Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it® Student Cash Back was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students.
Check what your monthly payment on a debt consolidation loan would be. Are you at least paying that much towards your credit cards now? If the loan payment is more than you pay towards your debts (and it fits into your budget), it might be time to up the ante and just put more money to your credit cards. If the loan payment is less than you pay to your cards, you'll likely wind up paying way more interest over time, since your loan term will probably be long.
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Millions of Americans are suffering from dinged-up credit: the lingering result of the recession, the lack (until recently) of real increase in wages, the economy's sluggish growth. But a strong credit score is the backbone of an individual's financial health, and its importance goes beyond simply getting a low interest rate on a loan. A driver's credit score, for instance, is a major factor in pricing auto insurance.
With these three factors in mind, figure out how much you can save on interest during the 0% APR window compared to your existing rates. Then, calculate how much you’ll pay in interest at the standard purchase rate on a new card over the time you think it will take to pay off the remainder of the balance. Compare these numbers to what you would pay in interest at your current rate(s).
If a collector contacts you, they could be breaking the law as they try to get you to repay debts. Rheingold said one common fraud is debt collection companies buying past-due debt for extremely low prices at “debt auctions” and then trying to collect it. Often, the debt collection company only has a little information about the debtor and no information about the actual debt. If you don’t pay, however, they may try to take you to court.
Omo says that reducing what you spend at restaurants could have a dramatic effect on your finances. "I had a client, a single person, who spent almost $900 a month on food, and the majority of that was eating out. [By] working with this person, I was able to get them to reduce that number by almost 50 percent and put that difference in paying off debt." Plus, in recent years, restaurant prices have been consistently climbing from month to month, according to the Consumer Price Index.
If you have unsecured debts that qualify for a debt management plan and secured debts that don’t qualify, a debt management plan can still work. When you sign up for a debt management plan with a nonprofit agency, the credit counselor assigned to your case will offer comprehensive financial advice that can help you pay down all your debts — not just debts governed by your debt management plan.
If the amount of debt you’re trying to pay off is relatively small and you have a great credit score, a balance transfer credit card might be a better choice. Many balance transfer credit cards offer a 0% APR for an introductory period of time, which could allow you to pay off your debt without accruing any additional interest. This can help you save a great deal of money, but there are a few things you should know first.
We’ll explain each of the four pillars of credit repair in detail below. Just remember, each step on its own will not be enough to completely fix your credit. Credit repair, after all, is like peeling an onion: You have to peel away a few layers before you get to the good stuff. But we’ll try our best to make sure your credit recovery doesn’t bring you to tears.
Here’s some background to help demystify the process. Your credit score utilizes historical data from your credit report to predict your future risk of default. The information on your credit report is usually an accurate reflection of your financial life. And finally, your financial life is a subset of the rest of your life. So if you’re having hard times, more than likely it will show up in your financial life, credit report and then credit score.
Some folks swear by setting automatic payments using their bank’s online bill-paying system or their creditor’s automatic-payment system. If you prefer more control, at least sign up for automatic payment alerts from your lender, via email or text. Then set up a place in your house where you always pay bills, and get an accordion file that enables you to arrange the statements by due dates. Be sure to time your payment so the check or electronic funds transfer will arrive on time.
You may also be able to negotiate with creditors as part of a "goodwill adjustment." They may be willing to remove late payments that they've reported to the credit bureaus, especially if you have a history of on-time payments. While you're trying to fix your credit, don't neglect your current obligations. Whatever you do, be sure to pay all your bills on time so you don't accrue any more negative items on your report.
Besides imposing no annual fee, the card has other perks, like rewarding me with a $20 statement credit when I reported a good GPA (up to 5 consecutive years), letting me earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in rotating categories, and matching the cash-back bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.
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"Financial companies love profitable customers who run up their credit card balances, right? One might think," says Randy Padawer, vice president of credit services at LexingtonLaw. "But interestingly, that same industry penalizes consumer credit scores as a direct result. To ensure a good credit score, never max out your credit cards. For an even better score, keep balances as low as possible."
Some lenders might be open to renegotiating terms with you to reduce interest rates, create payment plans that get you caught up, remove fees and maybe even forgive portions of balances. Just remember that if this happens, you may have tax consequences since forgiven and canceled debts may be taxable. Additionally, according to Albaugh, sometimes settling with creditors on your own requires a lump-sum payment, whereas bankruptcy allows for installment payments on a lowered amount.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it’s accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who got your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who got a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
It might hurt your score. About 30% of your score is based on the amount of your available credit you use. If, for example, you have a credit line of $20,000 and you owe $10,000, you are using 50% of your available credit — and that will hurt your score. You want that percentage to be below 30 (and below 10% is even better). Your best bet may be to put a small, recurring charge on the Wells Fargo card and automate payment. That way, you will be using a tiny percentage of that credit line (and that is potentially helpful, so long as you pay on time). For more, see
Many credit card issuers will allow you to transfer money to your checking account. Or, they will offer you checks that you can write to yourself or a third party. Check online, because many credit card issuers will let you transfer money directly to your bank account from your credit card. Otherwise, call your issuer and ask what deals they have available for “convenience checks.”