A consumer’s credit score can mean so much when it comes to buying a home or car, but once your credit score takes a serious hit, whether it be due to a default or a bankruptcy, you can start to rebuild your score immediately. One of the biggest misconceptions about filing for bankruptcy is that it will ruin your credit score and your financial future. To the contrary, after filing for bankruptcy you can begin restoring your credit right away.
Here are some tips to improve your overall credit score.
- Understand How Credit Scores Are Calculated
It helps to first understand how credit scores are calculated. These reports are issued by the three major credit reporting companies, including TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. The scores range between 350 to 800. The higher the score, the better. A credit score is calculated using that person’s payment history, the amounts owed on each account reported, how long that person has had a credit history, and how much credit activity is on their account.
- Make a Goal
If you want to improve your credit score, it is important to set goals. Set the number you would like to see your credit score within a certain period of time. For example, you may choose to set a goal of increasing your credit score by 50 points within the next four months.
- Keep an Eye on Your Credit Report
The best way to know where your credit score falls on the spectrum is to keep an eye on your credit report. Free credit reports can be requested annually online or by mailing a request to Annual Credit Report Request Service at P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348. After receiving the report, it is recommended that you carefully review all accounts listed. If you see any accounts that you know you did not open and could have been created due to identity theft, this information should be reported immediately. If an account is listed that should be closed, you can contact the company directly to update that information. The same would go for if any incorrect information is found on the report, such as a late payment incorrectly put on the account. Correcting this information can result in your credit score going up a few points. Keeping a close eye on your credit report can also allow you to track progress if you are working hard to improve the score.
- Pay Your Bills on Time
The best way to keep your credit score looking good is to pay your bills on time. Credit builds up over time, and this is done through consistent and positive financial behavior. One way to ensure this happens is to sign up for automatic or online payments so that these expenses are paid automatically and require no action by the account holder. If you are not able to pay a bill on time, it is best to keep late payments to no more than 30 days. The reason for this is most creditors will not report late payments until they are 60 days late.
- Focus on the Bad Debt
Paying down your debt is an excellent way to improve your credit score, and it helps to start with what is considered “bad” debt first. If you have multiple credit cards, choose the one with the highest balance and/or the highest interest rate. Focus your efforts on that one card, and once that card is paid, take the card that has the second highest rate. Many times, this “bad” card is the one that is the oldest and has the highest outstanding balance.
Use the debt avalanche method to attack the debt. What this entails is the person chooses the card with the highest interest rate, and he or she uses all extra money that he or she has available at paying off that card. After that card is paid off, the money that was used to pay that card goes to the next one, and so on. The idea is the money that goes towards the card snowballs in size, helping to pay each one down quicker than the person would be able to do with just meeting monthly minimum payments.
- Do Not Open New Credit Accounts
While you are paying down debt, it is best to not open any new credit accounts during this time. Opening new accounts will only make the goal of trying to pay off open cards even harder. It can be tempting, especially if you are offered a deal at a department store to save on a purchase, but do not fall to temptation and open that new card.
- Keep the Balances Low
Getting debt under control can be very difficult if the balances owed are particularly high. Credit cards that have high balances and high interest rates can be difficult to get under control. The higher the balance, the more interest is paid every month instead of money towards the principal. A good rule of thumb is to keep credit card balances capped at 30 percent of the card’s available credit. Always make sure when making payments that more money is being paid towards the card than the minimum payment. On cards with high balances, this minimum payment is normally only paying interest, which can make the cardholder feel like he or she is never going to pay the card off in full.
- Set up an Emergency Fund
Experts recommend that everyone have a “rainy-day” fund of at least six months of that person’s annual income. This money should be set aside in the event of a health crisis or job loss and can help you avoid the need to use credit to keep up with daily expenses.
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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.