So, the first thing you should do is assess the damage by looking at a current credit report issued from one (or all) of the three major credit bureaus. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, every American has the legal right to receive one free report from each one of the companies per year, which will save you some money on processing fees. You can get access to each one at the site annualcreditreport.com.
What can and DOES change is whether you have a collector pursuing you for the debt. If you are talking about a dormant account that has been in collections and has finally been left alone with no collections activity for a few years, messing with it can be problematic from the point of view that the collections people will start pestering you again to see if they can get money and if the SOL isn't up, they can start reporting on it again which can affect your score or they could even file suit if your state SOL isn't up.
Lenders usually look at your credit score for both a debt consolidation loan and a home equity loan. However, sometimes lenders can be more lenient with debt consolidation loans in terms of your credit score; oftentimes, borrowers can have less than stellar credit and still be approved for a personal loan or debt consolidation loan. However, those with excellent credit will be more likely to obtain lower interest rates with debt consolidation loans than those who have fair to poor credit.
You'll probably have a limited amount of money to put toward credit repair each month. So, you'll have to prioritize where you spend your money. Focus first on accounts that are in danger of becoming past due. Get as many of these accounts current as possible, preferably all of them. Then, work on bringing down your credit card balances. Third are those accounts that have already been charged-off or sent to a collection agency.
Next, your credit counselor will compile your data and ask you to commit to a debt management plan if they believe it’s the best option. If you choose to move forward, you will begin making a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency who will disburse the funds on your behalf. Your credit counselor may also suggest alternatives to debt management plans if they believe a better option is available.
If you have a high balance on a credit card and are only making minimum payments, start paying down the balance. It's important to pay down (or even better, pay off) revolving accounts such as credit cards. This will lower your credit-to-debt ratio (what you have borrowed in relation to what you could borrow), and is one way to improve your credit score. Paying off installment loans such as auto loans, student loans, etc. won't improve your credit score as dramatically.
“A good credit repair company will scrub questionable credit report items against other laws — like the Fair Credit Billing Act, which regulates original creditors; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which oversees collection agencies; and others that address medical illness, military service, student status and other life events,” Padawer said.
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).
While multiple hard inquiries can increase score drops, particularly for those who are new to credit, credit-scoring agencies recognize the importance of rate shopping. As a result, multiple inquiries for student loans that occur with a 14- to 45-day window (depending on the type of credit score) only count as a single inquiry when your score is being calculated.
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.
Improving your credit score is a bit like losing weight: It takes a while. Unless there are major errors on your credit report that you can easily get erased, there is no quick fix. Often, it takes at least a couple years to go from a low score to a high one. But at least, you'll be improving your financial position, and building up good financial habits, in the interim.
Even if the debt has passed the SOL in your state for suit (variable by state) and even the federal SOL for reporting (roughly 7 years from when the debt discharged) a collector may still pursue you for this money if you owe it. They will just never be able to collect it or report it if you don't allow them to, although they will certainly try and hope you are ignorant enough of the law that they get money from you.
Unlike traditional debt consolidation loans, a nonprofit debt management program can help you lower your interest rates and consolidate your credit card payments, even if you have bad credit. That is because a debt management program isn’t extending new credit or a loan to you. They are simply helping you bundle your payments and make them on-time, and helping you lower your interest rates, despite a poor credit history. Why? Creditors may see you as a bankruptcy risk. By giving helping make your payment more affordable with lower rates, and supporting nonprofit debt consolidation programs, the creditors are attempting to prevent you from defaulting on your debt.
You should take the time to shop around. FICO says there is little to no impact on your credit score for rate shopping as many providers as you’d like in a single shopping period (which can be between 14-30 days, depending upon the version of FICO). So set aside a day and apply to as many as you feel comfortable with to get a sense of who is ready to give you the best terms.
The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® has a straightforward cashback program, ideal if you don’t want to deal with rotating categories or activation. Earn 1% cash back on all purchases; 0.25% cash back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. The bonus you receive is a great incentive to pay on time each month, which you should be doing regardless of rewards. If you receive a low credit limit, the Credit Steps program allows you to get access to a higher credit line after making your first five monthly payments on time.
The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is another option for those who want to strengthen their credit score. This card offers a potentially lower minimum security deposit than other cards, starting as low as $49, based on creditworthiness. Be aware the lower deposit is not guaranteed and you may be required to deposit $99 or $200. You can deposit more before your account opens and get a maximum credit limit of $1,000.
The best way to consolidate debt is to consolidate in a way that avoids taking on additional debt. If you're facing a rising mound of unsecured debt, the best strategy is to consolidate it through a credit counseling agency. When you use this method to consolidate bills, you're not borrowing more money. Instead, your unsecured debt payments are consolidated into one monthly payment to the agency, which in turn pays your creditors each month. Your credit counselor works with your creditors to try to reduce your interest rates and eliminate extra fees, like late charges or over-limit charges.
What is it? A debt management plan, or DMP, consolidates your credit card payments — not your credit card debt. Instead of making several payments to various creditors, you make one payment to your DMP and your credit counselor will use that payment to pay the debt you owe to various lenders. Your counselor may also try to negotiate lower rates and fees associated with your debt.
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Rachel Kampersal said debt management plans require you to change your habits dramatically since you will have to stop using credit. “Per requirements from creditors, any card that is entered into a debt management plan will be closed, meaning you can no longer make charges to these cards. While difficult, it’s important to stop incurring new debt.”
If your average monthly income for the six-month period leading up to your bankruptcy filing is less than the median income for the same-size household in your state, you automatically qualify. If your income is above the median, you must pass an additional means test that compares your income to specific monthly expenses to prove you have little to no disposable income.
For secured debts, the value of the underlying collateral must be paid to those lenders, which can also increase your overall debt burden under the plan. And because the debts take several years to be discharged, the debtor is expected to maintain payments during that time. If they cannot, then they may find their filing dismissed and collections and foreclosure procedures restarting.
Remember, there are lots of reasons why your credit may be in rough shape. Most are related to your spending habits. So, for instance, if you missed a few payments or your debt levels are too high (think over 30% of your total available credit limits), disputing errors won’t help your case — you’ll have to make some changes to improve your credit scores. And you may have to wait a bit to see an uptick.