Many times, a credit counselor can offer insights into your financial situation that you may not see on your own. They may see obvious ways you can cut your spending that you may have overlooked, for example. Their extensive knowledge of debt relief options also makes them ideal mentors for consumers who need professional help when it comes to assessing their debts and figuring out a plan that will work.
Credit utilization is the ratio of your account balance to your spending limit. It basically indicates whether you are using too much credit, which, for the purpose of maintaining good or excellent credit, is generally above 30% of what’s available. The ratio is calculated for each of your credit cards individually as well as for all of them collectively. The lower your credit utilization ratio(s), the better it generally is for your overall credit score.
While the Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal CU has a slightly higher security deposit at $250, it does have one of the lowest APRs of a secured card at 13.99% Variable. This may come in handy if you find yourself carrying a balance month to month — but we strongly encourage you to pay each bill on time and in full to avoid interest charges. This card is available to everyone regardless of residence by joining the American Consumer Council for free during the application process.
Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit scores. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.
Account Information – Carefully check all accounts listed and make sure they are actually accounts that you have opened. If you find an account in your name that you did not open, contact the credit bureaus, explain the fraud and ask that a fraud alert be put on your account. Then contact the card-issuing company to find out more details about the account. The fact that it is on your report means it is likely that someone used your Social Security number in opening that account. Also be sure that the balance information and payment history for each account is accurate. If any information is inaccurate, you will need proof of the correct information and you will have to start a dispute with the credit bureau to ask for ratifications.
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.
Balance transfer rules to follow: Transfer balances soon after opening the card since many offers are only available for a limited time, usually around 60 days. And, make sure you aren’t late on payments since that may result in the cancellation of your 0% intro period. Also, make sure you pay your balance before the intro period ends so your debt isn’t hit with the ongoing APR and you avoid possible deferred interest.

I have about $10-11,000 in credit card debt. I am thinking about consolidating, however, after doing some research I’m not sure I want to go that route. I have a good creadit score and I do not want to hurt my credit score by having to close accounts, etc. However, I feel like I can’t make any progress with my credit cards due to interest, and I’m trying to avoid opening anymore credit cards that would have low or no interest. I’ve thought about taking out a bank loan to pay my credit cards off. Does this seem like it would be the best option for me? Do you suggest any other options?
This is a riff off the strategy to pay before the statement date for those that cannot make a lump sum payment, similar to making bi-monthly payments to reduce your mortgage debt faster. For a 30-year mortgage, this strategy results in reducing the balance before interest is charged every month and in making an additional month’s payment every year, effectively reducing the loan term and interest charges dramatically over the life of the loan. For credit card payments, it can also mean the difference between being able to pay extra and not being able to pay extra during the month. So try making one payment before the statement date and another payment by the due date to pay down the balance as quickly as possible.
Traditional debt consolidation companies review your debts, income and credit score. If you qualify for a debt consolidation loan, they will discuss terms with you which will include the repayment period, the interest rate and the monthly payment. After you are issued a check, you will pay off all of your individual credit cards and owe one monthly payment to the credit consolidation company. One of the downsides of working with a traditional debt consolidator is that your credit card accounts are open and available for use. You may be tempted to continue using your cards and could wind up doubling your debt. Consider the following tips if you decide to work with a traditional debt consolidation company and take out a brand new loan:
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.
This is easier said than done, but reducing the amount that you owe is going to be a far more satisfying achievement than improving your credit score. The first thing you need to do is stop using your credit cards. Use your credit report to make a list of all of your accounts and then go online or check recent statements to determine how much you owe on each account and what interest rate they are charging you. Come up with a payment plan that puts most of your available budget for debt payments towards the highest interest cards first, while maintaining minimum payments on your other accounts.
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If you’re unable to pay all of your bills on time, “cushion the blow to your credit score by defaulting on just one account. There is a component in the FICO score called 'prevalence,'" says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com. "That means having five collections is worse than having one." He recommends that you “let the account with the highest monthly payment fall behind to free up more money every month to pay your other debt obligations.”
If you are in the process of getting a mortgage and cannot wait sixty days for the updates to work their way through the system, you can force your scores up in a matter of four days using the Rapid Rescore tool. This high powered credit repair aid is only available through mortgage originators. To take advantage of a Rapid Rescore you must provide your loan officer with clear documentation to support the score update. This is especially easy if you have reduced credit card balances. Just contact the creditor and ask for a balance letter. Rapid Rescore can be used to update any info on your report as long as you can provide solid objective documentation. It’s a great credit repair tool.
When you work with a bank or other for-profit debt consolidation firm, you will pay fees in the form of interest and loan origination charges to secure and maintain a debt consolidation loan. If you work with a nonprofit organization, like InCharge Debt Solutions, you will pay a set-up fee (on average, $40) and a monthly fee to maintain it (average $25). It’s important when you consider debt relief solutions that you compare interest rates and fees. Before pursuing any credit card consolidation program, ask your the following questions:

I had a $10,000 surgery when my medical insurance lapsed. I had to fill out a form with the hospital that stated I could not afford to pay it and they forgave it/never went on my credit. If you make under a certain income, the hospital should help you get those off, call the hospital and ask. It may be too late since it’s in collections already, if that’s the case, don’t pay it because it won’t change the negative impact since it’s already in collections. Wait for it to fall off.
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