Improving Your Credit Score

How To Improve Your Credit Score in 2018

This guide will help you know what a credit report and score is, how to review your credit report, tips on how you can improve your score and information regarding how to dispute discrepancies you may find on your credit profile.

We encourage you to read every section as they provide useful information. However, if you are looking for a specific answer, follow the links below:

Building A Better Credit Report

Tips for Strengthening Your Credit Score

Basics of Maintaining or Rebuilding Your Credit

What is a credit report and how is it used?

How are we, the average Joe or Jane on the street, supposed to build (or rebuild) our credit when no one teaches what’s on our credit report to begin with? Well, here’s the answer:

  • Contact information (no impact on credit score): It simply includes the names, addresses, employers, and, sometimes, marital statuses under which you have applied for credit in the past.
  • Credit & Trade Lines: Details on the various lines of credit the consumer has had in the past 7-10 years, including balances, terms and their history of on-time payments.
  • Public Records: List of court actions, including bankruptcies, judgments, tax liens and possibly evictions over the past 7-10 years
  • Inquiries: List of creditors and businesses that have looked at your credit in the past 2 years. Those you authorize as part of an application for credit may impact your score (slightly), while others do not.
  • Personal Statement (no impact on credit score): Up to 99 words the consumer may add to their own report. We generally suggest this only be used to clarify report errors.

Think of your credit report as your own personal file that holds information about your where you reside, what type of debt you owe on and what your payment history is with your lenders. Your credit report file will also include whether or not you’ve filed bankruptcy and if you’ve been sued to collect on a debt you owe. If you have mortgage or automobile payments those will show on your credit report as well.

Creditors, lenders, employers, insurance companies or property management firms may purchase a copy of your credit report in order to determine your creditworthiness. They will look for positive items such as an established credit history, high balance to available credit ratios (do you have access to credit but keep the balances down?), on time bill payment, what types of credit do you use and have you recently applied for new credit?

Importance of Credit Scores

What is credit?  It is the ability to borrow based on the promise of repayment.  Lately, everything seems to be based on a person’s credit score.  Here are a few ways credit scores affect the price you pay for the following items:

  • Personal Life Insurance: Having a bad credit score can drop you to the lower tiers causing you to pay a higher premium, though your health is still the most influential factor.
  • Auto and Home Insurance: Poor credit can mean you are denied insurance completely or you will pay more.  Before obtaining insurance from a company, ask them, “What percent of the premium will my credit score account for?”
  • Employment: The trend is growing for companies to pull a credit report along with a background check.  They want a stable employee.  They are not allowed to ask you why you have a bad score, but you are allowed to tell them.  Be prepared to discuss it.  Employers can pull credit to promote or transfer an employee as well.  Be open and willing to explain what happened.
  • Housing: Property management companies will likely pull your credit report to determine approval or denial, though many do not take into account any medical collections.  The larger the company the stricter they typically are.  Small locally owned companies tend to get to know the individual.
  • Loans: The higher the score, the better the interest rates you pay for standard bank loans (auto, home, signature).  If your score is too low (mid to low 500s), you may be denied a loan completely or receive an interest rate in the high teens to twenties.

Check your credit report every year to check for fraud or misreporting that may be affecting your credit score.  While 8 in 10 credit reports contain some sort of error, one in four contains such an error significant to cause you to be denied credit in spite of any other positive information.

As you can see, building and maintaining a good credit score can positively affect a major part of your life.

Have You Pulled Your Credit Report Lately?

Information found on credit reports and that three-digit number called a credit score have become such integral decision factors in our lives.  Do you feel as though you are now judged by your credit report and credit score more than ever?

