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.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires a $235 case filing fee and a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee, plus attorney costs. Chapter 7 bankruptcy comes with a $245 case filing fee, a $75 miscellaneous administrative fee and a $15 trustee charge, as well as attorney charges. With both types of bankruptcy, you are also required to pay for two credit counseling sessions that cost $50 to $100 each.
Start by getting debt help from a credit counselor. The counselor might even help you negotiate your own agreements with creditors. If you develop and follow a get-out-of-debt plan with the help of a counselor (as opposed to consolidating your debt), your credit score will rise over time faster than it will if you declare bankruptcy or ignore your debts, as you make on-time payments and reduce your overall debt load. You’ll also avoid the hit to your score that comes with the new hard inquiry we talked about earlier.

Credit repair success requires a universal perspective. You cannot afford to become myopic. Many people become so interested in monitoring the removal of derogatory items (which, admittedly, can be very exciting) that they ignore other major opportunities to boost their credit scores. Did you know that a single maxed-out credit card can depress your credit scores by over one hundred points? Conversely, paying your balances down can create an equal and opposite effect of increasing your scores by that amount. Pay your balances down and watch your scores take off. You should allow sixty days for the creditors to update the balances with the bureaus.
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.
Life is a search according to many philosophers and poets, but it has become a web-search today. Fast credit repair companies are raking in millions by providing non-refundable fees that contradict the legitimacy of the process. Effective credit repair is a process involving time and expertise. Countless consumers either fell victim to “great credit in a minute” schemes or purchased a “kit” with the wrong blueprints for success and are now feeling the pain and suffering from the fallout. Many customers who expected to be a lender’s dream in just a matter of days are now faced with the nightmare of a damaged credit file and a score sometimes lower than when they signed up for that magic cure. Newsflash – the man behind the curtain, is almost always up to no good.
“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.
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.

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Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. You may order reports from each of the three credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your requests throughout the year.
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.
If you've already used up your free credit reports for this year, you can order your credit reports directly from the credit bureaus for a fee. The bureaus all offer a three-in-one credit report that lists all three of your credit reports side-by-side. The three-in-one credit report costs more than a single credit report, but less than the combined price of purchasing your individual credit reports.
One of the main benefits of consolidating your credit card debt is getting a reduced interest rate. Reducing your interest rate allows you to lower your monthly payment and pay off your debts sooner. As a result, if you can’t lower your interest rates by consolidating your credit card debt, then it is probably not worth the extra cost and fees you will have to incur to do it.
Your credit score can be affected by consolidating credit card debt — but the overall effect on your credit score should be positive, as long as you pay off your debt. If you open a new credit product like a credit card and consolidate your credit card debt, your credit score may temporarily decrease due to the inquiry and opening of a new account, but it’ll bounce back soon. Your score can actually benefit from the increased line of credit you’ll receive from the new card, as long as you keep your other credit cards open. And if you are consolidating credit card debt with a personal loan, you should see a boost to your score because you are paying off revolving lines of credit. Also, by taking out a fixed-rate installment loan, your mix of credit may improve, which is one of the factors that make up your credit score.
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.

In more cases than not, debt consolidation loans don't make sense. They're certainly attractive: the lure of being able to pay off all of your credit cards is a strong one, especially in exchange for a single monthly payment to your bank or credit union at a lower interest rate. It's definitely a tantalizing opportunity, but it's not perfect. Remember, debt consolidation loans are financial products, which means financial institutions wouldn't offer them to you if they didn't make money from them. Here are a few tips to make sure you're not falling into a trap:
It's tempting, isn't it? Getting rid of all of your credit card bills, no more annoying multiple payment to multiple creditors, just one, automatic loan payment every month that comes out of your account automatically and you're back on the road to being debt free, right? Well sure—but it comes with a couple of pretty big caveats that might sour the milk for you. Let's explain, and then you can decide whether it's a good idea in your case.
The statement date (which occurs well before your payment due date) is the date listed on your statement when the credit card company records your balance to charge interest for the month. It is also the balance reported to the credit bureaus. If you are planning to make a lump sum payment to the balance and want to see the positive result to your credit score as quick as possible, make the payment well before that statement date so the new lower (or zero) balance is recorded and reported.
Credit scores are calculated from your credit report, which is a record of your credit activity that includes the status of your credit accounts and your history of loan payments. Many financial institutions use credit scores to determine whether an applicant can get a mortgage, auto loan, credit card or other type of credit as well as the interest rate and terms of the credit. Applicants with higher credit scores, which indicate a better credit history, typically qualify for larger loans with lower interest rates and better terms.

