If you’re unable to pay all of your bills on time, “cushion the blow to your credit score by defaulting on just one account. There is a component in the FICO score called 'prevalence,'" says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com. "That means having five collections is worse than having one." He recommends that you “let the account with the highest monthly payment fall behind to free up more money every month to pay your other debt obligations.”

Next, pay the balances due on any collection or charged-off accounts. Paying what you owe will not immediately cause a significant improvement in your credit score, but anyone considering granting you a loan or new credit will want to see that you did pay what you owed, even if it was late. Lastly, pay down balances on your open credit card accounts to between 30 and 50 percent of your credit limit. Even better, pay them off in full, and pay them in full each month thereafter. Low balances relative to your limit will add points to your score.
What is it? A debt management plan, or DMP, consolidates your credit card payments — not your credit card debt. Instead of making several payments to various creditors, you make one payment to your DMP and your credit counselor will use that payment to pay the debt you owe to various lenders. Your counselor may also try to negotiate lower rates and fees associated with your debt.
Be punished for missed payments: Not all late payments are created equally. If you are fewer than 30 days late, your missed payment will likely not be reported to the bureau (although you still will be subject to late fees and potential risk-based re-pricing, which can be very expensive). Once you are 30 days late, you will be reported to the credit bureau. The longer you go without paying, the bigger the impact on your score, ie: 60 days late is worse than 30 days late. A single missed payment (of 30 days or more) can still have a big impact on your score. It can take anywhere from 60 to 110 points off your score.
A quick Google search yielded this terms and conditions sheet, which may be slightly different than the one you’d receive if you applied for a card. According to the one we found, Credit One charges an annual membership fee from $0 to $99. Credit line minimums are between $300 and $500. So you could be paying $99 for a $300 credit limit. APR is relatively standard, but on the high side, with variable 19.15% to 25.24%. Given the high annual fees, we recommend saving your money and using a secured card with no annual fee to begin rebuilding your credit score.
A debt management plan is a formal plan to restructure and pay off your debt. A company will manage the plan and negotiate some cost reductions with your creditors, such as waived fees or a lower interest rate. You’ll make a single payment to the plan manager, who will distribute the funds to your creditors. While you’re in the program, you won’t be able to use your credit cards or open new ones. The plan is designed to get you out of debt in three to five years, after which all of your accounts should be reported as paid-as-agreed.
Once you’ve confirmed the accuracy of your credit reports, you can begin working on the mistakes that you’re responsible for. One easy way to pinpoint your credit-score weaknesses is to sign up for a free WalletHub account. Your Credit Analysis will include a grade for each component of your latest credit score as well as personalized advice for how to improve problem areas.

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.

Harzog was a successful freelance journalist for over 20 years, writing for major national magazines and custom publications. She became so entrenched in the credit industry, that in 2008, she was approached by CardRatings.com to be a credit card spokesperson for their site. In 2010, Harzog then went on to become the credit card expert for Credit.com.
Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.
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