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 general, older consumers have higher credit scores than younger generations. Credit scoring models consider consumers with longer credit histories less risky than those with short credit histories. The Silent Generation and boomers enjoy higher credit scores due to long credit histories. However, these generations show better credit behavior, too. Their revolving credit utilization rates are lower than younger generations. They are less likely to have a severely delinquent credit item on their credit report.
Your credit score can be affected by consolidating credit card debt — but the overall effect on your credit score should be positive, as long as you pay off your debt. If you open a new credit product like a credit card and consolidate your credit card debt, your credit score may temporarily decrease due to the inquiry and opening of a new account, but it’ll bounce back soon. Your score can actually benefit from the increased line of credit you’ll receive from the new card, as long as you keep your other credit cards open. And if you are consolidating credit card debt with a personal loan, you should see a boost to your score because you are paying off revolving lines of credit. Also, by taking out a fixed-rate installment loan, your mix of credit may improve, which is one of the factors that make up your credit score.
If you already have a good-to-excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. When you refinance your loans, you take out a new credit-based private student loan and use the money to pay off some or all of your current loans. (The lender will generally send the money directly to your loan servicers.)
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.
If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.
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.”
Credit utilization is the second most important factor when calculating an individual’s credit score. Simply, credit utilization is how much credit you have used in comparison to how much lenders have provided you. For example, if you have three credit cards with a limit of $3,000 on each card, your total credit would be $9,000. Now, say after a weekend of house decorating, you spent $4,500 on your credit cards – your credit utilization would be 50%. Credit utilization is another facet in which credit holders have complete control over. By landing your utilization in the 25%-45% bracket, your credit score will be optimized.
Bad credit is not a life sentence, which is good news for the roughly one-third of people with credit scores below 620. So if your credit is damaged, there are indeed steps that you can take to rebuild. After all, rebuilding credit is a process that takes time and requires focus on the fundamentals. And we’ll explain exactly what you need to do below.
You're also entitled to a free credit report if you've been turned down for credit because of something on your credit report, if you're currently receiving government assistance, if you're unemployed and planning to look for a job soon, or if you think you've been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft. Some states even have laws that let you get an additional free credit report each year. All these free credit reports should be ordered directly through the credit bureaus.
Before becoming a writer, she worked as a CPA for the former BellSouth Mobility. After maxing out seven credit cards and getting into credit card debt, she decided to leave her cubicle to become a financial journalist and help others avoid the mistakes she had made. Through her books and media appearances, she's become well-known in the credit industry as a consumer advocate.

Paying your outstanding balance a few days after you receive your paycheck, rather than waiting until your due date, will help minimize the balance that’s reported to the credit bureaus and used to calculate your credit utilization. This can work both with multiple monthly payments or a carefully timed single payment. Automating withdrawals from a bank account is a great way to enforce the plan and eliminate forgetfulness.
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.
The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card – 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer has the longest intro period on our list at intro 0%* for 21 months on Balance Transfers* made within 4 months from account opening. There is also an intro 0%* for 12 months on Purchases*. After the intro periods end, a 14.99% - 24.99%* (Variable) APR applies. The balance transfer fee is typical at 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum. This provides plenty of time for you to pay off your debt. There are several other perks that make this card great: no annual fee, Citi® Private Pass®, and Citi® Concierge.
Dispute any negative items on your credit report that aren't yours or are otherwise reported incorrectly. These could include late payments, charge-offs or collections errors that shouldn't be on your report. You can do this by requesting verification, and if the items cannot be verified, the credit bureaus have to remove them. If items older than seven years (10 years for bankruptcy) have not automatically been removed from your report, you can request that the credit bureaus delete them.
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.

Common ways to consolidate credit card debt include moving all your credit card debt onto one card, or taking out a loan to pay off the balances. In addition to reducing stress, when you consolidate, you may be able to score a lower interest rate. That can make it easier to pay off the debt faster, which is one important factor that can help improve your credit scores.
There’s a way to boost your credit score that doesn’t involve paying down debt or any of the other more traditional score boosting tactics. Since credit scores are determined, in part, on the difference between your credit limit and the amount of credit you use, ask for a higher credit limit. Your chances of increasing it are likely better than you think. Of those who apply for a higher credit limit, 8 out of 10 are approved, according to a recent Bankrate Money Pulse Survey. While it helps to be over 30, odds are good for all adults. To avoid having your credit diminished by asking for a higher limit, ask for the highest credit line increase that won't trigger what's called a hard inquiry. (See also: Credit Score: Hard vs. Soft Inquiry.)

If you’re not disciplined enough to create a budget and stick to it, to work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or to keep track of your mounting bills, you might consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But remember that “nonprofit” status doesn’t guarantee free, affordable, or even legitimate services. In fact, some credit counseling organizations — even some that claim nonprofit status — may charge high fees or hide their fees by pressuring people to make “voluntary” contributions that only cause more debt.


