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.
You may have heard that some creditors are willing to settle your debt for pennies on the dollar. In reality, credit card debt forgiveness is rare and tricky, and can be very costly. You have to first be in serious arrears. Then you have to convince your creditors that you don’t have the means to repay your debt and your situation isn’t likely to change. If you manage to work out a debt settlement agreement, the creditor is all but guaranteed to report your forgiven debt to the IRS. The forgiven debt is considered taxable income.
Step 1: Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Use our sample letter to help write your own. Include copies (NOT originals) of any documents that support your position. In addition to including your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your report that you dispute; state the facts and the reasons you dispute the information, and ask that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report, and circle the items in question. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document that the credit reporting company got it. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
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.
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.
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Many times people who may or may not require surgery consult a surgeon for advice and forget to gather that second opinion from a non-interested party. Logic would dictate that asking a mechanic if there is anything wrong with a car is probably going to result in a repair and a charge. Sometimes all it takes is that second opinion which can save additional surgeries or costly auto repairs in a world where “extra” expense and unnecessary pain simply do not belong. Fast credit repair companies make it sound simple when it comes time for paying the big upfront fee, but the complications often follow.
Traditional debt consolidation companies review your debts, income and credit score. If you qualify for a debt consolidation loan, they will discuss terms with you which will include the repayment period, the interest rate and the monthly payment. After you are issued a check, you will pay off all of your individual credit cards and owe one monthly payment to the credit consolidation company. One of the downsides of working with a traditional debt consolidator is that your credit card accounts are open and available for use. You may be tempted to continue using your cards and could wind up doubling your debt. Consider the following tips if you decide to work with a traditional debt consolidation company and take out a brand new loan:
The Affinity Secured Visa® Credit Card requires cardholders to join the Affinity FCU. You may qualify through participating organizations, but if you don’t, anyone can join the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education by making a $5 donation when you fill out your online application. This card has an 12.35% Variable APR, which is one of the lowest rates available for a no annual fee secured card and is nearly half the amount major issuers charge. This is a good rate if you may carry a balance — but try to pay each statement in full.
But even if you have a low credit score, go ahead and do the research to see if you can find a better deal than the one you have right now. "Those with the best credit scores typically qualify for the best rates on their new personal loans, but don't let an average or even poor score keep you from requesting quotes," says Norris. "This is especially true if you have more than $10,000 in credit card debt and those cards charge exorbitant interest rates, which most of them do."
Companies that want you to lie about credit history or create a new credit identity can get you into legal trouble. Companies that provide “new” identifying information use stolen Social Security numbers, and if you use this number then you are committing fraud. Likewise using an Employee Identification Number or Credit Profile Number provided by these companies is a crime. Rather than committing fraud, take the steps below to improve credit on your own.

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.
“If [a filer] falls behind, then the trustee files a motion to dismiss, which [the filer] would either allow or explain to the judge what happened, and [their] plan for getting back current,” Albaugh said. Without a plan to get back on track, Albaugh said a homeowner could be facing some trouble. “If you were using [Chapter 13] to get caught up on a house, then the foreclosure process starts back up again and you lose that bankruptcy protection,” he said.
This part of your credit score will look at how much debt you have. Your credit report uses your statement balance. So, even if you pay your credit card statement in full every month (never pay any interest), it would still show as debt on your credit report, because it uses your statement balance. This part of your score will look at a few elements:
Applying for and opening up a new credit card increases your overall credit limit compared to the amount you have used. This, too, can result in a nice credit score bump the following month, but only works if you have good credit. One drawback: You may initially receive a 10 to 25-point new credit score ding which will readjust after a few months of responsible credit behavior.
No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. You can ask for an investigation —at no charge to you — of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. Some people hire a company to investigate for them, but anything a credit repair company can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. By law:
The first step and tip that we can offer anyone interest in fast credit repair is to look at their credit report. This single document contains so much information that it’s quite easy for there to be minor mistakes, and even major mistakes. With that being said, take the time to receive your annual free copy of your credit report and analyze the entire document. Look at your address, previous loans, and even inquiries to see if everything is truthful. When it comes to inquiries, they should not be posted for more than two years. If there are any inquiries longer than this, they should be removed. In any case, if there are any discrepancies, credit holders have the power to file a claim to remove the falsified information. In many cases, through doing this, it can significantly improve your credit score.
Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it® Student Cash Back was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students. 
One of the quick credit repair tactics to consider first is seeing if you can increase the credit limits on your current accounts. And this is just a matter of reaching out to your credit card companies and requesting a credit limit increase. According to FICO, 30% of your credit score is tied to the amount owed on your credit accounts. A primary way they evaluate this is something called your credit utilization ratio. The ratio is simply a matter of how much you owe vs your credit limits.
Step 2: Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if the information is found to be inaccurate, the provider may not report it again.
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.
Typically this is how these companies work: Instead of obtaining a new loan to pay off your credit cards, the debt management company tries to negotiate with the credit card companies to reduce your interest rates or otherwise lower your monthly payments. Each month, you make a single payment to the debt consolidation firm and it distributes a portion of your payment to each of your creditors. Usually, it also keeps a portion (or sometimes all) of your payment to cover its own fees.

With that being said, I went to apply for a personal loan to be added to my 5,500 loan for $3,500 to pay off the CC debt and eliminate the high interest rate payments (saving me over $100 a month), but was declined due to increase of debt. So I guess my question is, how is someone to pay off other debts if credit unions are judging your debt off a mortgage payment? My debt to income has not changed since the original loan and I have a “fair” credit score according to a credit simulator. I just purchased a home which wiped out my savings, so what is my best option here?


