If you’re not disciplined enough to create a budget and stick to it, to work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or to keep track of your mounting bills, you might consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But remember that “nonprofit” status doesn’t guarantee free, affordable, or even legitimate services. In fact, some credit counseling organizations — even some that claim nonprofit status — may charge high fees or hide their fees by pressuring people to make “voluntary” contributions that only cause more debt.

Most companies offer a free evaluation to answer any questions you have. Use this to your advantage to get a feel for the company and make sure they’re the right fit. If you don’t get a good read, thank them for their time and say you need some time to decide. Then you can continue to research your options and talk to other companies. Don’t make a decision unless you feel comfortable.
Credit utilization is the second most important factor in credit score calculations – it’s 30% of your score. It measures the amount of debt you currently hold relative to your total available credit limit. So, if you have $500 in balances and a $5,000 total credit limit, your utilization ratio is 10%. Any ratio higher than 10% starts to drag down your score. That means, maintaining zero balances overall is good for your credit. It also allows you to use credit cards without incurring any interest charges!
If you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy, be aware that bankruptcy laws require that you get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for bankruptcy relief. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at www.usdoj.gov/ust, the website of the U.S. Trustee Program. That’s the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Be wary of credit counseling organizations that say they are government-approved, but don’t appear on the list of approved organizations.
If you find that a hard inquiry was placed on your credit file and you have no knowledge of it, make sure to contact the lender that performed the inquiry to see what it was pertaining to. If it is not accurate or you still have no knowledge of the inquiry, you should expect fraud or identity theft and should promptly alert the credit bureaus of the alleged fraud so that it can be investigated. Doing so may also remove the hard inquiry from your credit report, although it may take some time.
Remember, though, that any credit card isn’t an excuse to spend more money. Whether you get a secured card or use an unsecured card, getting a card just to “free up” more money that you don’t actually have to spend out of control won’t help you in the long run. You have to keep a tight rein on your spending. If you can’t change your habits so that you are in control of your spending, don’t get a credit card, secured or unsecured.
For one thing, the new account could decrease the average age of accounts on your credit reports — a higher average age is generally better for your score. Additionally, if you applied for a private student loan, the application could lead to the lender reviewing your credit history. A record of this, known as a “hard inquiry” or “hard credit check,” remains on your report and may hurt your score a little.
The Discover it® Secured isn’t like most secured cards — it offers a cashback program and a simple transition to an unsecured card. Starting at eight months from account opening, Discover will conduct automatic monthly account reviews to see if your security deposit can be returned while you still use your card. Unlike most secured cards that lack rewards, this card offers 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, 1% cash back on all your other purchases. And, Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched. This is a great added perk while you work on building credit.
We made the following tips as practical as possible to give you both the structure of a plan and a clue about how to actually stick to it. Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two very different things, after all. We also explored how long the hands of time will have to turn before you can put bad credit behind you, hopefully once and for all.
If your debt feels overwhelming, it may be valuable to seek out the services of a reputable credit counseling service. Many are non-profit and charge small or no fees for their services. You can review more information on selecting the right reputable credit counselor for you from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Credit counselors can help you develop a Debt Management Plan (or DMP) and can negotiate to reduce your monthly payments. In many cases, you'll be responsible for only one monthly payment to the credit counseling service, which will then disburse funds to all of the accounts you owe on.
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First a few things on credit scores: They're important, and you should aim to have a good one, but you shouldn't obsess over the numbers. Fluctuations are normal, but keeping tabs on your score will help you make good financial decisions. Watching your score could even help you spot identity theft, because an unexpected score drop could indicate someone is misusing your information.
Self Lender, based in Austin, Texas, is designed to help consumers increase their financial health. Working in partnership with multiple banks, Self Lender offers a credit-builder account that is essentially a CD-backed installment loan. In other words, you open a CD with the bank and they extend a line of credit to you for the same amount. When you make payments, they report it to the credit bureaus.
If you have negative information on your credit report, it will remain there for 7-10 years. This helps lenders and others get a better picture of your credit history. However, while you may not be able to change information from the past, you can demonstrate good credit management moving forward by paying your bills on time and as agreed. As you build a positive credit history, over time, your credit scores will likely improve.

Do yourself a favor and save some money, too. Don’t believe these claims: they’re very likely signs of a scam. Indeed, attorneys at the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, say they’ve never seen a legitimate credit repair operation making those claims. The fact is there’s no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report legitimately, but it takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt repayment plan.
The Island Approach also gives you a built-in warning system for overspending. If you ever see finance charges on an account earmarked for everyday expenses, you’ll know you’re overspending. Separating everyday expenses from a balance that you’re carrying from month to month will help you save on finance charges, too. Interest charges are based on an account’s average daily balance, after all.
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.

