For example, assume you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit. It’s a rewards card, so you use it for everything. In fact, every month, you hit your limit. The statement arrives, you owe $1,000, and you send in a check to pay it off. But the credit card company is likely reporting the statement balance each month. So, it looks like you have a $1,000 limit and a $1,000 balance. That’s a 100 percent credit utilization rate.
"Unlike a credit card exchange, where you swipe your card and get it back, you actually give away your cash when you spend it," says Joshua Schumm, a financial coach who owns Kansas Financial Coaching in Hutchinson, Kansas. Using cash "creates a loss-type feeling in your mind and makes you less likely to make impulse purchases." Schumm says that until he and his wife began using cash at the grocery store, they often missed their budget goal. "Now, with cash, we can't overspend it," he says.
If you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy, be aware that bankruptcy laws require that you get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within six months before you file for bankruptcy relief. You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at www.usdoj.gov/ust, the website of the U.S. Trustee Program. That’s the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Be wary of credit counseling organizations that say they are government-approved, but don’t appear on the list of approved organizations.
Although you may understand the concept of credit limits, few people take the time to examine their credit utilization—or the amount of debt owed vs. the total credit limit. An ideal credit score boasts a utilization ratio of 25 percent or less. If you have a $10,000 credit limit, you should never charge more than $2,500 at a time. The same goes for individual cards. For example, Margot has three credit cards with the following limits:
Most employer-provided retirement plans permit participants to borrow from their own savings. Since it's your money, there's no credit check or qualifying hoops to jump through. You can generally borrow up to half of your vested retirement balance, up to $50,000. The interest rate may be one or two percentage points higher than the Prime Rate, which recently was around 4%. You usually have up to five years to pay back money used for consolidating credit card debt. Miss that deadline and you may owe income tax and potentially a 10% fee on the remaining balance.
A secured credit card, in particular, is the ideal tool for rebuilding credit. They offer nearly guaranteed approval because you’ll need to place a security deposit that will double as your spending limit. Secured cards are also far less expensive than unsecured credit cards for people with bad credit. And you can’t tell them apart from unsecured cards on a credit report.
When the bureaus and data furnishers receive the dispute and supporting information, they will then work with the credit repair company to determine if the item should be removed from your credit report. The major law dictating your rights when it comes to credit reporting is the Fair Credit Reporting Act, but it isn’t the only law on your side when it comes to credit repair.
Remember, there are lots of reasons why your credit may be in rough shape. Most are related to your spending habits. So, for instance, if you missed a few payments or your debt levels are too high (think over 30% of your total available credit limits), disputing errors won’t help your case — you’ll have to make some changes to improve your credit scores. And you may have to wait a bit to see an uptick.
The best way is to be sure you are paying all your bills on time. And, if you have credit cards, try to keep your balance to less than 30% of your credit limit (less than 10% is even better). We suggest checking your credit score monthly (you can get two scores every 30 days from Credit.com), along with personalized advice for improving your credit. Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.
You cannot pay down your debt on your own and you continue falling further and further behind. “It makes sense to file bankruptcy when you can no longer keep up with your bills,” said Leslie H. Tayne, a debt resolution attorney and founder of Tayne Law Group, based in Melville, N.Y. “If commercial creditors are breathing down your neck or if you are in danger of losing your home, it may then make sense to file bankruptcy.”
One of the quick credit repair tactics to consider first is seeing if you can increase the credit limits on your current accounts. And this is just a matter of reaching out to your credit card companies and requesting a credit limit increase. According to FICO, 30% of your credit score is tied to the amount owed on your credit accounts. A primary way they evaluate this is something called your credit utilization ratio. The ratio is simply a matter of how much you owe vs your credit limits.
* Your loan terms, including APR, may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term length, and your credit profile. Rate is quoted with AutoPay discount. AutoPay discount is only available prior to loan funding. Rates without AutoPay are 0.50% higher. If your application is approved, your credit profile will determine whether your loan will be unsecured or secured. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice.
Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating.
While multiple hard inquiries can increase score drops, particularly for those who are new to credit, credit-scoring agencies recognize the importance of rate shopping. As a result, multiple inquiries for student loans that occur with a 14- to 45-day window (depending on the type of credit score) only count as a single inquiry when your score is being calculated.
There’s a way to boost your credit score that doesn’t involve paying down debt or any of the other more traditional score boosting tactics. Since credit scores are determined, in part, on the difference between your credit limit and the amount of credit you use, ask for a higher credit limit. Your chances of increasing it are likely better than you think. Of those who apply for a higher credit limit, 8 out of 10 are approved, according to a recent Bankrate Money Pulse Survey. While it helps to be over 30, odds are good for all adults. To avoid having your credit diminished by asking for a higher limit, ask for the highest credit line increase that won't trigger what's called a hard inquiry. (See also: Credit Score: Hard vs. Soft Inquiry.)
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.
Repairing your credit includes paying off those debt collection accounts. Until you do, you face relentless calls and letters from debt collectors. While you can take action to stop debt collector calls, collection accounts often move from one debt collector to another. When a new collector gets your debt, you’ll have to go through the process of sending letters to stop the calls all over again.
If you are a careful money manager who fell into debt because of unusual circumstances (medical or veterinary bill, loss of employment or some other emergency) and NOT because you spent more on your credit cards than you could afford to pay off each month, then leave the accounts open. Doing so will help your credit score, because the amount of revolving debt you have is a significant factor in your credit score. Just be sure to put the cards away. Don’t use them while you pay down your debt consolidation loan.
Beyond that is creditor information, which makes up most of your reports. This includes different accounts you have (loans, credit cards, etc.), their status (open/closed, in collections), balances, credit limits and payment details. This may also include dates of missed payments or late payments, or when the accounts were sent to collections. From these details, your credit scores will be formed.