Tag Archive | "Credit history"

Enrolling in a Debt Management Plan to Help Your Monthly Budget

Enrolling in a Debt Management Plan to Help Your Monthly Budget

Enrolling in a debt management plan
Signing up for a debt management plan may give you more breathing room in your monthly budget, but will it hurt your credit? Not as much as you may think. Using a debt management plan to pay off debt won’t hurt your credit score, but it may make it difficult to qualify for new credit.

Debt management plan: Protecting your credit score
When you enroll in a debt management program, you write a monthly check to a credit-counseling agency and the agency pays your creditors. A debt management plan usually lasts three or four years. A notation stating that you are paying an account through a credit-counseling agency appears on your credit report and remains until the account is paid in full. Paying an account through a credit counseling agency will not hurt your credit score.

Debt management plan: Qualifying for new credit
Participating in a debt management plan could make it difficult for you to qualify for additional credit, and some debt management plans prohibit consumers from applying for new credit anyway.

Some creditors may see that a person is in a debt management plan and decide that they have all the debt they can handle. Other creditors might view participation in a debt management plan as a positive step, a sign that a consumer has taken responsibility for and is serious about paying off debt.

The more a creditor bases a lending decision on a consumer’s credit score, the less a consumer’s participation in a debt-management plan is likely to matter. A typical creditor uses the FICO score. They don’t look at notations on the account. Paying off a big chunk of debt on your own or with the help of a debt management plan will give your credit score a boost.

Debt management plan: Late payments hurt your credit score
What will hurt your credit score? Not debt management plans. Instead, being 30 or 60 days late with any payments can adversely impact your credit rating. Those negative marks hurt your credit score and can mar your credit report for up to seven years.

Debt management plan: Choose wisely
It is very important to choose a debt management plan carefully. If the agency administering the program misses or is late with a payment, it is your credit record that gets impacted. Enrollment and monthly fees for debt management plans vary widely. Some companies may charge several hundred dollars for their services, while others charge monthly fees of $20 or less.

With a debt management plan, a consumer usually gets reduced interest rates, lower monthly payments, no more late fees and fewer calls and letters from creditors. Debt-counseling agencies get their operating money by receiving a percentage of each client’s payments back from creditors.

If you are current on your bills, you may want to try negotiating new payment amounts and lower interest rates with creditors on your own. You never know what kind of deal you may land. And you may be able to make real headway on your debt by simply tightening your belt for a few months and freeing up more cash for debt payments.

Debt management plan: Monitor your debt counselor
If your situation is more serious or you just feel plain overwhelmed, you may want to talk to a debt counselor. If you decide to sign on for a debt management plan, be sure to monitor your credit bills carefully. Is the agency paying your bills on time as promised? You need to be vigilant and look at your statements regularly.

If you discover a problem with bills paid through a debt consolidation company or credit counselor, report the company to a local consumer protection agency or state attorney general‘s office. You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. For more ideas on how to monitor these companies, see some of the suggestions by the FTC on Debt Management Plans.

Examples of Debt Management Companies

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Ten Tips to Increase Your FICO Score

Ten Tips to Increase Your FICO Score

Here are 10 tips to help you increase your FICO score by using credit responsibly.

In order to keep your finances in great shape and increase your FICO score, it is important to use your credit responsibly.

Your FICO score is a score created by credit bureaus such as Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Institutions lend money based on the FICO score created by credit bureaus. Here are some tips for keeping the FICO score in good shape.

1. To Increase Your FICO Score, Pay Your Bills On Time
Late payments have a negative effect on your FICO score. Do your absolute best to make sure every payment arrives on time. If you have missed payments, get caught up. The longer you have a good record of paying your bills on time, the more your FICO score will increase.

2. To Increase Your FICO Score, Keep Balances Low on Revolving Accounts
Credit cards are a type of revolving credit. This means you can pay off the line of credit and then use it again. Keep balances low on this type of credit. Having high amounts of credit card debt will lower your FICO score.

3. To Increase Your FICO Score, Pay Off Credit – Don’t Just Move it Around
Moving credit around is not the same as paying it off. Your FICO score will increase if you consolidate your credit. If you have a balance, but fewer open accounts, your FICO score will increase.

4. To Increase Your FICO Score, Don’t Open Accounts Your Don’t Need
People will often open a number of accounts in order to try to increase the amount of available credit. This strategy can often backfire and lower your FICO score, instead of increasing it.

5. To Increase Your FICO Score, Avoid Collection Accounts
Be aware that any account that has gone to collection will stay on your credit report for seven years. These accounts will negatively affect your FICO score.

6. To Increase Your FICO Score, Open Accounts and Pay Responsibly
If you’ve had trouble in the past with credit, it pays to open a new account and use it responsibly. Establishing a pattern of responsible credit use will help to increase your FICO score over time.

