Along with saving money that you can use for vacations, holidays and retirement, experts suggest putting money regularly into a savings account dedicated to emergencies. If you don't set aside money for emergencies, you can easily get saddled with – and stay in – debt, says Erika Jensen, president of Respire Wealth Management in Houston. "Debt occurs when income minus expenses equals a negative number," she says. "In the absence of savings, that extra spend is going on credit cards. We all know that there will inevitably be months where our expenses exceed our income," she explains. "Everyone knows that scenario. If there isn't any savings, then both of those expenses are covered again by debt."
Isolating your financial needs on different credit-card accounts will help you get the best possible terms on every transaction that you make. For example, you could get the best cash-back credit card for everyday expenses, the best travel rewards card for airfare and hotel reservations, and the best balance-transfer card for reducing the cost of your existing debt.
Carefully review older debt that shows as charged-off. Before contacting the creditor or collection agency, check your state laws to see if the debt is statute-barred or time-barred, meaning that it is too old for creditors to attempt further collection. If it is not statute-barred, even contacting the creditor can re-instate the debt as currently collectible, which can drop your score.
For example, assume you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit. It’s a rewards card, so you use it for everything. In fact, every month, you hit your limit. The statement arrives, you owe $1,000, and you send in a check to pay it off. But the credit card company is likely reporting the statement balance each month. So, it looks like you have a $1,000 limit and a $1,000 balance. That’s a 100 percent credit utilization rate.
When negative information in your report is accurate, only time can make it go away. A credit reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. The seven-year reporting period starts from the date the event took place. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.

Once you complete a plan to repay your debt, you should also complete a thorough review of your credit report. Creditor should automatically inform the credit bureaus that your account is paid or current. However, mistakes and errors happen frequently, particularly following a period of financial hardship. That means it’s up to you to make sure your credit report is up to date and that old errors aren’t hanging around.


Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating. 
Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires a $235 case filing fee and a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee, plus attorney costs. Chapter 7 bankruptcy comes with a $245 case filing fee, a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee and a $15 trustee charge, as well as attorney charges. With both types of bankruptcy, you are also required to pay for two credit counseling sessions that cost $50 to $100 each.
Collections – If there are collections on your credit report, check to be sure there are not multiple reports of the same unpaid bills. Collection accounts are bought and sold, so the same information could be reported by more than one agency, which would make your credit history look worse than it is. Send documentation to prove the debt is listed more than once.
For example, assume you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit. It’s a rewards card, so you use it for everything. In fact, every month, you hit your limit. The statement arrives, you owe $1,000, and you send in a check to pay it off. But the credit card company is likely reporting the statement balance each month. So, it looks like you have a $1,000 limit and a $1,000 balance. That’s a 100 percent credit utilization rate.
If you’re the parent of a teenager, you might wonder if now is the right time to help them open a credit card. It can be hard to decide if they’re ready to take on the responsibility that comes with having a credit card since you need to trust that your teen has the restraint to limit spending and pay on time. Generally, we recommend introducing your teen to credit as soon as you can since credit is such a large part of life as an adult — you need credit to take out loans, apply for a mortgage and even make certain purchases. Plus, it’s important for your teenager to learn how to manage credit responsibly so they can build good credit.
You need to show you can handle credit wisely, so having occasional balances on your credit cards can be a good thing. But in general, when you use your credit cards, try to pay them off as soon as you can (you don't have to wait for the statement in the mail but can pay online anytime). In fact, you can make your record look better than it is by making your payments just before your statement is sent, rather than waiting until you receive it. Most credit card companies report your balance at the same time that they mail your bill. If, for example, your statement goes out on the 15th of the month, pay your bill early (let’s say by the 13th) so the money will arrive prior to the statement being sent out. That way your outstanding credit balance reported to the credit bureaus will be lower.
Additionally, the security deposit you used to obtain the card is used if you were to default on your payment. However, this is not the case if the balance in which you have defaulted happens to be higher than the security deposit amount. Using the security deposit means that even if you default, the card will be paid because it is secured by your funds and you will not have the account end up in collections due to nonpayment.
The content on this page provides general consumer information. It is not legal advice or regulatory guidance. The CFPB updates this information periodically. This information may include links or references to third-party resources or content. We do not endorse the third-party or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. There may be other resources that also serve your needs.

If you have one of those letters we mentioned earlier that details your credit problems, you have some idea of what’s holding you back. Even though it may seem complex, as we mentioned, your credit score is based on five core factors: payment history, credit utilization, the age of credit accounts, mix of credit accounts and history of applying for credit. They’re not equally weighted, and this information will most likely vary between credit bureaus.
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