If you don’t address the exact cause of your bad credit, the damage is likely to worsen the longer it goes untreated. For example, if you’ve missed a few credit-card payments, repaying at least the minimum amount needed to change your account’s status from “delinquent” to “paid” on your credit reports will prevent your score from falling further. The same is true of collections accounts, tax liens and other derogatory marks — at least to a certain extent.
You may have heard that some creditors are willing to settle your debt for pennies on the dollar. In reality, credit card debt forgiveness is rare and tricky, and can be very costly. You have to first be in serious arrears. Then you have to convince your creditors that you don’t have the means to repay your debt and your situation isn’t likely to change. If you manage to work out a debt settlement agreement, the creditor is all but guaranteed to report your forgiven debt to the IRS. The forgiven debt is considered taxable income.
Consolidating the debt probably won’t hurt your credit scores over the long run, but there could be a short-term impact from the new loan with a balance. So I can’t guarantee that your scores won’t dip when you do this. If your scores are strong enough to get the lease now you may want to go ahead and do that. If not you may be taking something of a chance – it could go either way. Will Debt Consolidation Help or Hurt Your Credit?
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.
Step 2: Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if the information is found to be inaccurate, the provider may not report it again.
Paying your outstanding balance a few days after you receive your paycheck, rather than waiting until your due date, will help minimize the balance that’s reported to the credit bureaus and used to calculate your credit utilization. This can work both with multiple monthly payments or a carefully timed single payment. Automating withdrawals from a bank account is a great way to enforce the plan and eliminate forgetfulness.
Since a good portion of your credit score is based on your ratio of debt balances versus your total available credit (called Utilization Rate – and about 30% of your score), a great way to improve your Utilization without paying down debt is by requesting a credit line increase. Simply call each of your credit cards or revolving debt holders and ask them if they’ll increase your total credit line. If and when they do so, your credit utilization ratio will automatically improve, and your score will rise accordingly. For instance, if you owe $5,000 on a tradeline with a $10,000 limit, your utilization ratio is at 50%. But if this same creditor increases your available credit to $15,000, your ratio instantly sinks to 33% – which is far closer to FICO’s ideal ratios! You may be able to achieve this with a simple phone call (and some convincing), and the worst they can say is “no.” Either way, it’s not requesting a new tradeline or opening new credit so your score will never go down.
The best way to consolidate debt varies by individual, depending on your financial circumstances and preferences. For some, the best way to consolidate debt may be paying off smaller balances first and then adding those payments to the bigger bills until those are paid off. Others might consider transferring balances to one credit card or getting a consolidation loan. However, consolidating balances to one credit card or using a loan can be risky because, if you need to borrow additional money, it may be tempting to use one of the accounts with a zero balance. Then the debt grows, and you can find yourself in financial trouble quickly.
The root cause of your debts hasn’t been settled.Florida consumer protection lawyer Donald E. Petersen said consumers should not file bankruptcy until the root cause of their financial distress is solved. “If a consumer has severe health problems and is incurring medical bills that they are unable to pay, do not file bankruptcy until after the course of treatment is complete,” he said. “Similarly, consumers who are unable to pay their bills because they are unemployed or underemployed should not file bankruptcy until their employment status has stabilized at compensation that they can live on without accumulating additional debts in order to meet ordinary living expenses.”
There’s a possibility that a third-party debt collector will sue you if you don’t agree to make payments on your debt, regardless of whether you actually owe the money. If you do receive a court summons, do not ignore it, Rheingold said. Be sure to show up on your appointed date, with an attorney if you can, to make sure that the court doesn’t rubber-stamp a judgment against you.
If you're hopelessly drowning in debt, know that you can't negotiate any lower interest rates with your credit card companies or creditors, or if the math works out, a debt consolidation loan may be a good decision for you. Similarly, if you're in serious trouble with high interest rates, high monthly payments (that you're having trouble with already), and too many bills, a debt consolidation loan might help. Combined with a debt repayment plan or credit counseling, it can be used to pay off all of your debt at a fraction of their original cost. If it may be a good time to strike, pay it all off, and walk away debt-free. Photo by erules123.
Chapter 13 also makes it easier to repay debt since it effectively consolidates all the listed debt into one payment that can be made to the trustee monthly. In the case of what’s called a “cramdown,” Chapter 13 may even allow a debtor to reduce the amount owed on their secured debt by reducing the balance to match the value of the underlying collateral and effectively reducing the interest.
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.
“Credit repair leverages your legal right to three standards: Credit reports must be 100% accurate, entirely fair, and fully substantiated,” Padawer said. “Too many lesser credit repair companies skip over those last two standards — which involve communicating with your creditors — in favor of depending upon simple credit bureau disputes by themselves.”
Get the advice of a nonprofit credit counselor before consolidating your credit card debt. Credit counseling offers free debt help and the expert advice could save you time and money. You may find out that your debts are indeed overwhelming and bankruptcy is best your option, or that your debts are judgment proof and thus you have nothing to lose by defaulting.
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Improving your credit score is a bit like losing weight: It takes a while. Unless there are major errors on your credit report that you can easily get erased, there is no quick fix. Often, it takes at least a couple years to go from a low score to a high one. But at least, you'll be improving your financial position, and building up good financial habits, in the interim.
If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
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.
Talk to an attorney who specializes in debt collection. Attorneys can investigate whether a debt collector is breaking state or federal law and whether the claim is valid, defend you in court against a fraudulent lawsuit and respond to legal summons for you. You can get representation through a nonprofit legal aid clinic (where legal services are free), pro bono clinics at courthouses or private attorneys.
If you find that you're always struggling to have enough money in your account, establishing automatic payments is a simple way to pad your savings. "When you get your direct deposit from your payroll, you can set it up with your bank that a certain portion automatically goes into your savings account," says Danial Tariq, vice president at Quontic Bank in New York City. "The idea is that you do not spend what you get. You are not tempted to spend a portion of your income because you don't even see it. It's human [nature to think] 'Oh, I have $500. I can spend $500.'"
The key to this strategy is obtaining more credit, but not using more credit. In other words, if your limit goes up $1,000, don’t go out and charge half of it. Think of the boost as a way to save money later when you apply for an auto loan, home loan or another form of long-term debt where a high credit score will likely result in big savings via a lower interest rate.
One of the most underestimated factors of calculating your credit score is one’s credit mix. People tend to not even think about the importance of diversifying their credit portfolio. There is a reason why wealthy individuals always talk about diversifying your credit portfolio – it directly impacts your credit score. If you only have a few lines of credit open, and they all happen to be credit cards, this will not look as good as if you had three different lines of credit, like a credit card, mortgage, and car loan. While it may only accumulate 10%, this is still a significant portion to consider.
Otherwise, the advice you have given is great and works well for a quick boost but having the ability to remove lines of information from your credit history is even better because once it is gone, it can no longer affect your score. BTW - don't take my word or anyone elses for that matter, educate yourself! You can find either of the sources I mentioned just by Googling either of them if you want and I promise you, the more information you have, the better!
Capital One is an odd example of this. I have read many reviews that state that after 18 months with stellar payment history and carrying no balance that users were told they qualified for an unsecured card but would first have to close the secured card (In order to get the deposit refunded) - or you can keep the secured card and open the new unsecured card as well. A few people indicated they were able to graduate without changing the card and it was converted for them - but 95% of reviews speak to how difficult it is to get deposits back - even from them.
If you recognize the account but believe the information being reported is not correct, you should reach out directly to the financial institution that reported the information. For example, if you recognize the credit card, but do not recognize the late payment - speak with the credit card company. Often the bank or credit card company can fix the issue and update the credit bureaus directly.