For example, let’s say you want to use a credit card balance transfer to consolidate. Almost any balance transfer credit card you choose will have a fee that’s applied for each balance transferred. Some have a $3 fee per transfer, while others are 3% of the balance you move. That’s a big difference. If you transfer $25,000, then the 3% card will increase the cost of debt elimination by $750.
If you are considering using a debt relief or debt consolidation company, arm yourself with information. For a fee, they negotiate with your creditors on your behalf, resulting in lower balances or interest rates. Legitimate debt relief companies will obtain a written agreement from each one of your creditors, detailing the terms of the agreement, your obligations, and what will be reported to the credit bureaus. In some cases, if your balances are lowered the creditor might report bad debt or a charge-off, which will negatively impact your credit history and score. Also keep in mind that debt relief companies generally charge higher interest rates than your bank or mortgage lender, particularly if you have less than stellar credit. So you might not save much in the long run, especially once you factor in fees. It’s up to you to do the math.
Of the major credit repair organizations, only Lexington Law has received an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. The Credit People and CreditRepair.com received high ratings from their consumers online, but are not rated by the Better Business Bureau. These companies don’t do anything you can’t do yourself, but they may be worth your money if you’ve got a lot of negative information to remove.
The debt management companies will refrain from making payments and attempt to negotiate a settlement with the creditors on your behalf. In general, credit card companies will collect aggressively for the first 180 days. After 180 days, the debt is written off. Many banks will then sell that debt to collection agencies at a fraction of the face value. Collection agencies are usually willing to take a discounted settlement from the borrower, because they did not pay full price for the debt. These programs can take a couple of years to complete and the negative information stays on your credit report for seven years.
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.
If a collector contacts you, they could be breaking the law as they try to get you to repay debts. Rheingold said one common fraud is debt collection companies buying past-due debt for extremely low prices at “debt auctions” and then trying to collect it. Often, the debt collection company only has a little information about the debtor and no information about the actual debt. If you don’t pay, however, they may try to take you to court.
It's tempting, isn't it? Getting rid of all of your credit card bills, no more annoying multiple payment to multiple creditors, just one, automatic loan payment every month that comes out of your account automatically and you're back on the road to being debt free, right? Well sure—but it comes with a couple of pretty big caveats that might sour the milk for you. Let's explain, and then you can decide whether it's a good idea in your case.
Consolidating credit cards and leveraging low balance transfer offers has the potential to increase your credit score. But to accomplish this, it’s important to follow a few pointers. For example, for the general population, 30 percent of the FICO® Credit Score is determined by “credit utilization,” which is the amount of credit actually being used.1
For one thing, the new account could decrease the average age of accounts on your credit reports — a higher average age is generally better for your score. Additionally, if you applied for a private student loan, the application could lead to the lender reviewing your credit history. A record of this, known as a “hard inquiry” or “hard credit check,” remains on your report and may hurt your score a little.
The best way to handle these types of information lines on your credit report is to dispute them but you have to remember that if that isn't done correctly, it is like kicking a hornets nest. Just calling them and saying, "hey, I dispute this." is NOT good enough, regardless of what ANYONE says. It has to be done with a certified, return receipt letter that has been properly worded to prevent the sleezy little buggers from using a loophole. You can find a lot of information out there about how to do this on sites from people like Dave Ramsey or with self help books like Weathering Debt (either one works, but I prefer Weathering Debt, it was much more concise and to the point) but whatever you do, DON'T try to wing it and don't pay someone to do something you can do yourself with ease and for free. Besides, you need to know how to stop the problem from happening again, right?

One of the biggest pitfalls of debt consolidation is the risk of running up new debt before the consolidated debt is paid off. When you finish paying off credit cards with a consolidation loan, don’t be tempted to use the credit cards with their newly free credit limits. If you think you might, close the accounts. You may have heard that doing so could hurt your credit score, and it might. But you can recover from credit score damage much more easily and quickly than you can recover from crushing debt.


If your teen is ready for their own card, a secured credit card is a good place to start.  A secured card is similar to a traditional “unsecured” card, except it requires a security deposit to access credit. Your teen can build credit by charging a small amount each month to their secured card and paying it off in full and on time each month. They can eventually upgrade to an unsecured card, and we’ll explain how below.
Besides imposing no annual fee, the card has other perks, like rewarding me with a $20 statement credit when I reported a good GPA (up to 5 consecutive years), letting me earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in rotating categories, and matching the cash-back bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.
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.

However, there is a big risk to using a debt consolidation loan. Once you pay off your credit cards, you will be tempted with a lot of newly available credit. If you got into debt because you spent too much money on credit cards, creating more spending power on your credit cards can be a dangerous strategy. Dave Ramsey regularly tells listeners that they cannot borrow their way out of debt. On his blog, he write that "debt consolidation is nothing more than a "con" because you think you’ve done something about the debt problem. The debt is still there, as are the habits that caused it — you just moved it!"


In addition to a cashback program, this card provides valuable credit resources such as free access to your FICO® Score and a Credit Resource Center — just note these services are available whether you’re a cardholder or not. Discover also takes the guesswork out of wondering when you’re ready for an unsecured card (aka a regular credit card) by performing automatic monthly account reviews, starting at eight months of card membership.
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have (loans, credit cards, etc.), their status (open/closed, in collections), balances, credit limits and payment details. This may also include dates of missed payments or late payments, or when the accounts were sent to collections. From these details, your credit scores will be formed.
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