If your current credit score isn’t great, take measures to improve it. Payment history and credit utilization can make up to 70% of a credit score, according to Experian, so simply paying your bills on time and keeping your balances low can be a tremendous help. You can also help your score by only applying for new credit only when absolutely necessary and getting a head start at paying your loans off now, if possible.
You need to review, in detail, your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. You can use AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain your report for free. As you review the report, keep track of any information that you believe is incorrect. Credit scores are built using data from the credit bureaus, so it is important to ensure the data at Experian, Equifax and TransUnion is accurate.
Assuming you are consistently paying on time (the No. 1 thing you can do to help your credit), take a look at your debt-to-available credit ratio. You want to get that to under 30% (under 10% is even better). Your credit mix is also a factor. If you have the income to make more than minimum payments, though, that is the best way to make an impact. You can read more here:
You’ll use your own money as collateral by putting down a deposit, which is often about $150 – $250. Typically, the amount of your deposit will then be your credit limit. You should make one small purchase each month and then pay it off on time and in full. Once you prove you’re responsible, you can get back your deposit and upgrade to a regular credit card. Read more about secured cards here.
Loan repayment is expected to be funded by your income, so lenders want to verify your ability to hold a job. Some will dig deeper into your employment history than others. In many cases, a steady employment history will be enough, but some financial institutions prefer applicants who have worked for the same company for several years or at least have a long track record in their current industry.
Note: Below we’ve listed our favorite offers from credit unions and lesser known banks that provide balance transfer offers up to 12 months. If you need a longer intro period, you might be better off paying a standard 3% balance transfer fee for a card like the Discover it® Balance Transfer which offers an intro 0% for 18 months on balance transfers (after, 13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR).
Another avenue to pursue to improve your credit score as quickly as possible is to negotiate with your creditor and credit bureaus to see if they are will to make adjustments. This can be especially effective if you have established a current strong payment record. In that case, a creditor can often be persuaded to remove previously reported late payments as a “goodwill” gesture based on your current payment history, and to encourage you to maintain the course.
People typically consolidate credit card debt if they have debt on high-interest credit cards and are incurring high-interest charges. By consolidating credit card debt, they can potentially save a great deal of money on interest payments and get out of debt sooner than if they left their debt on high-interest credit cards since more of their payment will go toward their principal balance.
Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.
If your repayment term is extended when you consolidate, it may take you significantly longer to pay off your credit card debt. While it may be nice to have a more manageable monthly payment, it also means paying more interest over the life of the loan. Review the terms of your consolidation carefully before deciding that it is the right choice for you.
Personal information – Make sure the names and addresses reported match your personal history. As noted above, sometimes the reports of people with the same or similar names get combined incorrectly; having your report tied to that of someone with bad credit can lower your score. To correct an error you need to document, in writing, what is wrong. This can be a quick fix if all the negative information belongs to someone other than you, but proving that may take some time.
You also may not want to close your old credit cards, as this can potentially ding your credit scores as well. By keeping your old credit cards open, you will not lower your credit utilization. Your credit utilization counts toward 30% of your credit score, and that’s why it’s important to keep that ratio low — under 30% and, optimally, less than 10% of your credit limits, overall and on individual cards.
Personal Loans: With the rise of marketplace lenders, obtaining a personal loan with a low interest rate has become increasingly easy. Most lenders will allow you to shop for an interest rate without hurting your credit score. You should shop around for the best rate online at websites like MagnifyMoney or NerdWallet, where you can find variable interest rates as low as 4.74%.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.