In general, you should try to keep credit card balances low. When you consolidate the cards you’re consolidating will have much lower credit utilization ratios, but your overall ratio will remain the same. However, the lower interest rate you’re paying during the introductory period means you can pay more toward your balance each month, helping lower your overall credit utilization more quickly.
While your credit score may suffer if you’re falling behind on monthly payments before you get your debt management plan set up, starting your plan should provide some relief. Your credit score should increase as you begin making regular monthly payments and your debt balances drop. Experian does note that you may see some negative side effects when accounts are closed, usually due to changes with your credit utilization rate or credit mix.
If you are working with a credit counselor and think you’ll miss a payment, they can take proactive steps to mitigate consequences and create a plan to get you back on track. They can even negotiate to have additional late payments or late fees reduced or waived if you miss a payment. The key to making this work is being completely open and honest about your situation and speaking with your credit counselor as soon as you realize your payment will be late.
One of the biggest pitfalls of debt consolidation is the risk of running up new debt before the consolidated debt is paid off. When you finish paying off credit cards with a consolidation loan, don’t be tempted to use the credit cards with their newly free credit limits. If you think you might, close the accounts. You may have heard that doing so could hurt your credit score, and it might. But you can recover from credit score damage much more easily and quickly than you can recover from crushing debt.
The key to this strategy is obtaining more credit, but not using more credit. In other words, if your limit goes up $1,000, don’t go out and charge half of it. Think of the boost as a way to save money later when you apply for an auto loan, home loan or another form of long-term debt where a high credit score will likely result in big savings via a lower interest rate.
Aside from all things finances, lenders and agencies will also consider your living history. While this is not typically disclosed, it’s a facet that must be taken into consideration. Are you the type of individual who moves from location to location? Have you lived in the same home for over 10-15 years? Chances are, if you are categorized in the latter, lenders will be more interested in helping you. Keep in mind, lenders are taking a deeper looking into individual characteristics and traits. An individual that continues to move may be inconsistent or risky. If you are quick to move from location to location, are you quick to spend all the credit lent to you?
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.
The root cause of your debts hasn’t been settled.Florida consumer protection lawyer Donald E. Petersen said consumers should not file bankruptcy until the root cause of their financial distress is solved. “If a consumer has severe health problems and is incurring medical bills that they are unable to pay, do not file bankruptcy until after the course of treatment is complete,” he said. “Similarly, consumers who are unable to pay their bills because they are unemployed or underemployed should not file bankruptcy until their employment status has stabilized at compensation that they can live on without accumulating additional debts in order to meet ordinary living expenses.”
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: