The first step to financial stability is to fix your credit and get rid of the debt you already have. According to the US Department of labor, the average American wage earner owes more than $15,000 in debt, and that is not including mortgage payments or automobile payments. Credit cards are a major contributor to this debt.
Back to Top
Here are two good reasons:
Switch Credit Cards
Switch your current credit card balances to a card that charges a lower interest rate. Here are three things to look for in a credit card before you switch:
Use Four Simple Ways to Pay Your Debt
Once you get your debt transferred to a lower interest rate card, it's time to start thinking about paying off your debt entirely.
Method 1: Use Savings to Get Out of Debt...and Stay Out of Debt
Method 2: Increase the Payment
At the very least, you should be paying the minimum required payment PLUS the finance charge that was added.
Method 3: Pay off Your Debt in One Year
Pay 1/12th of your principal balance each month, plus the finance charge. In one year, you'll be debt free.
Method 4: Consolidate Your Debt with A New Loan
Get a lower rate consolidation loan to pay off your credit card debt.
Back to Top
This next step to financial stability is to get a copy of your credit report. Lenders, credit card issuers and other credit providers send regular reports about their accounts to the major credit bureaus. This is where the information on your credit report comes from. There are three major credit bureaus; you should contact each one because not all credit providers report to each bureau. Also, if you have joint credit (for example, if you are married and have joint accounts with your spouse), it is a good idea to get the credit report for each of you because there may be information on one report that does not appear on the other.
There has been a study done which showed that 50 % of consumer credit reports had errors in them, and 20 % had errors that would cause the consumer to be denied credit. Some problems stem from having a common name and finding other persons' information on your report. Other problems arise from incorrectly reported information or credit fraud. There is no watchdog group to protect your interest in good credit reporting. It is up to you.
You are entitled to receive one free credit file disclosure every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. If free credit reports are available in your state you can request a free annual credit report by phone (1-877-322-8228) and it will be mailed within 15 days. If online, you must enter your Social Security Number to receive a free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com.
The federal government created AnnualCreditReport.com in cooperation with the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. Each bureau helps maintain the site and they furnish the credit reports. This effort is propelled by the increasing rise in identity theft and errors on credit reports. Hopefully, we as consumers can take advantage of this service. Good credit scores can mean lower interest rates for our purchases. In addition, spotting identity theft early will prevent wasted dollars and litigation time. While getting an annual credit report is helpful, a better way to monitor credit is through the Credit Check Monitoring Service. This service provides credit score tips, fraud alerts, and unlimited credit reports for the year. This will help you to stay on top of your credit.
Back to Top
Never request a free credit report in connection with credit you have been denied. If you send a copy of a credit denial letter to the credit agency and request a free copy of your credit report, the bureau will change the 'inquiry' to read 'credit denied.' Then future lenders and retailers will see 'credit denied' when they pull your credit report. This remark can result in even more denials in the future. If you are denied credit and have already received your free annual credit report, go ahead and pay the small fee to get your credit report. This way you won't have the 'denial' on your record.
How to Read your Credit Report
Every agency has a different form for reporting their credit information. When you receive your credit report, take time to read the instructions that accompany the report. It will explain fully how to read and interpret the information in your report.
Our country has thousands of credit reporting subscribers reporting and requesting information on a daily basis. It's obvious that with that kind of volume, a lot of mistakes are made. If you know how these mistakes occur and understand your rights, you can use this knowledge to your advantage. Let's look at the kind of information that can really make your credit look bad. Then we'll show you how to fix it.
Back to Top
Past Due Credit
Slow payments, bad debts and legal judgments all go against your credit record and make you look risky to a lender.
Too Many 'Inquiries'
Inquiries are made by anyone who checks your credit, with your permission. As few as four inquiries in a six-month period may be considered excessive by some creditors because they assume that you have been denied credit by previous inquirers. But don't let the fear of inquiries stop you from shopping for the best deal when you need auto or home financing. Recently, the credit bureaus have recognized that borrowers may apply for credit at more than one place for the same transaction. Generally, the credit scoring companies will consider all auto or mortgage loan inquires received within a 14 day period as 1 inquiry so the additional inquires will not affect your credit score.
