In 2008, American households carried $280 billion in debt. While debt dwindled in the following years, in 2017 the country hit another record – $13 trillion in household debt, including mortgages, car loans, credit card debt and student loans, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. If you, too, are struggling with debt and you're looking for some strategies to reduce what you owe, try implementing these smart money-management habits.
You’re entitled to a free credit report if a company takes “adverse action” against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment. You have to ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice includes the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.

Well, there are some things you can do to help move the needle in the short term, but making significant changes to your credit score will likely take a little time. If you’re looking to apply for a home loan in the not too distant future that’s probably not what you wanted to hear. In this article, though, we’ll highlight some things that will help, and put you in a better position when applying for credit next time.
While credit building loans can be a key step in establishing a strong credit history, it’s imperative that you make all of your payments in full and on time. When you are committed to building a strong financial future with personal budgeting and spending discipline, successfully paying off a credit builder loan can lead to approval for good rates and terms on mortgages, auto loans and other loans in the future.
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Consolidating credit cards and leveraging low balance transfer offers has the potential to increase your credit score. But to accomplish this, it’s important to follow a few pointers. For example, for the general population, 30 percent of the FICO® Credit Score is determined by “credit utilization,” which is the amount of credit actually being used.1

Unlike other types of credit, even people with deep subprime credit scores usually qualify to open a secured credit card. However, credit card use among people with poor credit scores is still near an all-time low. In the last decade, credit card use among deep subprime borrowers fell 16.7%. Today, just over 50% of deep subprime borrowers have credit card accounts.30
As newer debt weighs more heavily on your credit report than older debt, your score can drop when you make an effort to pay, whether in part or in full. While the payment will make the debt show as settled in full, it may show on your report as new debt. Regardless of how it shows on your report, ensure that the lender removes the charged-off status on your old debt and shows it as paid in full.
We all have bills to pay, so why not leverage your payments to work for you? Making credit card payments ahead of schedule will reduce the accrued interest and your debt-to-income ratio. Staying ahead of the curve on rent and utilities will help strengthen your credit score as well. If you have a financial calendar, move your payments up by seven days—it could make all the difference.
To have a good credit score, you need to have positive information reported into your credit report on a monthly basis. The easiest way to do that is with a credit card. Just try to keep your utilization low (although there is no magic number, VantageScore released data showing that people with excellent credit scores tend to have utilization below 10%). And make sure you pay your statement balance in full and on time every month. If you repeat this, over time your score will improve.
If your average monthly income for the six-month period leading up to your bankruptcy filing is less than the median income for the same-size household in your state, you automatically qualify. If your income is above the median, you must pass an additional means test that compares your income to specific monthly expenses to prove you have little to no disposable income.
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.
Risks: Overall, a student card can be a great asset for your teen to have in college, but there are a few risks to beware of. If your teen overspends so much that they max out their credit limit, they risk harming their utilization rate — which is the amount of credit they use divided by their total credit limit. For example, if your teen has a $500 credit limit and uses $400, their utilization rate would be 80% ($400/$500). That’s very high, and we recommend keeping utilization below 30%.
While it seems to make sense to pay off all of your old delinquent debts, this strategy can sometimes backfire and drop your score further. If a credit account is simply overdue and shows as outstanding debt, paying it off will improve your score – though it won't eradicate the record of late payments. But if you have an old debt on your credit report that has been charged off by the lender – meaning that they do not expect further payments – setting up a new payment plan can re-activate the debt and make it appear to be more current than it actually is. This is often the case with debt that has been turned over to a collection agency. The agency may register the debt with credit bureaus as new rather than reporting it against the written-off debt.

If you use the second method — and this if the first time you rehabilitated the student loan — the default associated with the loan will also be removed from your credit reports. Although the late payments associated with the loan will remain for up to seven years from the date of your first late payment, having the default removed could help your score.
If I shop around for a balance transfer credit card, my score will get crushed: FALSE! If your score does decline, it probably will not decline by much. You can expect 10-20 points per credit application. But, remember: you apply for a balance transfer to help reduce your balance faster. When you open a new credit card and transfer your balance, then you will be able to:

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.
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