If you are facing financial difficulties, it's always best to contact your lenders, creditors or service providers (such as your utility company or physicians) as soon as possible. Collection agencies and legal fees cost lenders a lot of money, so they are often open to negotiations, which are free. Call, email or write to explain your financial situation (for example, if you have experienced a job loss or unexpected set of expenses due to medical emergency). Discuss a new payment plan and make a good faith payment. At the least, you might be allowed to skip a payment without penalty or lower your minimum payments.
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.

If you’ve missed enough payments that an account was sent to collections, it can be a tricky proposition. Leave it alone, and it will continue to appear as a blemish on your credit report for a long time. But pay it off, and it still might hurt your score in the short term. Luckily, there’s another way to deal with collections that will help—not hurt—your score, and that’s paying for deletion. Just like it sounds, you’ll contact the collections agency (which will love to hear from you!) and make a deal; if you send in full payment, the collections company will erase the negative reporting from your credit. They may even take less than 100 cents on the dollar to do so – as many debts settle for far less than what was originally owed. Just make sure get this arrangement in writing and mail a check to them certified mail with “Cash only when you delete the account from my credit report” written right above the endorsement line.
You need to review, in detail, your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. You can use AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain your report for free. As you review the report, keep track of any information that you believe is incorrect. Credit scores are built using data from the credit bureaus, so it is important to ensure the data at Experian, Equifax and TransUnion is accurate.
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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.
One of the sneaky-quick ways to increase your score is to add yourself as an authorized user on someone else’s. According to FICO, 35% of your score is based on your history of on-time payments, so when you become an authorized user on a friend or family member’s credit card, car loan, or installment loan, etc. you automatically “assume” the same positive history of payments on your credit report. Viola! Your score will go up as well. You do need to make sure the lender registers your social security number and will start reporting the change, and it can take 30 days to reflect on your own credit report (unless you do a Rapid Rescore—see below). But becoming an authorized user is a fantastic way to benefit from a great payment history that’s not even yours.
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:
Talk to an attorney who specializes in debt collection. Attorneys can investigate whether a debt collector is breaking state or federal law and whether the claim is valid, defend you in court against a fraudulent lawsuit and respond to legal summons for you. You can get representation through a nonprofit legal aid clinic (where legal services are free), pro bono clinics at courthouses or private attorneys.
Now, let’s take this a step further; one of the biggest misconception of this industry is that one’s credit score and credit report are the same thing.  The truth is, both concepts are gravely different. A credit report is a mere profile of your entire credit history – including all your positive and negative moments. This report is held and created by the three credit agencies, or bureau: Equifax, Experian, and Call Credit.  It’s here that lenders can discover if you’ve missed a payment, how many loans you have taken out, and even how reliable you are. On the other hand, a credit score is a number that derives on five different factors from your credit report, which leads us to our next significant section.
The credit union is probably taking all your debt into consideration, not just the mortgage. And with a personal loan, new mortgage, credit cards, car loan and student loan, it sounds like you have quite a few bills you’re handling. It’s understandable you want to get your interest rates down, though, and it’s good you’re trying to be proactive about the process. Just because one lender turned you down doesn’t mean they all will. But you do want to be careful about applying for loans with multiple lenders as the inquiries can impact your scores. You might want to try one of the other options mentioned in the article before you give up. If you get turned down by multiple lenders, though, then you may want to at least talk with a credit counselor to see if they have suggestions.
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.
All very good information.... but I am not sure that getting a credit offer with a pre approval doesn't recheck your credit when you actually apply. Every credit card I signed up for did a credit inquiry.... however.... I really like your advice about adding your daughter to your accounts... this doesnt put a hard inquiry on her credit report and it makes it look like the card is hers. She doesn't even have to use it but it will make her score jump. Great advice
Disclaimer: NerdWallet strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. This information may be different than what you see when you visit a financial institution, service provider or specific product’s site. All financial products, shopping products and services are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please review the financial institution’s Terms and Conditions. Pre-qualified offers are not binding. If you find discrepancies with your credit score or information from your credit report, please contact TransUnion® directly.

Taking out a loan should be a relatively seamless process. There are a lot of lenders to choose from, so conducting research to see which financial institutions provide the best — and worst — user experience can save you a lot of headaches. Browse each bank’s website to review customer service contact options, read reviews and search social media to see what people are saying about your top choices.
If you’ve missed enough payments that an account was sent to collections, it can be a tricky proposition. Leave it alone, and it will continue to appear as a blemish on your credit report for a long time. But pay it off, and it still might hurt your score in the short term. Luckily, there’s another way to deal with collections that will help—not hurt—your score, and that’s paying for deletion. Just like it sounds, you’ll contact the collections agency (which will love to hear from you!) and make a deal; if you send in full payment, the collections company will erase the negative reporting from your credit. They may even take less than 100 cents on the dollar to do so – as many debts settle for far less than what was originally owed. Just make sure get this arrangement in writing and mail a check to them certified mail with “Cash only when you delete the account from my credit report” written right above the endorsement line.
Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service. Bankrate is compensated in exchange for featured placement of sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. This compensation may impact how, where and in what order products appear. Bankrate.com does not include all companies or all available products.
If you have medical debt, you may be wondering what options are available to you. Medical debt can be consolidated into a nonprofit debt management program, though you may not receive lower interest rates. Considering that much medical debt is already at a low or zero interest rate, this should not be a deterrent. By consolidating medical debt to a debt management program, you are simplifying your bill pay and committing to timely, consistent payments of  your medical debt. This will help you pay off your debt faster and also may have a positive impact on your credit score.