We have the opportunity—and the right—to see our credit reports and ensure that they are accurate, which is especially important before you apply for a loan. Here are some steps to taking advantage of the FACT Act to monitor your own credit:

  • Pull your credit regularly at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.  We are entitled to one credit report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months.  That translates into three credit reports per year for FREE!  If you really want to stay on top of your credit monitoring, pull one report every four months rather than pulling all three at once.
  • Keep in mind that we are able to dispute inaccurate information.  If you see something that just doesn’t look right, dispute it with the credit bureaus by going directly to their websites or by writing to them.  If the item is negative, but it is indeed accurate, it will have to stay on the credit report until it is due to come off (generally 7 years for negative information).
  • Anything a credit repair company can do legally, you can do for yourself.  Just as you can pay someone to cook your meals, clean your house, and mow your lawn, you can also pay somebody to “clean up” your credit.  Save yourself some (or a lot of) money by writing your own dispute letters.
  • Keep a paper trail.  One advantage of sending a dispute by mail is that you can include copies of supporting documentation and send them by certified mail.  Always write down who you talk to when you talked to them, and any other pertinent information each time you speak with a creditor.  It’s easy to get lost in large organizations with multiple international call centers.

Steps You Can Take to Build a Better Personal Credit Report:

First things first, get a copy of your credit report and study it. Look at the same information that others are looking at when determining your creditworthiness.

If something looks out of place make a note of it and begin fact-checking. You may find a discrepancy on your report and will want to take the appropriate steps to resolve the issue.

How to Dispute Discrepancies on Your Credit Report

There are a couple ways to go about filing a dispute with a consumer reporting agency. The recommended way is to contact the credit bureaus that have the error using the dispute option on their website:

Disputing the error online is the quickest and easiest way. See the pages linked above for more information.

You can also choose to place a phone call or write a letter disputing the information on your report with the appropriate credit bureau. You will want to specifically identify each issue you’ve found and include copies of supporting documents. Do not send the originals. Also, make sure you keep a copy of your dispute letter as well.

The second step would be to tell the creditor or entity that has reported information incorrectly within your file. Similar to step one, only send copies of supporting documents and make a copy of the letter and documents for you to keep.

If you have any questions, would like to discuss your financial challenges, or are just looking for advice, please call us at your convenience. As always, we are here to help and look forward to hearing from you.

Once you’ve ensured that the information is correct on your report you will want to review the primary factors that are used in determining your creditworthiness.

  • Do you have collection debt that needs to be resolved?
  • Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Do you owe a high percentage of your credit limit on your accounts?

Those items all have a fairly heavy impact on your credit profile.

Begin setting goals and prepare a plan that allows you to resolve any issues identified. Perhaps you’ve found an old collection debt that you can make a priority to repay or maybe you’ve seen your balances maxing out. Regardless of the specific issue, set goals to remedy them as soon as possible. This is also a good opportunity to create a household budget and set immediate, short and long-term goals.

Correcting Credit Report Errors from Defunct Creditors

Having taught nearly 500 personal finance classes since 2004 to over 8,000 individuals, it’s not often that I get a question about course topics that I haven’t heard before. I love it when I do, though, and that’s exactly what happened last week at a local housing authority. Here is the question:

What can I do if the title loan company to which I once owed money but have paid off in full has gone out of business but is still listed on my credit report with money owing? At first, it sounded completely new, but in the end, much of the method for dealing with this situation goes back to the typical process of correcting one’s credit report. Here are the suggestions that we, as a class, came up with:

  • First, dispute the credit report error online through each of the three national credit bureaus.
  • If that doesn’t work, call the company using the phone number listed on the credit report. Attempt to correct the problem directly with the title loan company’s representative.
  • If these attempts fail, try looking up the company on the state’s Secretary of State’s business entity search website. The business listing should include, even if the company has gone out of business, an owner or board member to contact (likely a mailing address). Make contact with a request for information on how to address accounting errors.

These same suggestions apply to similar situations involving other defunct creditors listed on one’s credit report, including, for example, debt collectors, banks and credit unions.

If you run into any issues along the way or just need advice on where to begin or what to do next you are more than welcome to contact Debt Reduction Services at 1-877-688-3328 and speak to a Certified Consumer Credit Counselor. They can help you with your budget as well as help you identify areas that you can potentially save money. Be wary of credit repair or debt settlement as you don’t want to find your situation become worse by working with the wrong company.

