According to Kim Cole, community engagement manager at credit counseling agency Navicore Solutions, bankruptcy can make sense when life circumstances cause people’s finances to spiral out of control. Very often, she said, her company works with consumers who have racked up insurmountable amounts of medical debt that they couldn’t pay off if they tried. Other times, bankruptcy is the result of job loss or another unintended loss of income.
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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 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.'"
What's more, each time you apply for credit, the potential lender will check your score. Each time your credit is checked, other potential lenders worry about the additional debt that you may be taking on. Sometimes, the act of opening a new account, or even applying for one, can lower your score. Having lots of recent inquiries on your credit report dings your score temporarily. So don't apply for cards often, if you want to raise your score, and don’t constantly move your balance from card to card to get a special 0% APR. It will likely hurt your score more than it helps.
Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit scores. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.
With a balance transfer, you move your existing credit card debts onto a new card. Depending on your credit score, you may be able to qualify for a balance transfer card that doesn't charge any interest for an introductory period that can be up to a year or more. Yep—zero interest. The average credit card interest rate these days is nearly 13%. Having a year or more where you're charged little to no interest gives you the opportunity to use every available dollar to pay down the balance.
Your best bet is to call and ask to see if they can put you on a payment plan where you can afford to pay them (even if it’s just the bare minimum a month) or if they will possibly settle for less money. A tip: anything that has your name attached (banking account,utility bills, credit cards, anything you finance, student loans, medical bills, car loans, home loans, your apartment, etc) that you miss a few payments on or don’t pay at all can be reported to the credit agencies and sold to collections companies.