When you find yourself with damaged credit, it’s important to catch your breath and begin laying the foundation for a brighter financial future. Testing your financial literacy and educating yourself are part of that. But the centerpiece of this effort should be your emergency fund. With money saved for a rainy day, you’ll be far less likely to miss payments and damage your credit if met by hefty emergency expenses.
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.
So if you want -- and I'm not recommending this; I'm just saying it's a strategy you might decide to use -- you can dispute information that you think is accurate in hopes that the creditor will not respond. (This is the strategy many credit repair firms use to  try to improve their clients' scores.) If the creditor doesn't respond, the entry will get removed.
Once received, the bureau has 30 days to respond. They will contact the original creditor or issuer of the information to ask them to verify the item. If it can’t be verified, then it must be removed. If that happens, the credit bureau will provide a free copy of your report so you can confirm the item no longer appears. You can also request the credit bureau to notify anyone who inquired about your credit in the past six months. And, you can ask them to send a copy to any employers who checked your report within the past two years.
A financial institution such as a credit union, which typically issues credit builder loans, deposits a small amount of money into a secured savings account for the applicant. The borrower then pays the money back in small monthly installments — with interest — over a set period of time. At the end of the loan’s term, which typically ranges from six to 24 months, the borrower receives the total amount of the credit builder loan in a lump sum, plus any interest earned if the lender offers interest.
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.
I pay my bills on time now and have been for years, but my credit score is toast because of a collection write off I had about 5 years ago and a maxed out home equity line of credit. It's kind of scary to put all my extra money into paying down my line instead of putting aside anything into savings. I really can only do one or the other. My car note interest rate is astronomical with no way to refinance because of the FICO and my house mortgage is underwater so I can't take advantage of low rates these days. I guess I'll just put half on debt and half in savings and do another credit report in 6 months.

If you get denied for a major credit card, try applying for a retail store credit card. They have a reputation for approving applicants with bad or limited credit history. Still no luck? Consider getting a secured credit card which requires you to make a security deposit to get a credit limit. In some ways, a secured credit card is more useful than a retail credit card because it can be used in more places.
Maybe you have never seen your credit score or haven’t seen it recently. If this is the case, you should get it immediately. The score that your lenders use when deciding whether to give you credit is called your FICO score. The only way you can get it is on the site www.myfico.com where you will either have to pay $19.95 or sign up for a free trial of the company’s Score Watch program in which case you will get it free. However, there are other options. The site www.CreditKarma.com will give you your credit score free but it won’t be your true FICO score. This includes your credit score, a way to monitor your credit health, plus the ability to track your progress against your credit goals. It’s also possible to get your credit score from the three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – though you may have to jump through some hoops in order to get it free. And again, this will not be your true FICO score.
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There is one exception to that rule… If you default on a federal student loan and then bring it current, any negative actions from the late payments disappear. But for all other debts, charge-offs are usually sold to collections, which creates ANOTHER trouble space that causes issues for 7 years. So, letting a debt slip into default is almost a double or triple whammy to your game.
If you get denied for a major credit card, try applying for a retail store credit card. They have a reputation for approving applicants with bad or limited credit history. Still no luck? Consider getting a secured credit card which requires you to make a security deposit to get a credit limit. In some ways, a secured credit card is more useful than a retail credit card because it can be used in more places.
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.
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