There are two main ways to dispute errors on your credit reports – you can either do it yourself, or you can hire a professional credit repair firm to handle it for you. If you’re situation is such that you’re in need of quick credit repair, the credit repair firm is probably the way to go. They would have in place procedures for effectively challenging, communicating, and monitoring the removal of incorrect information. If you were to do it yourself, you would have to go through the learning curve of putting that all in place, and knowing how to get the results you desire.
A credit card could very well be the source of your credit-score sorrow. But it’s also your score’s best chance at recovery. You can’t remove negative records that are accurate from your credit reports. So the best you can hope for is to devalue them with a steady flow of positive information. And credit cards are perfect for the job because anyone can get them, they can be free to use, and they don’t force you to go into debt. Plus, they report information to the major credit bureaus on a monthly basis.
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.
Are you the type of credit-holder who likes to open multiple credit lines at the same time, like store credit cards during the holiday season? This type of financial behavior will impact the fourth factor used to calculate your credit score: new credit lines. With this category, it’s not so much about opening many new credit lines, it’s about how many new credit lines you are opening. In other words, you do NOT want to open 3 to 4 new credit cards at the same time – this will be counter productive to your credit score.
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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.
If you use your credit card at an ATM, it will be treated as a cash advance. Most credit cards charge an upfront cash advance fee, which is typically about 5%. There is usually a much higher “cash advance” interest rate, which is typically above 20%. And there is no grace period, so interest starts to accrue right away. A cash advance is expensive, so beware.
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For secured debts, the value of the underlying collateral must be paid to those lenders, which can also increase your overall debt burden under the plan. And because the debts take several years to be discharged, the debtor is expected to maintain payments during that time. If they cannot, then they may find their filing dismissed and collections and foreclosure procedures restarting.
So, the first thing you should do is assess the damage by looking at a current credit report issued from one (or all) of the three major credit bureaus. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, every American has the legal right to receive one free report from each one of the companies per year, which will save you some money on processing fees. You can get access to each one at the site annualcreditreport.com.
“A good credit repair company will scrub questionable credit report items against other laws — like the Fair Credit Billing Act, which regulates original creditors; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which oversees collection agencies; and others that address medical illness, military service, student status and other life events,” Padawer said.
You cannot pay down your debt on your own and you continue falling further and further behind. “It makes sense to file bankruptcy when you can no longer keep up with your bills,” said Leslie H. Tayne, a debt resolution attorney and founder of Tayne Law Group, based in Melville, N.Y. “If commercial creditors are breathing down your neck or if you are in danger of losing your home, it may then make sense to file bankruptcy.”
A good credit repair company will first pull your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies to pinpoint your credit issues. Why all three? Because each credit reporting agency has its own “data furnishers” (aka lenders, credit card companies, debt collectors, etc.), who report your credit information to them. And there may be errors that appear on one of your credit reports, but don’t appear on the others
They may be willing to waive some of the late penalties or spread the past due balance over few payments. Let them know you're anxious to avoid charge-off, but need some help. Your creditor may even be willing to re-age your account to show your payments as current rather than delinquent, but you'll have to actually talk to your creditors to negotiate.
A HELOC typically charges a variable interest rate tied to a benchmark such as Prime Lending Rate. You only owe interest when you tap (use) your credit line. A HELOC often has a 10-year "draw" period when you can borrow against it, before you must start repayment. A HEL is typically a fixed-rate loan with a set payback period of five to 10 years or so.
However, each model weights the information differently. This means that a FICO® Score cannot be compared directly to a VantageScore® or an Equifax Risk Score. For example, a VantageScore® does not count paid items in collections against you. However, a FICO® Score counts all collections items against you, even if you’ve paid them. Additionally, the VantageScore® counts outstanding debt against you, but the FICO® Score only considers how much credit card debt you have relative to your available credit.
Rates can vary depending on where you live: The rate that is advertised on LendKey is the lowest possible rate among all of its lenders, and some of these lenders are only available to residents of specific areas. So even if you have an excellent credit report, there is still a possibility that you will not receive the lowest rate, depending on geographic location.
Here’s a good example of when a reputable credit repair service can help you do something you may not be able to accomplish yourself. If you have a collection account that’s been sold to a few different debt collectors, it may appear on your credit report multiple times. That information is accurate but having that one debt dinging your credit score multiple times may not meet the “fair” standard Padawer mentioned.
While credit building loans can be a key step in establishing a strong credit history, it’s imperative that you make all of your payments in full and on time. When you are committed to building a strong financial future with personal budgeting and spending discipline, successfully paying off a credit builder loan can lead to approval for good rates and terms on mortgages, auto loans and other loans in the future.
Some lenders might be open to renegotiating terms with you to reduce interest rates, create payment plans that get you caught up, remove fees and maybe even forgive portions of balances. Just remember that if this happens, you may have tax consequences since forgiven and canceled debts may be taxable. Additionally, according to Albaugh, sometimes settling with creditors on your own requires a lump-sum payment, whereas bankruptcy allows for installment payments on a lowered amount.
While it’s not a requirement to file, it should be noted that there is a second financial planning course that must be taken before a filer makes their last payment on the Chapter 13 plan. This course prepares the filer for financial success after the bankruptcy is final, which helps reduce the likelihood that they’ll need to rely on bankruptcy again in the future.
In general, older consumers have higher credit scores than younger generations. Credit scoring models consider consumers with longer credit histories less risky than those with short credit histories. The Silent Generation and boomers enjoy higher credit scores due to long credit histories. However, these generations show better credit behavior, too. Their revolving credit utilization rates are lower than younger generations. They are less likely to have a severely delinquent credit item on their credit report.
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.
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.