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 you see missed payments that shouldn’t have been there, write it down. Your credit score is negatively impacted when you are 30 days or more past due. If you see a balance on a card that you haven’t used in years, it could be because the account has been stolen. Misinformation in the accounts section harms your credit score, so make a note of all incorrect information.
If you do not make your payment on time, most credit cards will immediately hit you with a steep late fee. Once you are 30 days late, you will likely be reported to the credit bureau. Late payments can have a big, negative impact on your score. Once you are 60 days late, you can end up losing your low balance transfer rate and be charged a high penalty interest rate, which is usually close to 30%. Just automate your payments so you never have to worry about these fees.
Despite the rosy national picture, we see regional and age-based disparities. A minority of Southerners still rank below prime credit. In contrast, credit scores in the upper Midwest rank well above the national average. Younger consumers struggle with their credit, but boomers and the Silent Generation secured scores well above the national average.
You’ll use your own money as collateral by putting down a deposit, which is often about $150 – $250. Typically, the amount of your deposit will then be your credit limit. You should make one small purchase each month and then pay it off on time and in full. Once you prove you’re responsible, you can get back your deposit and upgrade to a regular credit card. Read more about secured cards here.
It sounds like you are in a Catch-22 – you can’t pay down your debt without consolidating, and you can’t consolidate until you pay down your debt. That makes me think that you could be a good candidate for credit counseling. A credit counseling agency does not care about your credit scores. Your interest rates and payments will likely be reduced, and you will have a plan for paying back your debt in a reasonable period of time. We talked about that more in this article: Does Credit Counseling Work?
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’ll need to go to an Edward Jones branch to open up an account first if you want this deal. Edward Jones is an investment advisory company, so they’ll want to have a conversation about your retirement needs. But you don’t need to have money in stocks to be a customer of Edward Jones and try to get this card. Just beware that you only have 60 days to complete your transfer to lock in the intro 0% for 12 billing cycles, and after the intro period a 14.99% Variable APR applies. This deal expires 10/31/2018.
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.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to give your statement to anyone who got a copy of your report in the recent past. You’ll probably have to pay for this service.
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.