When possible, avoid closing credit card accounts. The longer your credit history, the better your score. However, if you are very far behind in your payments, you may not have a choice. A payment plan may require you to cancel your credit card. If possible, though, keep your older accounts so that you have a substantial credit history on your side. (See also: How to Avoid Getting Your Credit Card Cancelled)
A major driver of increased scores is the decreased proportion of consumers with collection items on their credit report. A credit item that falls into collections will stay on a person’s credit report for seven years. People caught in the latter end of the real estate foreclosure crisis of 2006-2011 may still have a collections item on their report today.
Now that you have a secured credit card and are on your way to improving your payment history, you can try to obtain other loans. Part of your credit score is based on the types of account you have. There are two main types of account: rotating and installment. A rotating credit account is like a credit card or a home equity line of credit, where you have an available limit and you free up more funds as you pay down the loan. An installment loan has a set term and a set payment. Auto loans and mortgages are installment loans.
The moment you’ve cleared a debt, the idea is to get it off your report. However, if you’ve handled a debt well and been prompt with clearing your dues, it reflects well on your report and hence, your credit score. So, don’t close accounts where you have a good repayment account. The bad debts anyway get written off from your account in a few years’ time.

Getting approved at the right interest rate on a mortgage isn’t the only reason you should review and repair your credit regularly. We explain the twelve ways that credit repair makes it easier to get the right financing while saving money on everything from utilities to car insurance. Learn all the ways that fixing your credit can help you get to a better place financially.


Nearly 8 out of 10 credit reports have errors.  That means, remove the errors and your score will most likely increase. Go through your credit reports very carefully. Especially look for; Late payments, charge-offs, collections or other negative items that aren't yours, Accounts listed as "settled," "paid derogatory," "paid charge-off" or anything other than "current" or "paid as agreed" if you paid on time and in full, Accounts that are still listed as unpaid that were included in a bankruptcy, Negative items older than seven years (10 in the case of bankruptcy) that should have automatically fallen off your report (you must be careful with this last one, because sometimes scores actually go down when bad items fall off your report. It's a quirk in the FICO credit-scoring software, and the potential effect of eliminating old negative items is difficult to predict in advance). Also make sure you don't have duplicate collection notices listed. For example; if you have an account that has gone to collections, the original creditor may list the debt, as well as the collection agency. Any duplicates must be removed!
Studies show that the majority of credit reports contain errors. Whether through clerical errors, mistaken identities, improper accounting, or simple misunderstandings, there are an estimated 200+ million Americans with errors on their credit reports. And in many cases, these errors are significant. As many as 25% of all credit reports contain errors serious enough to cause someone to be denied on a credit application.
Repairing your credit is certainly something that you can do yourself, but it requires a lot of time, work, and organization. Correcting just a single error on your credit report can take several hours when you consider obtaining copies of your report, writing a dispute letter, and communicating with creditors. There are advantages to hiring professionals who are familiar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and understand credit law to do the legwork for you.
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Once you resolve issues on your credit report, it’s time to implement a strategy to start improving your credit score. The single best thing that you can do to improve your credit score is to pay current accounts on time and in full every single month. You can picture it as burying negative information under a mountain of positive credit information.
Check your credit report for errors and fraudulent accounts as well. Errors can bring your credit score down. If something is inaccurate, dispute it, and fix the problem. The FTC offers great information on disputing inaccurate information, as well as a helpful sample dispute letter you can use as a template. This can be one of the easiest ways to give your credit score a little bump higher. Don’t forget to bring fraudulent accounts to the attention of the credit bureau and have them removed. If you are concerned about fraudulent accounts and identity theft, can place a freeze on your credit to avoid further identity theft problems. Each bureau has its own procedures, and you can learn more about how to place a credit freeze on your report by visiting the bureaus’ web sites. Understand that a freeze needs to be placed with each bureau individually.

Keep in mind that if you have no history at all, it will take an estimated three to six months from the beginning date to see any kind of activity being reported on your credit reports. If you have recently acquired a credit card, you should make small purchases you will be able to pay off by the due date to begin to establish credit and show that you can manage a monthly payment.
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If you have missed payments, get current and stay current: the longer you pay your bills on time after being late, the more your FICO Scores should increase. Older credit problems count for less, so poor credit performance won't haunt you forever. The impact of past credit problems on your FICO Scores fades as time passes and as recent good payment patterns show up on your credit report. And good FICO Scores weigh any credit problems against the positive information that says you're managing your credit well.
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