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.
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.
You have the right to dispute any information in your credit report that's inaccurate, incomplete, or you believe can't be verified. When you order your credit report, you'll receive instructions on how to dispute credit report information. Credit reports ordered online typically come with instructions for making disputes online, but you can also make disputes over the phone and through the mail.
Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit scores. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.
Debt management companies will often use marketing language that makes them sound like consolidation loans. Typically, a debt management company will ask you to start paying them instead of the credit card companies. These companies will hold the money in an escrow account and will not pay the credit card bills. As a result, your accounts will become delinquent. Your credit score will be negatively impacted. And collection calls will be initiated.
Your loan balances also affect your credit score in a similar way. The credit score calculation compares your loan current loan balance to the original loan amount. The closer your loan balances are to the original amount you borrowed, the more it hurts your credit score. Focus first on paying down credit card balances because they have more impact on your credit score.
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.
Omo says that reducing what you spend at restaurants could have a dramatic effect on your finances. "I had a client, a single person, who spent almost $900 a month on food, and the majority of that was eating out. [By] working with this person, I was able to get them to reduce that number by almost 50 percent and put that difference in paying off debt." Plus, in recent years, restaurant prices have been consistently climbing from month to month, according to the Consumer Price Index.
Once you've paid down the balance of your credit cards, keep your spending on these accounts down. You should aim for a balance that is less than 30% of your credit limit on the card. Don't voluntarily lower credit limits; this can hurt rather than help your FICO® Score. If your credit report doesn't reflect your actual credit limit, make sure your credit card company updates this information with the credit bureaus. In addition to limiting your spending on the accounts you already have, be cautious when any new accounts and don't cancel any old accounts since these help your credit score by demonstrating a longer credit history.
While the Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal CU has a slightly higher security deposit at $250, it does have one of the lowest APRs of a secured card at 13.99% Variable. This may come in handy if you find yourself carrying a balance month to month — but we strongly encourage you to pay each bill on time and in full to avoid interest charges. This card is available to everyone regardless of residence by joining the American Consumer Council for free during the application process.
Write a letter to the specific credit reporting agency that shows the falsehood, whether it is Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Explain the mistake and include a copy of the highlighted report along with your documentation. Although certain bureaus now let you submit disputes online, it’s not a bad idea to send this letter by certified mail, and keep a copy for yourself. The reporting agency has 30 days from the receipt of your letter to respond. The Federal Trade Commission provides advice on contacting the credit bureaus about discrepancies. Here are the contact numbers and web sites for the three credit bureaus: