Risks: While a secured card can be a great way for your teen to build credit, there are a few potential risks. If your teen misses a payment or pays late, they will incur a late payment fee. Plus, they will also be charged interest on any balances that remain after their statement due date. That’s why it’s key to inform your teen of good credit practices, such as paying on time and in full each billing cycle. Autopay is a great feature that can help your teen avoid missed payments and interest charges.
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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.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.
The way a secure credit card works is simply. You prepay your credit ahead of time to “secure” all of your purchases. Your credit limit for this type of card is exactly the amount of money that you prepay. This basically makes you a zero risk debtor to the bank if you happen to not pay your bill. You can obtain a secured credit card for as little as $200, so there really isn’t any reason to NOT get one.
Follow the steps listed above, and you will be well on your way to a credit score of more than 700. Don’t forget to show patience, though. Credit improvement doesn’t happen overnight. Depending on how bad your credit is, it can take years to achieve excellent credit. But, if you keep at it, you will be rewarded with better rates, and thousands of dollars in interest savings.
It’s easy to check your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You’re entitled to a free copy, once a year, of all three of your credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These free credit reports can be accessed via AnnualCreditReport.com, the government-mandated site run by the major bureaus. (You can also view a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)
Communicate with your creditors. If you are having trouble paying your bills or if you are really serious about cleaning up your credit report, then talk to your creditors. Be honest and upfront with them and try to make arrangements to reduce your balance or payments to something more manageable. You need to know your rights and options, but you also must remember to be cooperative and professional. State facts, but don’t make threats.
This [These] item[s] [identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.] is [inaccurate or incomplete] because [describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why]. I am requesting that the item[s] be removed [or request another specific change] to correct the information.
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:
Since your credit score is based on information in your credit reports, you need to see what’s on them. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus and you can see all of your credit reports from the 3 major credit bureaus at once by going to annualcreditreport.com. Reviewing your credit report will allow you some insight on why your credit score is low.