Mistakes in Your Credit History
Typing mistakes, name confusion, and erroneous information are typical mistakes seen in credit files. The only way mistakes can be found and corrected is by periodically reviewing your file for accuracy and then taking steps to correct it.
No Credit History
Lenders are apprehensive about giving money to people with no credit history. You will need to develop your credit history more fully in order to qualify for higher credit levels.
Back to Top
What is a Credit Score?
When lenders evaluate your loan application, they use a process called underwriting-they try to evaluate your ability and willingness to repay your loan. They judge your ability to repay by looking at the amount of your income and how stable your past earnings have been. This helps them determine if you can afford the loan payments. They judge your willingness to repay by looking at your past credit history. Generally speaking, someone who has made payments on time will probably do so in the future.
Lenders want their evaluation to be as accurate, objective and as consistent as possible. In an effort to achieve these goals, mortgage lenders recently began using credit scores to help in the underwriting process. Credit scores are numerical values that rank individuals according to their credit history at a given point in time. Your score is based on your past payment history, the amount of credit you have outstanding, the amount of credit you have available, and other factors. According to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two of the largest purchasers of home loans from lenders, credit scores have proven to be very good predictors of whether a borrower will repay his or her loan.
Many lenders use credit scores to help evaluate loan applications. However, a credit score is just one of the many factors considered in the underwriting process. Lenders look at the entire picture. Even when a credit score is low, lenders try to find other factors that could overcome the negative credit issues and satisfy their underwriting criteria. The decision to approve or deny a loan will be made based on sound, flexible underwriting guidelines.
Back to Top
What is a FICO Score?
'FICO' scores are a type of credit score developed by Fair Isaac & Company. FICO scores use credit bureau information to obtain a score which indicates how likely someone is to make their loan payments on time. Millions of consumers' credit bureau records were used to develop the scorecards; and all of the consumer data-not just negative information-was included to develop the system. FICO scores range from approximately 350 to 900. The higher the score the more likely someone is to make their payment. Similarly, the lower the score the more likely someone is to not make their payment.
Just as credit scores are one factor in determining if you qualify for a loan, they may also be a factor in determining the price of your loan. The price of a loan means the interest rate and the points charged by the lender and /or the mortgage broker. The price charged for a loan will be higher or lower depending on various factors.
Credit scores are used in determining the price of a loan because they are believed to be good predictors of a borrower's ability and willingness to repay the loan. Many mortgage loans are sold to investors, and investors will pay a more favorable price for loans they feel have a low risk of default. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac use credit scores as part of their analysis when pricing loans they buy from lenders because of this very reason. Thus, applicants with lower credit scores may pay higher prices for their loans because of the higher risk of default and loss.
There are many other factors relating to an individual borrower's situation that may also affect the price of a loan, often even more so than credit scores. These include the type of property securing the loan (detached single family residence, duplex, etc.), the amount of the borrower's equity in the property, the lender's costs to make the loan and type of loan selected.
Back to Top
Dispute and Remove Erroneous Information
Fortunately anyone, by law, can dispute the information in his or her credit file and/ or request a re-investigation of the items contained in the file.
Before you dispute anything in your credit report, you may want to get a copy of Fair Credit Reporting Act (available at most libraries).
Back to Top
We suggest that you never dispute over 1/4 of the report. What are some good reasons to dispute an item or request verification?
Here are a few ideas:
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that credit bureaus reinvestigate any entry you disagree with and remove any item that is no longer verifiable. Here's what you need to do:
A. Write to the credit bureaus from which you have received a report and ask for an investigation into the entries you disagree with.
Back to Top
Experian National Consumer Assistance Center (TRW)
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949
Telephone: (888) 397-3742
Trans Union Corporation
760 West Sproul Road
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
Telephone: (800) 916-8800
Equifax Information Service Center
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Telephone: (800) 685-1111
B. Let them know that the entries on your report are detrimental to your credit record and you wish to have them investigated in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
C. Mention that you would like to have the matter handled within 15-30 days and that you expect to receive a corrected copy of your report at that time.
To Strengthen Your Case, Do This...
Send copies of cancelled checks, payment receipts, letters of agreement and/or other information. You should also request the names of persons contacted by the bureau for future reference. You are entitled to this information under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Send the letter to the credit bureau via certified mail, return receipt requested. Before mailing, be sure that you make a copy of everything for your file. Most of all: Be Persistent.
