 401(k) loan is when you borrow money from your existing 401(k) plan to pay off debts. The amount you can borrow is limited to the lesser of $50,000 or 50% of your vested balance. After you withdraw the money, a repayment plan is created that includes interest charges. You typically have five years to pay off the loan, and if you take out the loan to buy a house, your term may be extended to 10-15 years.
Most employer-provided retirement plans permit participants to borrow from their own savings. Since it's your money, there's no credit check or qualifying hoops to jump through. You can generally borrow up to half of your vested retirement balance, up to $50,000. The interest rate may be one or two percentage points higher than the Prime Rate, which recently was around 4%. You usually have up to five years to pay back money used for consolidating credit card debt. Miss that deadline and you may owe income tax and potentially a 10% fee on the remaining balance.
Become familiar with the information contained in each of your credit reports. They'll all look very similar, even if you've ordered them from different bureaus. Each credit report contains your personal identifying information, detailed history for each of your accounts, any items that have been listed in public record like a bankruptcy, and the inquiries that have been made to your credit report.
Make no mistake: if you want help with your debt, you should get it. Don't let social stigma or ego get in the way—there are plenty of ways to get on the right track that go further than blog posts and stop short of putting you back in debt to someone else. Debt repayment and credit counseling programs can negotiate lower interest rates on your behalf, or help you do it yourself. They can help you with your budget, and help you plan a route out of debt that turns your credit into a tool you control, as opposed to a monster than controls you. If you need the help, get it—and definitely do that before you take out a loan. Photo by Media Bakery13 (Shutterstock).
Consolidating credit cards and leveraging low balance transfer offers has the potential to increase your credit score. But to accomplish this, it’s important to follow a few pointers. For example, for the general population, 30 percent of the FICO® Credit Score is determined by “credit utilization,” which is the amount of credit actually being used.1
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.
We recently completed a debt consolidation loan with you and were so impressed on how quickly and less painful it was to apply and get an approval. I have been in the banking industry for 30 years so I am well educated on the hoops some institutions make you jump through to get a loan. We were so impressed that we decided to upgrade to a new car, so I applied this morning for a used vehicle loan. Incredibly, five hours later I received an email; you had two simple questions and didn't need further income documentation since you already had it on file. About 15 minutes after that call, I received the approved loan email; that's just incredible.
Write a letter to the specific credit reporting agency that shows the falsehood, whether it is Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Explain the mistake and include a copy of the highlighted report along with your documentation. Although certain bureaus now let you submit disputes online, it’s not a bad idea to send this letter by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself. The reporting agency has 30 days from the receipt of your letter to respond. The Federal Trade Commission provides advice on contacting the credit bureaus about discrepancies. Here are the contact numbers and web sites for the three credit bureaus:
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