7. To Increase Your FICO Score, Avoid Closing Accounts
Closing an account doesn’t make that account disappear from your credit history. Each account you’ve opened and closed will show up on your credit report and will affect your FICO score.

8. To Increase Your FICO Score, Use Credit Cards
People who have no credit history have a difficult time obtaining credit. It’s important to obtain credit early on and use it responsibly. People who do this have higher FICO scores than someone who never uses credit at all.

9. To Increase Your FICO Score, Seek Credit Counseling
If you are in trouble with debt and your FICO score is lower than you would like, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a legitimate credit counselor. These counselors can help you navigate your credit report as well as help you make a concrete plan to help you increase your score.

10. To Increase Your FICO Score, Remember it Takes Time
Remember, there are no quick fixes for increasing your credit score. It takes time to establish a good credit history, or to repair damaged credit. If you look at it as a process, you’ll be able to create solid goals and to achieve them.

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What if I Find a Mistake on My Credit Report?

What if I Find a Mistake on My Credit Report?

Mistakes found on your credit report can be avoided by and/or corrected by following some straightforward procedures.

A big part of being fiscally responsible these days is checking on your credit report. Individuals can get a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — every 12 months. Checking your credit report is as simple as having these bureaus send you a copy of your credit report and looking it over. Most of the time, these credit reports are correct. But what do you do if you find a mistake?

Credit Report: Check Each Credit Card Account
When you check over your credit report, you need to check each credit card account. The information on the open accounts should match the information you have in your records at home. Check each credit card, including card numbers, balances, and payment histories. If a discrepancy is found, you should contact your credit card company and check your information against theirs. If it is the credit card company’s error, they will correct it and notify the credit bureaus during their next reporting cycle. If it is not their error, you will need to check with the reporting credit bureau to see if the error originated with them. If so, you’ll need to send the credit bureau a copy of your most recent credit card statement, so that the credit bureau can correct their mistake.

Credit Report: Check Your Credit Card Payment History
It’s also important to check payment histories. Payment history can help or harm your credit score (your FICO score) and it is important to be sure that these are correct. If you find a discrepancy, find the documentation necessary to prove yourself and send that to your credit card company. These errors may take a little time to fix, but this is something you can do yourself.

Credit Report: Check All Closed Accounts
Check all closed accounts that are listed by the credit bureau on your credit report. Be sure that the credit report shows no balances on those accounts and that all the accounts are closed. If you believe a credit card account is closed, you will need to get proof of this from the credit card company and send that on to the credit bureau in order for them to correct this mistake.

Credit Report: Contact Credit Card Company if You Find a Credit Report Error
If you find an open account on your credit report that is not yours, contact the credit card company and the credit card bureaus immediately. This can sometimes happen when someone with the same name opens a credit card account and it is accidentally attached to your credit report. Once information such as social security numbers and personal information are verified, these mistakes are usually quickly fixed by the credit card company or credit bureau.

Credit Report: Keep Copies of Correspondence With Credit Bureaus
When dealing with credit bureaus while trying to fix a credit report, it’s a good idea to keep copies of all correspondences you’ve had with the credit bureaus and the credit card companies. These can be useful if the dispute with the credit bureaus or credit card companies is not easily solved.

Credit Report and Fraudulent Activity
If you find evidence of fraudulent activity or identity theft on your credit report, it’s best to contact an attorney or law enforcement official immediately, as well as to let the reporting credit bureaus know. Fraud is not something you can settle yourself and will need to be professionally handled.

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How to Read Your Credit Report

How to Read Your Credit Report

A credit report contains four basic parts: identifying information, credit history, public records, and inquiries. It’s important to look closely at each section to determine whether or not the information contained in the credit report is correct.


A credit report contains four basic parts: identifying information, credit history, public records, and inquiries. It’s important to look closely at each section to determine whether or not the information contained in the credit report is correct.

Checking your credit report at least once a year is not only a good idea, but crucial to supporting your financial health. Checking your credit report is similar to getting an annual physical at the doctor’s office. Checking your credit report helps ensure that you don’t find yourself in trouble with your credit bureau before it’s too late.

You can get one copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com from each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Each of those credit reports may contain different information so it’s important to obtain a credit report from each credit bureau. Creditors voluntarily give information to the credit bureaus and they don’t necessarily report to all three. Getting a credit report from each of the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) will enable you to compare and evaluate the credit reports side by side.

Identifying Information
The identifying information on your credit report is your personal information, including birth date, present and previous addresses, social security numbers, phone numbers, and employer information. Individuals reporting to the credit bureaus enter this information, so it’s not unusual to have mild variations on the spelling of your name or your phone number. If there are slight variations on the credit report, it’s best to just leave them. If there are gross errors on the credit report, those need to be corrected.