Back to Top
There are three possible responses you can get from the credit bureau.
1. The Creditor verifies that the information is correct
If the creditor reviews its files and verifies that the derogatory information is correct, you will need to submit a consumer statement to counteract or explain the information.
A sample letter is provided on the following page. Make a copy of the letter and send the original certified, return receipt requested.
2. The Creditor sends corrected information
Hopefully the creditor will change a derogatory item (i.e. a 'charge-off') to one that is non-derogatory (i.e. 'account closed paid in full').
3. The Creditor doesn't verify the information
If this happens, it's good news. If the creditor does not respond, the credit bureau must promptly remove the information from your credit history.
Back to Top
Credit Bureau Name
City, State, Zip
RE: XYZ Finance Co., Subscriber # Acct #
According to my rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act Section 611(b), I hereby request that you enter the following 'consumer statement' into my credit report:
On , 20__ I moved from Colorado to New Jersey. I notified XYZ Finance in Boulder, Colorado of my change of address. Unfortunately, XYZ continued to mail my statement to my old address in Colorado for several months. I notified XYZ to tell them that only one statement had been forwarded by the Post Office. It was over four months before I received that statement.
To my surprise, I discovered that XYZ was reporting my account as late to the credit bureau. I offered to pay the account in full if XYZ would remove the derogatory information from my credit report, since it should have never been there in the first place.
I have always maintained contact with XYZ and informed them of my address change. I feel that I am a victim of a computer error by XYZ and the credit bureau. I am willing to pay the bill in full as soon as the misleading, erroneous information is removed.
Back to Top
Now, let's see how to correct prior credit problems.
What should you do if you read over your credit report and see an account that:
(1) is delinquent,
(2) has been turned over to a collection agency, or
(3) has been charged-off with a balance remaining due?
The best way to get something like this off your record is to work out a deal with the creditor. It's as easy as ABC:
A. Call the person or company you owe money to. Ask to speak to the credit department manager.
B. Offer to pay them in full. If it is not possible for you to pay in full, renegotiate the loan. Many creditors are willing to make a settlement for less.
C. Once the company has received your payment, they will contact the credit bureau and request removal. Follow up with them to make sure they have updated your standing with the credit bureaus. Ask them to send you confirmation letters and keep them in your files.
Back to Top
City, State, Zip
City, State, Zip
This letter is a request to remove the derogatory information currently in my credit report.
For years I have been a good customer and look forward to an active business relationship in the future. However, from to a medical condition caused me to be late on my payments on several occasions. This was an unusual situation which I don't expect to repeat. At this time, I am happy to say that I am able to pay my credit balance IN FULL. In exchange for this payment in full I would appreciate it if you would delete the damaging entry from my credit record. It is very harmful to my credit status.
If this is acceptable to you please sign below and return to the above
address. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Social Security #:
Back to Top
Step One: Open a checking and savings account with a local bank.
Step Two: Get a secured credit card
If you've had problems with credit in the past, you may already know about the benefits of secured credit cards. A secured card requires you to open and maintain a savings account as security for your line of credit. The required savings deposit for a secured card may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Your credit line is a percentage of your deposit, typically 50 to 100 percent. Usually, a bank will pay interest on your deposit. In addition, you also may have to pay application and processing fees-sometimes totaling hundreds of dollars. Before applying, be sure to ask what the total fees are and whether they will be refunded if you're denied a card. Typically, a secured card requires an annual fee and has a higher interest rate than an unsecured card. Some of the best sources of secured credit cards are small, local banks or savings and loans. Local credit unions will often offer cards to members.
Step Three: Use your credit card
Use your credit card for small purchases. Pay off the entire balance each month. To avoid overspending, keep a record of each transaction just like a checkbook register.
Step Four: Build a strong credit rating
Once you get a secured credit card you are on the road to building a strong, positive credit report. After you have used your card for a year to 18 months, write to the bank and ask them to release the lock on your savings account or raise your limit.
Step Five: Apply for instant credit
The next step to take toward building your credit is to apply for instant credit at major department stores in your area. Good ones to try are J.C. Penny, R.C. Willey, Meier and Frank, Home Depot, etc. Purchase a small item and pay it off promptly.
