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.
Bad credit is not a life sentence, which is good news for the roughly one-third of people with credit scores below 620. So if your credit is damaged, there are indeed steps that you can take to rebuild. After all, rebuilding credit is a process that takes time and requires focus on the fundamentals. And we’ll explain exactly what you need to do below.
“If you have to choose between debts to pay, skip the credit card bill because it's unsecured and a creditor can't repossess anything. Luckily, credit card delinquencies hurt credit scores less than bigger debts, such as home or auto loans,” says Sarah Davies, senior vice president of analytics, product management and research for VantageScore Solutions.
The root cause of your debts hasn’t been settled.Florida consumer protection lawyer Donald E. Petersen said consumers should not file bankruptcy until the root cause of their financial distress is solved. “If a consumer has severe health problems and is incurring medical bills that they are unable to pay, do not file bankruptcy until after the course of treatment is complete,” he said. “Similarly, consumers who are unable to pay their bills because they are unemployed or underemployed should not file bankruptcy until their employment status has stabilized at compensation that they can live on without accumulating additional debts in order to meet ordinary living expenses.”
Do the math on your credit cards and their interest rates, and figure out how long it would take you to pay them all off at your current payment rate. Compare that to the length of the consolidation loan you're looking at taking out. Your average 5 year (60 mo) debt consolidation loan, even at a lower interest rate than your credit card, may cost more over the long haul than if you just paid your cards down faster. Photo by 401(k) 2012.
You have no real property and want to discharge your debts. While Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires you to reorganize your debts and pay them off, Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge debts completely. For that reason, bankruptcy attorney Barry J. Roy of Rabinowitz, Lubetkin & Tully LLC in Livingston, N.J., said Chapter 7 makes sense when you don’t have many assets but desire to discharge your unsecured debts.
Unfortunately, some credit blunders may be out of your hands. Unfairly reported or inaccurate information can plague an otherwise clean credit score. Protect yourself by staying up-to-date. Order a free copy of your credit report and review its contents. Check to verify your correct name, address, and other basic information. Look closely at your accounts to make sure your balances are accurate and there is no duplicate reporting. If you need help, contact one of our legal experts for a free credit repair consultation and analysis. False reporting is illegal, and your credit health depends on action.
While this might seem like an obvious debt-repayment strategy, Cavalieri – and many personal finance experts – suggest that you set up your payments with your bank or debit card, so that anything you owe is automatically paid every month. "Automation is key. Setting up payments to go automatically will help keep things humming and ensure you do not miss any payments," Cavalieri says. That way, not only will you start filling the debt hole, you'll avoid late fees and you'll improve your credit score, which may allow you to refinance some debt for better interest rates.
To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must have little disposable income. A means test is applied that compares your income to the median income in your state. 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 household size in your state, you automatically qualify.
You'll probably have a limited amount of money to put toward credit repair each month. So, you'll have to prioritize where you spend your money. Focus first on accounts that are in danger of becoming past due. Get as many of these accounts current as possible, preferably all of them. Then, work on bringing down your credit card balances. Third are those accounts that have already been charged-off or sent to a collection agency.
Applying for and opening up a new credit card increases your overall credit limit compared to the amount you have used. This, too, can result in a nice credit score bump the following month, but only works if you have good credit. One drawback: You may initially receive a 10 to 25-point new credit score ding which will readjust after a few months of responsible credit behavior.
If you’re hesitant for your teen to open their own credit card, adding them as an authorized user on your credit card account may be the best option. You can easily monitor their spending through statements and online banking. While they piggyback off your credit, you can continue to benefit from the same perks your card offers and even earn rewards on their purchases — if you have a rewards card.
Another major online lender, SoFi, also considers more than your score. "At SoFi, we consider a number of factors in looking at applicants, including free cash flow, employment, education and other details," says Alison Norris, advice strategist at SoFi. "We also look at FICO 8 Scores in our underwriting process and require a minimum score of 680 for our personal loans. Our average borrower has a credit score of over 700."
You have the right to dispute any information in your credit report that's inaccurate, incomplete, or you believe can't be verified. When you order your credit report, you'll receive instructions on how to dispute credit report information. Credit reports ordered online typically come with instructions for making disputes online, but you can also make disputes over the phone and through the mail.
If you have one of those letters we mentioned earlier that details your credit problems, you have some idea of what’s holding you back. Even though it may seem complex, as we mentioned, your credit score is based on five core factors: payment history, credit utilization, the age of credit accounts, mix of credit accounts and history of applying for credit. They’re not equally weighted, and this information will most likely vary between credit bureaus.