Here’s some background to help demystify the process. Your credit score utilizes historical data from your credit report to predict your future risk of default. The information on your credit report is usually an accurate reflection of your financial life. And finally, your financial life is a subset of the rest of your life. So if you’re having hard times, more than likely it will show up in your financial life, credit report and then credit score.
The best way to improve your score is to have good behavior reported every single month. For example, you can take out a secured credit card and use it monthly. Charge no more than 10% of the available credit limit, and pay the balance in full and on time every month. Your credit score will improve as your negative information ages and your credit report fills with positive information.
I do not agree with the secured card info you've provided. They are great tools when used correctly. You can find one with no/small annual fee. The interest rate won't come into play if you pay your balance in full each month. Even if you don't pay in full, the interest on a very low balance is a non-factor. Alomst any credit union will allow you to open an account with as little as $5 and secured card with $300/500. My card is $500 and I never charge more than $150(30%). It takes will power to not max it out. You don;t want to fall back into old habits (if that is what got you into this situation in the first place).
If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.
Once you resolve issues on your credit report, it’s time to implement a strategy to start improving your credit score. The single best thing that you can do to improve your credit score is to pay current accounts on time and in full every single month. You can picture it as burying negative information under a mountain of positive credit information.
Your best bet is to call and ask to see if they can put you on a payment plan where you can afford to pay them (even if it’s just the bare minimum a month) or if they will possibly settle for less money. A tip: anything that has your name attached (banking account,utility bills, credit cards, anything you finance, student loans, medical bills, car loans, home loans, your apartment, etc) that you miss a few payments on or don’t pay at all can be reported to the credit agencies and sold to collections companies.