Isolating your financial needs on different credit-card accounts will help you get the best possible terms on every transaction that you make. For example, you could get the best cash-back credit card for everyday expenses, the best travel rewards card for airfare and hotel reservations, and the best balance-transfer card for reducing the cost of your existing debt.
There are a lot of myths out there about credit scoring – hopefully we can help you understand FICO scoring, so you can take action to build your score. There are five major components FICO uses to determine a credit score. Fortunately, understanding the secret sauce can help you build a strong score and healthy credit report. Both a 700+ score and healthy credit report will help keep the rest of your financial life cheaper by enabling you to get lower interest rates on loans and approved for top-tier financial products.
The statement date (which occurs well before your payment due date) is the date listed on your statement when the credit card company records your balance to charge interest for the month. It is also the balance reported to the credit bureaus. If you are planning to make a lump sum payment to the balance and want to see the positive result to your credit score as quick as possible, make the payment well before that statement date so the new lower (or zero) balance is recorded and reported.
Still, even if the math of a debt consolidation loan works out in your favor, your behavior may be the real problem. Paying off all of your credit cards and debts with a loan only shuffles the deck chairs around—you still owe money you have to pay, and if you go charging up those freshly paid-off credit cards again, those deck chairs may as well be on the Titanic.
All credit scores are based on the contents of your credit reports. Any errors in those reports can cause undeserved credit-score damage. They can also indicate fraud. So check your reports, dispute any errors you find, and take steps to protect yourself from identity theft if necessary. In particular, look for collections accounts, public records, late payments and other bad credit-score influencers.
Lenders will look at your income and current debts, such as credit cards, current mortgage, and student loans, to determine whether you’re able to take out a home equity loan. Lenders want to ensure you can pay back your debt so if you already have a substantial amount, you may not be an ideal candidate. Burkley said borrowers should have around a 40% to 45% debt-to-income ratio to qualify for a home equity loan.
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.
Closing out delinquent accounts or those with a history of late payments can also help, as long as you've paid them off in full. Because history is important, if you do decide to close a few more accounts, close the newest ones first. The length of your credit history is 15% of your score, so even after you've paid down your balances, keep your oldest cards open. Be sure use these cards to make occasional purchases (then pay the bills in full), so the card company won't close your account for inactivity.
Most balance transfer offers are from the date you open your account, not the date you complete the transfer. It is in your interest to complete the balance transfer right away, so that you can benefit from the low interest rate as soon as possible. With most credit card companies, you will actually lose the promotional balance transfer offer if you do not complete the transfer within 60 or 90 days. Just get it done!
Once you've paid down the balance of your credit cards, keep your spending on these accounts down. You should aim for a balance that is less than 30% of your credit limit on the card. Don't voluntarily lower credit limits; this can hurt rather than help your FICO® Score. If your credit report doesn't reflect your actual credit limit, make sure your credit card company updates this information with the credit bureaus. In addition to limiting your spending on the accounts you already have, be cautious when any new accounts and don't cancel any old accounts since these help your credit score by demonstrating a longer credit history.
The good news is that, by choosing a nonprofit credit counseling agency, you can end up with an affordable option that will leave you better off. Despite the monthly fees these plans charge, debt management can help you save thousands of dollars through reduced interest rates and creditor concessions. Plus, you get valuable advice and financial guidance all along the way when you choose to work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency versus a for-profit agency who is “not directed to provide coaching or advice,” said McClary.
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.