Applying for and opening up a new credit card increases your overall credit limit compared to the amount you have used. This, too, can result in a nice credit score bump the following month, but only works if you have good credit. One drawback: You may initially receive a 10 to 25-point new credit score ding which will readjust after a few months of responsible credit behavior.
Along with saving money that you can use for vacations, holidays and retirement, experts suggest putting money regularly into a savings account dedicated to emergencies. If you don't set aside money for emergencies, you can easily get saddled with – and stay in – debt, says Erika Jensen, president of Respire Wealth Management in Houston. "Debt occurs when income minus expenses equals a negative number," she says. "In the absence of savings, that extra spend is going on credit cards. We all know that there will inevitably be months where our expenses exceed our income," she explains. "Everyone knows that scenario. If there isn't any savings, then both of those expenses are covered again by debt."
Carefully review older debt that shows as charged-off. Before contacting the creditor or collection agency, check your state laws to see if the debt is statute-barred or time-barred, meaning that it is too old for creditors to attempt further collection. If it is not statute-barred, even contacting the creditor can re-instate the debt as currently collectible, which can drop your score.
This is a riff off the strategy to pay before the statement date for those that cannot make a lump sum payment, similar to making bi-monthly payments to reduce your mortgage debt faster. For a 30-year mortgage, this strategy results in reducing the balance before interest is charged every month and in making an additional month’s payment every year, effectively reducing the loan term and interest charges dramatically over the life of the loan. For credit card payments, it can also mean the difference between being able to pay extra and not being able to pay extra during the month. So try making one payment before the statement date and another payment by the due date to pay down the balance as quickly as possible.
A third of your overall credit score is based on the credit utilization ratio across all of your cards. Because of the way credit scoring works, it's better to carry a $1,000 balance on a card with a $5,000 limit (20% credit utilization) than to carry a $500 balance on a card with a $1,000 limit (50% credit utilization). That's why, in discussing payment pecking order, we recommended paying off the cards closest to being maxed out. That's also why you shouldn't terminate accounts. It'll increase the percentage of total available credit that you’re using – and that will reduce your score.
The last major factor is your history of applying for credit. This accounts for 10% of most credit scores and may be holding you back if you applied for several credit accounts recently. This factor also takes time to correct, but any hard inquiries into your credit will only ding your scores slightly, and as they get older, they will have less of an impact. A year is generally when they begin to stop hurting your credit scores.
Sometimes you fall into debt due to unexpected expenses that may arise from medical issues or other events. An emergency fund can be a great way to provide yourself with a safety net in the case of unexpected expenses that may otherwise put you in debt. It’s up to you how much you put into an emergency fund, but keep in mind it should be somewhat easily accessible so you can quickly withdraw it to pay bills before they become past due.
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.
The State Department FCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card is open to anyone, regardless of residence. If you aren’t eligible through select methods including employees of the U.S. Department of State or members of select organizations, you can join the American Consumer Council during the application process. There is no fee associated with joining since State Department FCU pays the $5 on your behalf. There is a rewards program with this card where you earn Flexpoints, which can be redeemed for a variety of options like gift cards and travel. The APR can be as low as 13.99% Variable, which is reasonable considering many secured cards from major issuers are above 23%.
If you don’t address the exact cause of your bad credit, the damage is likely to worsen the longer it goes untreated. For example, if you’ve missed a few credit-card payments, repaying at least the minimum amount needed to change your account’s status from “delinquent” to “paid” on your credit reports will prevent your score from falling further. The same is true of collections accounts, tax liens and other derogatory marks — at least to a certain extent.
You need to show you can handle credit wisely, so having occasional balances on your credit cards can be a good thing. But in general, when you use your credit cards, try to pay them off as soon as you can (you don't have to wait for the statement in the mail but can pay online anytime). In fact, you can make your record look better than it is by making your payments just before your statement is sent, rather than waiting until you receive it. Most credit card companies report your balance at the same time that they mail your bill. If, for example, your statement goes out on the 15th of the month, pay your bill early (let’s say by the 13th) so the money will arrive prior to the statement being sent out. That way your outstanding credit balance reported to the credit bureaus will be lower.