For more information on how to improve your credit report visit consumer.ftc.gov for an abundance of resources that are aimed at protecting you, the consumer, as well as improving your overall financial picture.

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meter showing poor fair good and great credit score10 Tips for Strengthening Your Credit Score

The Guiding Principle behind each of the following tips is to manage and use your credit wisely: pay your debts according to the terms you have signed and avoid excessive debt. Read through the following tips for ideas on how you can personally increase your score and better your credit standing.

Tip #1: Pay all of your bills on time and in full every month. If you have secure access to the internet, consider paying your bills online to avoid mail delivery delays.

Tip #2: Get current on your credit accounts. If you’ve missed or been late on payments, find a way to get caught up. It will take six months of on-time payments, but negative effects of late or missed payments decrease over time.

Tip #3: Pay down the total balances owed on your credit accounts. Don’t just transfer money from one card to another. Make it a goal to avoid purchasing anything on a credit card you won’t pay off with the next credit card statement.

Tip #4: Don’t close accounts in good standing as a “quick fix.” Information from any account, whether closed or open, remains on your credit report for 7 years.

Tip #5: Don’t be afraid of Credit Counseling. In 1998, FICO dropped credit counseling as a factor influencing the credit scoring model, in part because we’ve learned that individuals actually become less of a credit risk when they receive credit counseling. (Michael Staten. Georgetown University. March 2002).

Tip #6: Avoid applying for a lot of new credit accounts within a short period, particularly if you have little or no credit history. See next tip.

Tip #7: Stay in contact with your creditor when troubles arise with an account. Work in good faith to pay as agreed, or consider arranging a modified payment plan. Accounts in collections or charged off will negatively affect your score for at least 7 years. When you struggle to make even the minimum payments, contact a reputable credit counseling organization such as Debt Reduction Services.

Tip #8: Know your credit limit and stay away from it. “Maxing out” your credit cards can hurt your credit score.

Tip #9: Live within an established budget and replace poor spending habits with disciplined spending. Balance your checkbook regularly to avoid bouncing checks.

Tip #10: Check your credit report at least annually for mistakes and inaccuracies. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com to print and download your free report for each of the three national credit reporting agencies. If you want your credit score as well, you will be required to pay for it. Though, you may have access to it through your bank’s online tools. Checking your own credit report in this way will not harm your credit.

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Using a Credit Card

Eight Additional Steps to Rebuild Your Credit Score

How to Rebuild Your Credit Rating

While on our Debt Consolidation Program, some may feel that building or repairing their credit without a major credit card is an insurmountable challenge. Others may not have any credit established or very poor credit and are looking where to begin to improve their situation.

The following are some simple steps that can contribute to better credit ratings. * The list is not exhaustive nor are the suggestions guaranteed to help you (state and federal regulators require that disclosure).

Watch our Director of Education, Todd Christensen, explain how you may begin building or rebuilding your credit score in the video below:

Free and Easy Steps Can Help a Little

1. Ask a family member with good credit to add you as an authorized user to their current credit card account(s). You do not even have to use the card (or even ever see it). It has no impact on the family member’s rating, and their good account activity can help your own standing before creditors. Keep in mind, though, that the family member is responsible for any charges made on the authorized user’s card.

2. String of Light BulbsSome states allow utility companies to report your history of payments to the credit bureaus. You do have to ask, though, and the utility companies are not necessarily required to report, so ask nicely… with sugar and a cherry on top. Also, be sure the utilities account is in your name.

3. Maintain checking and savings accounts: While not the case before 2004, banking practices (like bouncing checks) can now affect an individual’s credit score.

4. Consider having a parent or family member co-sign with you for unavoidable loans, such as a car. Be careful, though, not to compromise their finances. If you don’t pay, they will be held responsible.