Credit History
Each credit report will contain information about the credit accounts you have had or currently have. Each individual credit account listed on your credit report is called a trade line. Each credit account will have the name of the creditor and your credit account number. The credit account numbers may be scrambled to keep that information secure. As part of the information about each credit account, you’ll find the name or names on the credit account, the date you opened the credit account, the type of credit (mortgage, car loan, revolving credit, etc), the amount of the loan or the credit limit, the payment amount or how much you still owe, the status of the account (open, closed, inactive, etc), and how well you’ve paid on the account. On Experian’s credit report, you’ll find these items written out in a straightforward manner. On the other credit bureau’s reports, you’ll find payment codes you’ll have to use a key to figure out.

Public Record
This section of your credit report contains any matters of financial public record. It will contain records of bankruptcies, tax liens, or judgments. The things listed in this part of your credit report are very important because they can have a very negative impact on your credit rating.

This part of the credit report lists anyone who has asked to look at your credit history. Inquiries are listed as two types – hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Hard inquiries on your credit report are ones you initiate by filling out a credit application. Soft inquiries are inquiries from companies looking to send out promotional information to a “pre-qualified” group of people.

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FICO 101:  How to Improve Your FICO Score (Credit Score)

FICO 101: How to Improve Your FICO Score (Credit Score)

improve-your-fico-scoreAlmost every working American has a FICO score. Anyone with a Social Security number, a job, and any kind of debt is likely to have a record with one or all of the three major credit reporting agencies. This credit report history results in an algorithmic score that rates each individual’s creditworthiness. A higher FICO score means that a person is responsible in acquiring and paying debt, while a low score tells potential creditors that a person is a higher risk.

How is a FICO Score Determined?

Your FICO score is an algorithmic mathematical weighted formula. Your credit history shows how many creditors you have, what your credit limit is for each creditor, how much of your limit you have used, and also whether you pay on time and as agreed or have made late payments in the past.

Serious credit issues, such as repossession, foreclosure, and collections, will also show on your credit report, as well as financial judgments from a court of law. All these critical aspects are scored by their importance to provide a single number of your creditworthiness.

What Affects My FICO Score And How Can I Protect It?

Your FICO score must be treated with care, much like a pet. It needs constant nurturing, maintenance, and sometimes, it must be treated by a professional and bandaged for repair. A credit history can be damaged by anyone who reports your credit activity to the reporting agency without your consent. Subsequently, it is paramount to treat your creditors with respect and pay them as agreed.

Your credit report and FICO score can be damaged by the report of any of the following:

• Late Payments – If you miss a scheduled payment on a credit card, auto, or home mortgage payment, it will show on your report. Late payments are noted as simply late, and in increments of 30, 60, and 90+ late. The more days late your payment is, the lower your credit score. In fact, your credit score can drop almost overnight.

CREDIT TIP: Even if you cannot pay your creditors, you should make arrangements right away when you experience financial difficulty. Try to work with your creditors regarding a payment plan, which may prevent them from reporting a late payment on your credit score.

• Over Limit – Your credit card companies will report your maximum credit limit. If you charge more than that limit, your report will reflect it.

CREDIT TIP: Always stay well below your credit limit. Conventional wisdom says to keep your charged credit at 2/3 or below your limit for each creditor.

• Collection – If you fail to make payments for a period of time on a credit card or other debt, your account will close and be sent to a collection agency. Your credit report will show both the account closure and the new reporting by the collection agency, adding even more damage to your credit.

CREDIT TIP: Avoid collections by working with creditors directly. If you do end up in a collection account, pay it in full as soon as possible. The worst thing you could do is avoid the creditors and collection agencies.

How Can I Improve My FICO Score?

If you have had past credit issues that affect your FICO score, there are strategies you can implement to start improving your score today.

• Payoff All Problem Credit – If your FICO score is affected by negatively closed or collection accounts, immediately pay them in full as soon as possible.

• Get A Secured Credit Card – If you’re unable to get an unsecured credit card, obtain a secured card with a deposit amount. Start making charges and paying your balance in full each month. This will help build your history of reliable monthly payments.

• Get A Personal Loan – Many banks and credit unions will allow you to obtain a personal loan with a savings or CD deposit as security. Obtain a small personal loan, such as $1000, and keep the money in the bank – don’t spend it! Immediately make the first payment and continue making regular payments each month thereafter. Your bank will report your good payment status, and your FICO score can start improving.

Credit is one of the most important personal issues for every consumer. Your credit report and score can determine whether you can get a home loan, a new credit card, and even affect whether you get a job. Treat it with care and you will succeed in keeping your FICO score in a positive range.

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