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.”
Over one-third of your score depends on whether you pay your creditors on time. So, make sure you pay all your bills by their due dates, keep receipts, canceled checks or reference numbers to prove you did so. While utility and phone bills aren't normally figured into your credit score, they may appear on a credit report when they're delinquent, especially if the provider has sent your account to a collection agency and forwarded that information to the bureaus.
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.
Repairing your credit includes paying off those debt collection accounts. Until you do, you face relentless calls and letters from debt collectors. While you can take action to stop debt collector calls, collection accounts often move from one debt collector to another. When a new collector gets your debt, you’ll have to go through the process of sending letters to stop the calls all over again.
Start by getting debt help from a credit counselor. The counselor might even help you negotiate your own agreements with creditors. If you develop and follow a get-out-of-debt plan with the help of a counselor (as opposed to consolidating your debt), your credit score will rise over time faster than it will if you declare bankruptcy or ignore your debts, as you make on-time payments and reduce your overall debt load. You’ll also avoid the hit to your score that comes with the new hard inquiry we talked about earlier.
A home equity loan might be a good option for you. If you’re looking to find a loan, LendingTree (the parent company of MagnifyMoney) might be able to help. With its online marketplace, you’re able to use one form to potentially be matched with up to five offers at once. First choose the type of property you need the home equity loan for, such as a condo, single family home or a townhouse. Then finish completing the form by adding your personal information and you’ll instantly receive offers available to you.
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.
Rachel Kampersal said debt management plans require you to change your habits dramatically since you will have to stop using credit. “Per requirements from creditors, any card that is entered into a debt management plan will be closed, meaning you can no longer make charges to these cards. While difficult, it’s important to stop incurring new debt.”
If your wallet is stuffed with multiple credit cards staying on top of your accounts is probably a hassle you could do without. Keeping track of balances and due dates takes some elbow grease, and then there's the not-fun monthly ritual of figuring out how much you can afford to pay on each card. The good news is that if you are currently juggling a few cards with balances, you may be able to streamline your credit by consolidating your credit cards.
Your credit score (often referred to as your FICO score) provides a snapshot of your credit status. It's determined by a variety of factors, and obviously, you need to understand the components that affect your credit score before you can start to repair it. Although the exact formula used by the Fair Isaac Corporation, which compiles the score, is proprietary and not publicly disclosed, here's basically what it looks at, and how each factor is weighed:
Your best bet is to call and ask to see if they can put you on a payment plan where you can afford to pay them (even if it’s just the bare minimum a month) or if they will possibly settle for less money. A tip: anything that has your name attached (banking account,utility bills, credit cards, anything you finance, student loans, medical bills, car loans, home loans, your apartment, etc) that you miss a few payments on or don’t pay at all can be reported to the credit agencies and sold to collections companies.