If you’re looking specifically for a nonprofit credit counseling agency to work with, explore NFCC member agencies, all of which are nonprofit. NFCC member agencies are required to meet eligibility criteria that ensure they are accredited by a third party, upfront about included fees and provide consumers with counseling and financial guidance that can help them improve their finances over time.
Consolidating credit card debt allows you to develop an effective repayment strategy so you can get out of debt faster. At the same time, you minimize interest charges, which reduces your total cost and can lower your monthly payments. But debt consolidation is not a silver bullet. It won’t work in every situation and if it’s used incorrectly, it can actually make a bad situation worse.
Public Records – Negative information from public records can include bankruptcies, civil judgments or foreclosures. Bankruptcies can be on the report for seven to 10 years, but all other public records must be removed after seven years. If the public record on your report is older than is allowed, dispute the information with the credit bureau and send documentation to prove that the debt is too old and should no longer be on the report.
If you are a careful money manager who fell into debt because of unusual circumstances (medical or veterinary bill, loss of employment or some other emergency) and NOT because you spent more on your credit cards than you could afford to pay off each month, then leave the accounts open. Doing so will help your credit score, because the amount of revolving debt you have is a significant factor in your credit score. Just be sure to put the cards away. Don’t use them while you pay down your debt consolidation loan.
Here is a simple test. (This is not 100% accurate mathematically, but it is an easy test). Divide your credit card interest rate by 12. (Imagine a credit card with a 12% interest rate. 12%/12 = 1%). In this example, you are paying about 1% interest per month. If the fee on your balance transfer is 3%, you will break even in month 3, and will be saving money thereafter. You can use that simplified math to get a good guide on whether or not you will be saving money.
A HELOC typically charges a variable interest rate tied to a benchmark such as Prime Lending Rate. You only owe interest when you tap (use) your credit line. A HELOC often has a 10-year "draw" period when you can borrow against it, before you must start repayment. A HEL is typically a fixed-rate loan with a set payback period of five to 10 years or so.
Once you complete a plan to repay your debt, you should also complete a thorough review of your credit report. Creditor should automatically inform the credit bureaus that your account is paid or current. However, mistakes and errors happen frequently, particularly following a period of financial hardship. That means it’s up to you to make sure your credit report is up to date and that old errors aren’t hanging around.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.
A personal loan may also help improve your credit score. One of the major factors in determining your FICO® Score is your utilization ratio: the combined balances on all your credit cards as a percentage of the overall credit limits on the cards. The lower your utilization rate, the better. Moving card balances to a personal loan might lower your utilization ratio.
You can start to resolve identity theft issues by visiting www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. This is an excellent, free website created by the Federal Trade Commission. In addition to reporting identity theft, you will receive a free action plan, and you’ll gain free access to people who can guide you through the identity resolution process.
I recently took out a debt consolidation loan to pay off my credit cards and have just the one bill – however, the loan didn’t quite cover my credit cards… I also opened two new balance transfer 0% credit cards to help cut the interest of the leftover credit card debt… I still don’t quite have enough to wipe it all into 3 bills – plus, I have a previous personal loan I have 2 more years of paying… what would be the best way to distribute these funds, and balance transfers… so that I’m cutting my interest payments, upping my cashflow so that I’m not
Many companies offer very good deals in the first year to win new customers. These are often called “switching incentives.” For example, your mobile phone company could offer 50% off its normal rate for the first 12 months. Or your cable company could offer a big discount on the first year if you buy the bundle package. Credit card companies are no different. These companies want your debt, and are willing to give you a big discount in the first year to get you to transfer.
I had a $10,000 surgery when my medical insurance lapsed. I had to fill out a form with the hospital that stated I could not afford to pay it and they forgave it/never went on my credit. If you make under a certain income, the hospital should help you get those off, call the hospital and ask. It may be too late since it’s in collections already, if that’s the case, don’t pay it because it won’t change the negative impact since it’s already in collections. Wait for it to fall off.