Millions of Americans are suffering from dinged-up credit: the lingering result of the recession, the lack (until recently) of real increase in wages, the economy's sluggish growth. But a strong credit score is the backbone of an individual's financial health, and its importance goes beyond simply getting a low interest rate on a loan. A driver's credit score, for instance, is a major factor in pricing auto insurance.
Talk to an attorney who specializes in debt collection. Attorneys can investigate whether a debt collector is breaking state or federal law and whether the claim is valid, defend you in court against a fraudulent lawsuit and respond to legal summons for you. You can get representation through a nonprofit legal aid clinic (where legal services are free), pro bono clinics at courthouses or private attorneys.
The right way: You should expect some fees, but avoid excessive fees when you consolidate. You don’t want to make your journey out of debt any steeper than it has to be. It’s worth noting that a debt management program has fees, but they get set by state regulation. They also get rolled into your program payments, so you don’t actually incur an extra bill.
Once you’ve filled out the form and requested reports from all three bureaus, you’ll fill out some security questions and be directed into your report, one agency at a time. If the security questions trip you up, the website will lock you out of your report, but it will offer a phone number that you can call to get your credit report via mail. If you get locked out, request the report via mail.
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.
One of the biggest disadvantages of filing for Chapter 13 is that the value of any nonexempt assets the filer wants to keep can be tallied and used to establish the amount of their responsibility for payment of nonpriority, unsecured debt, such as credit cards and personal loans. The goal here is to ensure that the value of assets that would have been liquidated under a Chapter 7 to pay these unsecured claims are still paid out.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to give your statement to anyone who got a copy of your report in the recent past. You’ll probably have to pay for this service.
Consolidation means that your various debts, whether they are credit card bills or loan payments, are rolled into one monthly payment. If you have multiple credit card accounts or loans, consolidation may be a way to simplify or lower payments.  But, a debt consolidation loan does not erase your debt. You might also end up paying more by consolidating debt into another type of loan.
Over one-third of your score depends on whether you pay your creditors on time. So, make sure you pay all your bills by their due dates, keep receipts, canceled checks or reference numbers to prove you did so. While utility and phone bills aren't normally figured into your credit score, they may appear on a credit report when they're delinquent, especially if the provider has sent your account to a collection agency and forwarded that information to the bureaus.
Once you’ve confirmed the accuracy of your credit reports, you can begin working on the mistakes that you’re responsible for. One easy way to pinpoint your credit-score weaknesses is to sign up for a free WalletHub account. Your Credit Analysis will include a grade for each component of your latest credit score as well as personalized advice for how to improve problem areas.
Some folks swear by setting automatic payments using their bank’s online bill-paying system or their creditor’s automatic-payment system. If you prefer more control, at least sign up for automatic payment alerts from your lender, via email or text. Then set up a place in your house where you always pay bills, and get an accordion file that enables you to arrange the statements by due dates. Be sure to time your payment so the check or electronic funds transfer will arrive on time.

According to VantageScore report on how credit behaviors affect your credit score, those with a low credit score may see a credit score bump of 5 to 10 points every month you use responsible credit behavior such as making on-time payments. And, you may see larger jumps of 35 to 50 points or even more if your score was low because of high credit utilization and you make a large lump sum payment to one of your cards and keep the balance low.

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You can also receive a credit limit increase without making an additional deposit after making your first five monthly payments on time. This is beneficial for people who need a higher credit limit and don’t want to (or can’t) tie up their money in a deposit. Also, this card comes with a credit resource center — which is available to everyone — and Platinum Mastercard® benefits that include travel accident insurance and price protection.
While it’s not a requirement to file, it should be noted that there is a second financial planning course that must be taken before a filer makes their last payment on the Chapter 13 plan. This course prepares the filer for financial success after the bankruptcy is final, which helps reduce the likelihood that they’ll need to rely on bankruptcy again in the future.
The best way to consolidate debt varies by individual, depending on your financial circumstances and preferences. For some, the best way to consolidate debt may be paying off smaller balances first and then adding those payments to the bigger bills until those are paid off. Others might consider transferring balances to one credit card or getting a consolidation loan. However, consolidating balances to one credit card or using a loan can be risky because, if you need to borrow additional money, it may be tempting to use one of the accounts with a zero balance. Then the debt grows, and you can find yourself in financial trouble quickly.

A credit card could very well be the source of your credit-score sorrow. But it’s also your score’s best chance at recovery. You can’t remove negative records that are accurate from your credit reports. So the best you can hope for is to devalue them with a steady flow of positive information. And credit cards are perfect for the job because anyone can get them, they can be free to use, and they don’t force you to go into debt. Plus, they report information to the major credit bureaus on a monthly basis.
We agree that it is very important for individuals to be knowledgeable of their credit standing. When you have a credit-monitoring tool like freecreditscore.com on your side, you get e-mail alerts whenever there’s a change in your credit score–and you can also see your credit score whenever you want. With the free credit report from the government, you only see your report once a year. If you monitor your credit score regularly, it’s easier to catch inaccuracies before it’s too late.
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