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.

Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. You may order reports from each of the three credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your requests throughout the year.


Your bill-paying habits can help or hinder your ability to get a good interest rate. It’s not uncommon for lenders to review your track record of paying noncredit accounts, such as rent, utilities and phone bill. Lenders, credit bureaus and credit scoring firms generally believe that the past is the greatest indicator of future behavior, so this data can provide telling insights.
You have a low score, so I’m going to guess you have some charged-off, unpaid or seriously delinquent accounts on your credit report. The damage to your credit score has already happened. What you can do initially is make sure the negatives reported on your credit file are accurate and not out of date. Look over your credit reports, and dispute any negative items that you don’t think are yours or are more than 7 years old. Once you have ensured your history is accurate, you can work on adding new, positive data.
If your current credit score isn’t great, take measures to improve it. Payment history and credit utilization can make up to 70% of a credit score, according to Experian, so simply paying your bills on time and keeping your balances low can be a tremendous help. You can also help your score by only applying for new credit only when absolutely necessary and getting a head start at paying your loans off now, if possible.
Yesterday, Margot used Card #3 to buy an $800 flat-screen TV. Although she only used 8 percent of her total credit limit of $10,000, she charged 80 percent of Card #3’s $1,000 limit. While it’s not an exact science, making an effort to even distribute expenses will likely help your score. Next time Margot wants to spend $800, she should take advantage of Card #2, which would only charge 16 percent of its limit. Utilization can be a friend or foe—practice some planning and let this credit repair component work for you.

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.
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.
The secured credit card is a way to build and establish credit to obtain higher credit scores. If you found that you cannot get approved for a traditional credit card, you’re still likely to get approved for a secured credit card because there is less risk for the lender. The card issuer will report to the credit bureaus about your ability to pay the credit card on time and how you manage and use the balance.
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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