Getting negative and inaccurate information off of your credit reports is one of the fastest ways to see an improvement in your scores. Since credit bureaus have to respond and resolve a dispute within 30 days (there are a few exceptions that may extend this to 45 days), it’s a short timeline. Especially when consumers want to buy a house, get a new car, or open up a new credit card soon and don’t have the time to wait to build good credit in other ways.
Your credit score can be affected by consolidating credit card debt — but the overall effect on your credit score should be positive, as long as you pay off your debt. If you open a new credit product like a credit card and consolidate your credit card debt, your credit score may temporarily decrease due to the inquiry and opening of a new account, but it’ll bounce back soon. Your score can actually benefit from the increased line of credit you’ll receive from the new card, as long as you keep your other credit cards open. And if you are consolidating credit card debt with a personal loan, you should see a boost to your score because you are paying off revolving lines of credit. Also, by taking out a fixed-rate installment loan, your mix of credit may improve, which is one of the factors that make up your credit score.

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.
Keep up the good work and employ these strategies to repair your credit as your budget and credit score permits to watch your score continue to increase. If you feel overwhelmed by your credit problems, you might consider professional credit repair help. Remember, just five or 10 points can be the difference between sub-prime and prime credit or prime credit and excellent credit and each level of credit improvement has its rewards.

"Financial companies love profitable customers who run up their credit card balances, right? One might think," says Randy Padawer, vice president of credit services at LexingtonLaw. "But interestingly, that same industry penalizes consumer credit scores as a direct result. To ensure a good credit score, never max out your credit cards. For an even better score, keep balances as low as possible."
Credit reports record your payment habits on all type of bills and credit extended, not just credit cards. And sometimes these items show up on one bureau's report, but not another's. Old, unpaid gym dues that only appear on one report could be affecting your score without you even realizing it. If you rent a house or apartment, some credit agencies count the history of those payments in their credit score calculations (assuming the landlord reports it to them). For example, credit rating giant Experian began including positive rental payment histories in its credit score ratings in 2010. TransUnion also figures positive rental payments into its credit calculations (look for it under “tradeline expense” on your credit report.)
If something sounds too good to be true – everyone knows the rest of that expression, and it could not be more fitting than in the credit repair industry. The word “fast” should never be in the same sentence with quality credit restoration and expecting the unlikely should only be reserved for marketing products during Super Bowl commercials. In a world where the spirit of a dog appears to sell beer during halftime, it is not surprising that people are misled. Logic would indicate that if it took several months or even years to damage the credit files, they would not magically restore themselves in a matter of minutes. It would be the same concept of expecting brand new lungs or a sparkling fresh liver immediately after the last puff or sip.
Before you consolidate credit cards, make sure you have a clear payment plan that can help you tackle your debt. Beware of simply moving your debt from credit cards to another form of debt; it may feel like you’re suddenly debt-free but you are definitely not. You’ve simply reorganized your debt and it should become more manageable now. If you fail to make sizeable, consistent payments toward your debt, you could find yourself back in the same cycle of debt. Also, when selecting your consolidation method — for example, an intro 0% APR credit card, personal loan, etc. — be sure to look closely at the fees you may be charged. The fees are typically outweighed by the amount you save in interest, but it’s a good idea to review them.

The earlier you find out about a credit report or identity theft issue, the easier it is to solve. To ensure that you find out about issues in the future, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. Some companies, like CreditKarma, offer free credit monitoring. Other companies offer daily three-bureau monitoring and resolution services. You can learn more about these options here.
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