Step Six: Apply for a MasterCard or Visa
Now that you have a bank account, a steady job and a good payment history you can get just about any credit card you want, including a MasterCard or Visa. After nine to twelve months, you can apply for more prestigious cards like American Express and Carte Blanche.
Step Seven: Apply for in-store credit
Many smaller jewelry and furniture stores carry their own loans on purchases made in their stores. Once you have a Visa or MasterCard you can apply for and receive instant credit from most department stores, jewelry stores and other retailers.
Step Eight: Apply for an auto or mortgage loan
Back to Top
Factors that Improve your Credit Score
Because each borrower's credit score is a reflection of his or her unique credit profile, it is not possible to quantify in advance exactly how each item in your credit history numerically impacts your ultimate credit score. No one can tell you, for example, how much your credit score will be affected if you pay off a delinquent account or cancel a credit card. We do know, however, that there are things you can do to improve your credit profile. Some of the factors which may impact your credit score include:
Everyday, companies nationwide appeal to consumers with poor credit histories. They promise, for a fee, to clean up your credit report so you can get a car loan, a home mortgage, insurance or a even a job. After you pay them hundreds or thousands of dollars in up-front processing fees, these companies do nothing to improve your credit report; many simply vanish with your money. The truth is, no one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. But the law does allow you to request an investigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. There is no charge for this. Everything a credit repair clinic can do for you legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost.
Beware of companies that:
If you follow illegal advice and commit fraud, you may be subject to prosecution.
If you feel that you have been victimized by a credit repair agency, report them. Contact your local consumer affairs office or your state attorney general (AG). Many AG's have toll-free consumer hotlines. Check with your local directory assistance.
You may also wish to contact the FTC. Although the Commission cannot resolve individual credit problems for consumers, it can act against a company if it sees a pattern of possible law violations. If you believe a company has engaged in credit fraud, send your complaints to:
Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
Washington D.C. 20580
TDD: (202) 326-2502
Back to Top
A co-signer is someone with good credit who promises to make loan payments if the borrower does not. If you co-sign a loan you are being asked to guarantee this debt. If the debt is ever in default, that fact may become part of your credit record.
If You Do Co-sign
Despite the risks, there may be times when you want to co-sign. Your child may need a first loan, or a close friend may need help. Before you co-sign, consider the following:
Opt-Out to improve your credit scores
Many claim that 'Opting-Out' may improve your credit scores by up to 10 points in 10 days.
Every day your mailbox may contain an interesting offer of pre-approved credit or insurance. These offers give you numerous choices and opportunities. However, while millions of Americans welcome these choices, others prefer not to receive such offers.
Your rights as a consumer include the ability to 'Opt-Out', which prevents consumer credit reporting companies from using your credit file information for pre-approved offers of credit or insurance. The consumer credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, Innovis and Trans Union, want to help companies give American consumers the choices they want. This choice includes the right to say, 'Please don't send me these offers'. That's why the four consumer credit reporting companies have developed this website. www.optoutprescreen.com. (Please note: this process may not be used to Opt-Out businesses / companies.) You can also complete this process via phone by dialing 888-5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688).
You may request to Opt-Out from pre-approved offer lists for 5 years or permanently. Removing your name from these pre-approved lists does not affect your ability to apply for or obtain credit or insurance.
If you opt-out, you will no longer be included in pre-approved offer lists obtained from these four consumer credit reporting companies. However, you may continue to receive commercial mailings based on lists from other sources.
Opting out will not end solicitations from all local merchants, religious and charitable associations, professional and alumni associations, politicians, and companies with which you conduct business. To eliminate mail from these groups - as well as mail addressed to 'occupant' or 'resident' - write directly to each source.
After you re-establish your credit, it is important not to fall back into the credit trap once again. For example, there are those who take out a second mortgage on their home in order to pay off credit card debt. This is a great way to lower interest payments and a good plan for eliminating debt. However, if they go back and charge all the credit cards up again, they find that they have created a new debt problem. They now have a burden of high interest credit card debt and also have a second mortgage as well; and if they default on their second mortgage their house may be in jeopardy.
Remember, the main purpose of your new credit limit or loan, is to build good credit. It's important to limit your purchases to items you would buy normally. Stay within your means and always pay your bills on time. In no time at all derogatory credit will heal.
Back to Top