It’s likely that the debt collector has the incorrect amount for your debt or has tacked on high fees — Rheingold said you may owe $500, but a third-party debt collector may inflate that number to $2,500 with fees. Both of these practices are illegal. Third-party debt collectors cannot misrepresent the amount you owe or collect fees or interest above what’s stated in your original contract.
Make no mistake: if you want help with your debt, you should get it. Don't let social stigma or ego get in the way—there are plenty of ways to get on the right track that go further than blog posts and stop short of putting you back in debt to someone else. Debt repayment and credit counseling programs can negotiate lower interest rates on your behalf, or help you do it yourself. They can help you with your budget, and help you plan a route out of debt that turns your credit into a tool you control, as opposed to a monster than controls you. If you need the help, get it—and definitely do that before you take out a loan. Photo by Media Bakery13 (Shutterstock).
Before you consolidate credit cards, make sure you have a clear payment plan that can help you tackle your debt. Beware of simply moving your debt from credit cards to another form of debt; it may feel like you’re suddenly debt-free but you are definitely not. You’ve simply reorganized your debt and it should become more manageable now. If you fail to make sizeable, consistent payments toward your debt, you could find yourself back in the same cycle of debt. Also, when selecting your consolidation method — for example, an intro 0% APR credit card, personal loan, etc. — be sure to look closely at the fees you may be charged. The fees are typically outweighed by the amount you save in interest, but it’s a good idea to review them.
A good idea would be to keep three to four credit card accounts open, but only use one or two of them; put away or cut up the others. Once you have paid off a card, though, keep the account open, even if you don’t want to use it anymore. Closing a card will lower your credit score, even if you always paid on time and never carried an outstanding balance. If a card's high annual fees are making it undesirable, try asking the credit card company for a downgrade to one of their free or lower-fee cards. This allows you to maintain a longer history with the company, which is important for a healthy credit score. The company will report to the credit bureau that you have a good record with them, which will increase your credit rating.
Consolidating credit cards and leveraging low balance transfer offers has the potential to increase your credit score. But to accomplish this, it’s important to follow a few pointers. For example, for the general population, 30 percent of the FICO® Credit Score is determined by “credit utilization,” which is the amount of credit actually being used.1
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If you have missed multiple payments, perhaps its time to set-up payment reminders. In the digital age, you can schedule your cell-phone, laptop, and even email to remind you when a payment is due. On top of this, you can purchase sticky notes and post them around your entire home or office to remind yourself when a specific bill is due. In a lenders eyes, there should not be an excused for a missed payment. Just like the example of lending money to your friend, a lender is expecting to receive their capital back in a timely manner.
At this point, you will need to continue following the advice of the credit counseling agency you hired to help and remember the benefits of being debt-free. Life is a lot more difficult when you’re juggling credit card bills and other payments each month. If you want to avoid winding up back in debt, it’s crucial to remember how far you’ve come and how wonderful freedom feels.
They may be willing to waive some of the late penalties or spread the past due balance over few payments. Let them know you're anxious to avoid charge-off, but need some help. Your creditor may even be willing to re-age your account to show your payments as current rather than delinquent, but you'll have to actually talk to your creditors to negotiate.
To get your finances in order, it's key to create a budget and track your progress. There's no universal approach for monitoring your budget, but if you're in debt, you'll want to take inventory of your finances often and take note of your spending habits at least once a month. The goal is to avoid overspending – and understand how much you spend each month to create a plan to pay off your debts. "This word 'budget' seems to be such a painful word to everyone, but there is actual power and freedom in having a budget in place and having the power to tell your money where to go," Omo says. "It's the basis of your plan to get out of debt."
The best way to improve your score is to have good behavior reported every single month. For example, you can take out a secured credit card and use it monthly. Charge no more than 10% of the available credit limit, and pay the balance in full and on time every month. Your credit score will improve as your negative information ages and your credit report fills with positive information.
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.
Thank you for this. I have been building my credit back after Economy struggles and long term illness. Today, I'm in a better position physically and materially. Most of my credit issues are resolved. However, I'm curious as to your next step once you resolved the medical bill situation. Did you pay the creditor and subsequently write a letter to the credit bureaus? I have a $284 medical bill I can't recall not paying, but I would like to resolve the matter this year.
Basically, the trick is to aggressively dispute negative records, especially older ones, and force the source of that information (otherwise known as “data furnishers”) to produce verifying documentation. A lot of times, the so-called data furnishers can’t, which obligates them to stop reporting the negative item to the credit bureaus and thus removed from the consumer’s file.
Generally speaking, Chapter 13 is designed for debtors who have assets that they want to keep while still declaring bankruptcy. But, as noted above, the value of certain nonexempt assets or those used to secure debts listed in the bankruptcy may be added to the overall payment. The debtor can decide whether to then liquidate those assets or find other ways to pay off their value.
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.
If you transfer your debt and use your card responsibly to pay off your balance before the intro period ends, then there is no trap associated with the 0% APR period. But, if you neglect making payments and end up with a balance post-intro period, you can easily fall into a trap of high debt — similar to the one you left when you transferred the balance. As a rule of thumb, use the intro 0% APR period to your advantage and pay off ALL your debt before it ends, otherwise you’ll start to accumulate high interest charges.
If you recognize the account but believe the information being reported is not correct, you should reach out directly to the financial institution that reported the information. For example, if you recognize the credit card, but do not recognize the late payment - speak with the credit card company. Often the bank or credit card company can fix the issue and update the credit bureaus directly.