Like credit builder loans, secured credit cards are an easy way to build or rebuild credit history. The application process is the same, but secured credit cards require a deposit between $50 and $300 into a separate account. The bank then issues a line of credit that is typically equal to the deposit, allowing you to build a credit history without putting the lender at risk.
One of the biggest considerations people make when deciding whether to file for bankruptcy is the potential impact it will have on their future financial lives. While it can certainly help them clear out massive amounts of debt that they couldn’t handle on their own, it can also restrict their ability to take out loans and credit during the payment term of the bankruptcy by requiring them to get the court’s permission first.
Risks: Overall, a student card can be a great asset for your teen to have in college, but there are a few risks to beware of. If your teen overspends so much that they max out their credit limit, they risk harming their utilization rate — which is the amount of credit they use divided by their total credit limit. For example, if your teen has a $500 credit limit and uses $400, their utilization rate would be 80% ($400/$500). That’s very high, and we recommend keeping utilization below 30%.
I would like to say Thank you for the outstanding service that you gave me. I started the program just four short years ago and in March I will be debt free. With your help in setting better plans with my creditors I was able to accomplish this. It was hard work, but it was all worth it at the end. The Consolidated credit counselors are the best; they answered all of my question(s) and helped me every step of the way.

FICO, myFICO, Score Watch, The score lenders use, and The Score That Matters are trademarks or registered trademarks of Fair Isaac Corporation. Equifax Credit Report is a trademark of Equifax, Inc. and its affiliated companies. Many factors affect your FICO Scores and the interest rates you may receive. Fair Isaac is not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Fair Isaac does not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit record, credit history or credit rating. FTC's website on credit.
If your credit score is pretty good, but not good enough to get you the interest rate you want, you may be able to improve it by taking out a small loan and repaying it as promised – in other words, by adding some positive activity to your credit history. Also, because installment loans add to your mix of credit, obtaining one might improve your score.
Of course, those situations aren't the norm, and most of us with credit card bills looking to get rid of them aren't in that position. That's not to say there aren't situations where debt consolidation loans can offer people who really need them the breathing room to get out of debt and organize their finances. ReadyForZero has a great post on this topic, and showcases some examples of when debt consolidation can be a good choice—and even save you money on interest while getting you out of debt faster.
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.
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."
You don't have to pay your bill in full to have your payment count as on-time; you only have to pay the minimum (though that isn't there to do you any favors – it's there to keep you in debt: You'll be paying lots of interest, and paying off your balance for years). However, if it's all you can afford, you're better off making the minimum payment on time than not making a payment at all. The important thing to remember here is that a consistent history of on-time payments will cause your credit rating to rise.
If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.
While the steps above may seem lengthy and cumbersome, debt management plans exist because some consumers are simply unable to get out of debt on their own. Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), said that an array of circumstances can lead to situations where families need outside help. Job loss, chronic overspending, reduction in work hours, loss of income and unexpected major expenses are often the biggest culprits when consumers spiral into debt they cannot control.
Exactly like that pie that had all of the kids begging for a slice while it was cooking – it’s only done WHEN it’s done. Bad credit is very similar to that pie; both have a distinct smell inciting a call to action. Biting into a piping hot pie and jumping into a high cost, upfront credit repair plan are absolutely on every top ten list of “things that can burn.”  Some things take the time to bake and then cool while others require a history of doing the right things over a period for the maximum results. Fast credit repair is without question the “drive-thru” of consumer credit restoration – nobody ever knows what’s in the bag until it’s too late.  There is no way to “un-bite” into a sandwich that has the wrong dressing or contains items that may cause an allergic reaction. Millions of consumers who bought into the concept of flash credit fixing may not be experiencing rashes or physical side effects, but every time they check their credit score they wish they could have spit out that decision.
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.”
“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.
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.
Several years have passed since technology started to fly by at what seemed like the speed of light and the demand for products and services began to change and adapt to meet the latest consumer pace. Services that previously took weeks were forced to move into days, soon followed by the same day and ultimately “within hours” or even “instant.”  Fast became the motto from the drive-thru windows for food, banking and almost anything and everything and “do it yourself” and “easy assembly in minutes” began to thrive.

The fastest way to repair credit is to START NOW. We’ve been repairing credit on a pay per deletion basis for 8 years and the biggest delay we see is the inability of prospects to just get started. I speak to hundreds of clients a year that i first spoke to 3-4 years ago who just now decided to get started. If they started when we first spoke they would have had their credit fixed quickly. Not instantly.
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.
In more cases than not, debt consolidation loans don't make sense. They're certainly attractive: the lure of being able to pay off all of your credit cards is a strong one, especially in exchange for a single monthly payment to your bank or credit union at a lower interest rate. It's definitely a tantalizing opportunity, but it's not perfect. Remember, debt consolidation loans are financial products, which means financial institutions wouldn't offer them to you if they didn't make money from them. Here are a few tips to make sure you're not falling into a trap:
None of the other banks approved my applications, and my score went down from the very beginning due to the number of “hard inquiries” against my report. Hard inquiries occur when lenders check your credit report before they make lending decisions, and having too many inquiries in a short period of time can result in several dings to your credit score. 
When you find yourself with damaged credit, it’s important to catch your breath and begin laying the foundation for a brighter financial future. Testing your financial literacy and educating yourself are part of that. But the centerpiece of this effort should be your emergency fund. With money saved for a rainy day, you’ll be far less likely to miss payments and damage your credit if met by hefty emergency expenses.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can request that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You can also ask the credit reporting company to provide a statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service, and a dispute on your credit report does not improve your credit score.
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