If I shop around for a balance transfer credit card, my score will get crushed: FALSE! If your score does decline, it probably will not decline by much. You can expect 10-20 points per credit application. But, remember: you apply for a balance transfer to help reduce your balance faster. When you open a new credit card and transfer your balance, then you will be able to:
Don’t refinance Federal loans unless you are very comfortable with your ability to repay. Think hard about the chances you won’t be able to make payments for a few months. Once you refinance student loans, you may lose flexible Federal payment options that can help you if you genuinely can’t afford the payments you have today. Check the Federal loan repayment estimator to make sure you see all the Federal options you have right now.
You could consolidation the loans with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. The Department of Education will issue you a new loan and use the money to pay off your existing loans. If you include your defaulted loan, that loan will be paid off, and your new consolidation loan will be current. To be eligible, you must agree to either repay the consolidation loan with an income-driven repayment plan or to make three monthly payments on your defaulted loan before applying for consolidation.
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?
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.
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?
Much like an Olympian in training, data is essential to tracking your credit-improvement progress. You need to know how things are progressing, where there’s still room for improvement, and when it’s time to trade up for a credit card with better terms. That’s where WalletHub’s free daily credit-score updates come in handy. You won’t find free daily scores anywhere else, and you don’t want to live in the past when you’re running from bad credit.
Next, pay the balances due on any collection or charged-off accounts. Paying what you owe will not immediately cause a significant improvement in your credit score, but anyone considering granting you a loan or new credit will want to see that you did pay what you owed, even if it was late. Lastly, pay down balances on your open credit card accounts to between 30 and 50 percent of your credit limit. Even better, pay them off in full, and pay them in full each month thereafter. Low balances relative to your limit will add points to your score.
On Form 122C-1, filers work through a calculation that determines their commitment period based on their income and state medians. In addition, they may be required to determine their disposable income through Form 122C-2. These two forms establish the payment and the commitment term. But if the filer has nonexempt assets or assets used to secure some of the debt they are listing in the bankruptcy, the value of those assets might be added to the overall payment expectation.
Trying to get a little bit of business advice, hope someone can help. We are struggling to make it through our slow months right now. We have about $100,000 in business debt currently active and all in good standing, we have never made a late payment. But we are getting buried with making sure we are paying all of these bills on time while still being able to order products to keep the business fully functional. We are scared we are heading towards bankruptcy or even closure. Would a debt consolidation company be able to help us? Or does it seem we are too far gone? I guess I was hoping with a debt consolidation company we could lower our monthly burden, stretching out our payment to 48-60 months.

Many people, however, don’t have the time or don’t understand how to make their case, so they look into hiring a credit repair company to dispute errors on their behalf. These companies can charge a fee for their legwork (more on how that works in a minute), but there are times when the extra help can certainly be welcome. (Say you have multiple errors across credit reports or you’ve been the victim of widespread identity theft.)
Introducing your teenager to credit as soon as possible is a great way to get them prepared for all the future credit products they’re bound to encounter in life. Practicing responsible credit behavior with a credit card or even as an authorized user can help your teen establish credit, which is necessary for taking out student loans, mortgages and other credit products. Plus, having a good credit score is key to getting the best rates and terms for credit products.
If you get denied for a major credit card, try applying for a retail store credit card. They have a reputation for approving applicants with bad or limited credit history. Still no luck? Consider getting a secured credit card which requires you to make a security deposit to get a credit limit. In some ways, a secured credit card is more useful than a retail credit card because it can be used in more places.
I applied for a home loan - wasn't approved - the loan company works with people with subpar credit though.  She gave me list of action items that needed to be done. She figured it would take me about a year to take care of it all. Gave me a deadline of 1 year out.  I sat down did all her action items in a week - waited 30 days, credit jumped to 620. She got an approval on a home loan but it wasn't ideal.  Waited another 30 days, credit was 651... she said we could get an ideal approval with a credit score of 640.  I don't know how, but I was so happy. signed on house at 3 months instead of 1 year. The loan officer couldn't believe it!  I now own my home, have lived in it for over a year.  Love my house!
Credit scores are calculated from your credit report, which is a record of your credit activity that includes the status of your credit accounts and your history of loan payments. Many financial institutions use credit scores to determine whether an applicant can get a mortgage, auto loan, credit card or other type of credit as well as the interest rate and terms of the credit. Applicants with higher credit scores, which indicate a better credit history, typically qualify for larger loans with lower interest rates and better terms.
Still, even if the math of a debt consolidation loan works out in your favor, your behavior may be the real problem. Paying off all of your credit cards and debts with a loan only shuffles the deck chairs around—you still owe money you have to pay, and if you go charging up those freshly paid-off credit cards again, those deck chairs may as well be on the Titanic.
If you're living with bad credit, this probably isn't the news you want to hear. The good news, however, is that there are several things you can do right now that will start to improve you credit score. Just keep in mind that there are no magic fixes in the credit world. Credit repair done right takes patience, persistence, and an understanding of how your credit score is calculated. Here are a few ways you can start repairing the damage to your credit score:
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.
However, if you must have more plastic, applying for a secured credit card can be a safe way to go about improving your credit score. These are lines of credit that are secured with a deposit made by you, the cardholder. Usually, the deposit also acts as the credit limit on the secured card. While they come with high fees, high interest rates and low limits, these cards report your repayment history to the major credit bureaus each month, so as you make on-time payments, your credit score will improve – to the extent you won’t need the secured card anymore (they aren't the most advantageous out there), or the card issuer will let you convert to a regular card (usually after 12 to 18 months).
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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