In 2008, American households carried $280 billion in debt. While debt dwindled in the following years, in 2017 the country hit another record – $13 trillion in household debt, including mortgages, car loans, credit card debt and student loans, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. If you, too, are struggling with debt and you're looking for some strategies to reduce what you owe, try implementing these smart money-management habits.
Did you just get a tax refund, a bonus, a raise or an inheritance? Instead of spreading it out and making small extra payments to all of your debts, opt for the snowball method. Consider paying as much as you can towards the debt with the lowest balance so you can reduce or eliminate it entirely (while keeping the account open). This reduces your credit utilization dramatically and can increase your credit score just as dramatically and quickly. Reducing your credit utilization from 50% of your credit limit down to 30% of your credit limit can result in a 50-point score lift, according to the VantageScore report.
A report by FICO® showed that younger consumers can earn high credit scores with excellent credit behavior. 93% of consumers with credit scores between 750 and 799 who were under age 29 never had a late payment on their credit report. In contrast, 57% of the total population had at least one delinquency. This good credit group also used less of their available credit. They had an average revolving credit utilization ratio of 6%. The nation as a whole had a utilization ratio of 15%.39
Cardholders can benefit from an 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles and an introductory $0 balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10). Once the intro period ends, there is a 14.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. You can benefit from a $0 annual fee and access to your free FICO® Score.

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.
Here is where it all comes together! Rapid rescoring can raise your credit scores quickly. Many of the tactics on this list are highly effective but can take 30 days or more to actually reflect in your credit score. But a consumer can utilize a Rapid Rescore in order to speed up that recalculation of their credit – and raise their score within just days or a week. With a Rapid Rescore, the credit bureaus simply recompute your score immediately, instead of at the next natural cycle date. Therefore, if you’ve paid down debt, added yourself as an authorized user, deleted collections, or added new positive tradelines, it will show up post haste. A Rapid Rescore is invaluable if you’re applying for a business loan, trying to get approved for a mortgage so you can make an offer on a house, or just trying to clean up your credit before a potential employer checks your report. However, you’ll want to enlist some help to take advantage of a Rapid Rescore, so contact Blue Water Credit if you’d like more information or help with any of these tactics!
Perhaps our favorite secured card, Discover it® Secured, has numerous benefits for those looking to rebound from a bad credit score. There is a $200 minimum security deposit that will become your line of credit, which is typical of secured credit cards. Your deposit is equal to your credit line, with a maximum deposit of $2,500. Additional perks include a rewards program (very rare for secured cards) that offers 2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
The best way to handle these types of information lines on your credit report is to dispute them but you have to remember that if that isn't done correctly, it is like kicking a hornets nest. Just calling them and saying, "hey, I dispute this." is NOT good enough, regardless of what ANYONE says. It has to be done with a certified, return receipt letter that has been properly worded to prevent the sleezy little buggers from using a loophole. You can find a lot of information out there about how to do this on sites from people like Dave Ramsey or with self help books like Weathering Debt (either one works, but I prefer Weathering Debt, it was much more concise and to the point) but whatever you do, DON'T try to wing it and don't pay someone to do something you can do yourself with ease and for free. Besides, you need to know how to stop the problem from happening again, right?
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.
Your loan balances also affect your credit score in a similar way. The credit score calculation compares your loan current loan balance to the original loan amount. The closer your loan balances are to the original amount you borrowed, the more it hurts your credit score. Focus first on paying down credit card balances because they have more impact on your credit score.
If the debt is due to drop off of your report in the next several months because it is almost seven years old, consider waiting until then to pay it, as it will have no affect on your score once it disappear. If the debt shows as written off but will still show on your credit report for longer than a few months, collect all of the funds together to completely pay it off before making contact with the lender. That way, you will potentially re-activate the debt but will also show payment in full, which will minimize the damage to your score.

In most cases, the 0% APR interest rate is a limited-time promotion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If the rate rises, your monthly payment could also increase. The CFPB also notes that the company can raise your rate if you’re more than 60 days late on a payment. Additionally, you may have to pay a balance transfer fee, and if you also use the card to make purchases, the new charges may be subject to interest unless there’s also an introductory 0% APR for purchases.
If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.
If you are unable to get a credit card, consider applying for a secured credit card instead. You need to provide a deposit, and you will be given a credit limit that is tied to your deposit amount. A secured credit card is reported to the credit bureau and can help you build your credit score. You can shop for the best secured cards at sites like MagnifyMoney and NerdWallet.

That's very commendable of you to handle your daughter's financial problems that way.  I used to be employed as a loan officer in finance, but things have changed so much in the last 20-30 years.  I accomplished something very similar to her situation, but I started in the fair range on scoring.  I raised mine 204 points in less than 9 months.  Thanks for passing along this great advice and experience.

We recently completed a debt consolidation loan with you and were so impressed on how quickly and less painful it was to apply and get an approval. I have been in the banking industry for 30 years so I am well educated on the hoops some institutions make you jump through to get a loan. We were so impressed that we decided to upgrade to a new car, so I applied this morning for a used vehicle loan. Incredibly, five hours later I received an email; you had two simple questions and didn't need further income documentation since you already had it on file. About 15 minutes after that call, I received the approved loan email; that's just incredible.
Negative records that you cannot successfully dispute will remain on your credit reports for roughly seven to 10 years. The best way to overcome such negatives is to add a pile of new positive information to your credit reports. Doing so dilutes the negative information and shows that you’re really a responsible borrower who just made a few mistakes. We’ll explain how to go about doing that in the steps below.
If you pay a charge-off in full, your credit report will be updated to show the account balance is $0 and the account is paid. The charge-off status will continue to be reported for seven years from the date of charge off. Another option is to settle charge-offs for less than the original balance if the creditor agrees to accept a settlement and cancel the rest of the debt.

With poor credit, you may not be able to get approved for new credit products like credit cards. Although you may still be able to take out an auto loan or a mortgage, you’ll pay a much higher interest rate because of your low credit score. Compared to a borrower with good credit, someone with poor credit can pay $50,000 more in interest on a mortgage. Over an entire lifetime, you could end up paying over $200,000 more in unnecessary interest just because of bad credit.
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