If you have unsecured debts that qualify for a debt management plan and secured debts that don’t qualify, a debt management plan can still work. When you sign up for a debt management plan with a nonprofit agency, the credit counselor assigned to your case will offer comprehensive financial advice that can help you pay down all your debts — not just debts governed by your debt management plan.
How it works: A student credit card is the same as a regular credit card but typically has a lower credit limit. The lower limit is due to the smaller income students have compared with adults. Your teen can use their student card just like you’d use your card. However, student cards tend to have higher interest rates than non-student cards — making it all the more important for your teen to pay on time and in full each month.
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Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, online, or on the phone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
Focus on paying off your smallest debts first, suggests Kalen Omo, a financial coach in Tucson, Arizona, and owner of Kalen Omo Financial Coaching. This repayment strategy is known as the "debt snowball" method. "You list your debts from smallest to largest, paying minimums on everything except the smallest, and attacking that small debt with a vengeance. The goal is to get small wins along the way to motivate and give you hope to tackle the next one and the next one and so on. Once the smallest one is paid off, you take that payment to the next smallest debt, and the process acts like a snowball on the top of a hill. It picks up more snow as it goes downhill," Omo says.
Did you just get a tax refund, a bonus, a raise or an inheritance? Instead of spreading it out and making small extra payments to all of your debts, opt for the snowball method. Consider paying as much as you can towards the debt with the lowest balance so you can reduce or eliminate it entirely (while keeping the account open). This reduces your credit utilization dramatically and can increase your credit score just as dramatically and quickly. Reducing your credit utilization from 50% of your credit limit down to 30% of your credit limit can result in a 50-point score lift, according to the VantageScore report.
For example, assume you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit. It’s a rewards card, so you use it for everything. In fact, every month, you hit your limit. The statement arrives, you owe $1,000, and you send in a check to pay it off. But the credit card company is likely reporting the statement balance each month. So, it looks like you have a $1,000 limit and a $1,000 balance. That’s a 100 percent credit utilization rate.
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.
What is it? Balance transfers are when you transfer debt from a current credit card to a new card, ideally one with a 0% intro APR period. The intro period is for a set amount of time that can range from 6-21 months. Many cards offer 0% intro APR balance transfer offers in order to convince credit card users to give them their business. It’s a win-win situation for the lender and the borrower.