Simple and No-cost or Low-cost Steps

Tire Stores and (Re)Building Credit5. Generally, I suggest that you do not apply for more than one or two new accounts each year, but to start, you might consider a tire/brake store that has its own finance department. Gas station cards are other possible places to start. They tend to be a little more liberal in their application approvals, but they compensate for this risk by charging higher interest rates. If you need to purchase tires for your vehicle anyway, save up the cash, apply for the loan at the tire store, and then pay off the loan almost immediately. Some well-meaning so-called experts will tell you that you should not pay off the loan because you need to establish a history of on-time payments. To maximize your credit rating, this may be true, but you do not need to maximize your rating; you just need to build it. If maximizing is your chosen way, it means you’ll end up paying interest, so to minimize interest payments try this. Once your account is approved, register with the lender for an online account, link it to your bank account, pay off all but $50 or so, and then make $15 or so payments until the account is at $0. This will give you 6 or more months of payment history while also minimizing the interest you are charged.

Department Store Front

6. Retail store cards are also generally easier to qualify for. Just do not make purchases for the sake of building your credit. Make purchases that you would have made anyway. Let’s say you were going to make a $50 purchase there and that you already had the money saved in your checking account or in cash in your purse or wallet. When applying for an account, they might give you a discount on your first purchase. Don’t go crazy. Keep the purchase the same as what you would have purchased without the discount. Then, after being approved, do not even leave the line. Inform the cashier that you would like to pay off your account balance right then and there. This way, you leave the store with a new open account in good standing with no balance and a payment history. If you waited to pay until the bill came in the mail, chances are you would have spent that money elsewhere and would then be in trouble trying to come up with the minimum amount due.

More Expensive but Effective Steps

7. Finding a secured credit card (not a regular debit card) through a bank or credit union can help, although they usually come with high annual fees (sometimes even monthly fees). One benefit of a secured card is that you begin developing disciplined credit habits. Just make sure that you get it in writing that the card company will report your credit usage history to all three consumer reporting agencies.

Credit Building Loan Agreement8. Some banks and credit unions offer credit-building loans of $500 to $2,000. They typically require proof of employment. After approving your application, they place all or part of the loan into a secured savings account that you cannot access until you have paid the entire balance due. While the secured savings account earns interest ( a pittance), you are likely paying 8% to 15% or even more on the loan. Still, that’s better than the corner finance store that will charge 20% to 30% or more and makes it as difficult as possible to pay off the loan.

How to Improve Your Credit Score – PDF

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Don’t Forget the Basics

Regardless of the above steps, the fundamentals of building (or rebuilding) credit remain in place:

  • Make at least your minimum payments on time
  • Pay down (or even better, off) your balance every month
  • Don’t apply for too many accounts within a short period of time (1 to 2 a year is reasonable)
  • Get current on accounts that are late
  • Do not close accounts that are in good standing

These do not account for all possible ways to build or rebuild credit, but they provide a generally good strategy. If you have some ways of your own, please feel free to share.

Disclaimer: Score and modeling may vary from lender to lender. Because of the complicated nature of the statistical models and abundance of information on credit reports, these tips cannot be considered guarantees to improving your credit score.

Update 1/29/2018

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Prioritizing Your Expenses

Setting a budget will help prioritize expenses and spending.

How to Prioritize Expenses

Without considering which expenses are or should be our priority, we can easily allow any bill delivered to our Inbox or Mailbox to take precedence in our financial decisions. Rather, by controlling our spending and prioritizing our expenses, we can banish from our finances those purchases that do not contribute to our identified measurements of financial success (a.k.a. written goals).

I suggest that we organize and prioritize our expenses by using my quadrant system outlined below:

  • List all of the expenses we have each month as well as those we have had in the past 3 months.
  • Categorize the expenses into needs or wants. Write “1” next to any need while we write “2” next to a want. A need includes “physical survival” expenses as well as those required to sustain a minimal level of expected lifestyle.
  • Categorize our expenses (both needs and wants) as either an obligation (a recurring and/or contracted bill, usually with a set due date) or a discretionary expense (a purchase we are free to make any time or not at all). Write “A” next to our obligations and “B” next to our Discretionary Expenses.
  • Make a 4-quadrant Payment Priority Chart by drawing a vertical line straight down the middle of a piece of paper and then drawing a horizontal light straight across the middle of the same paper (essentially, a cross). Label the top left quadrant as 1A, the top right quadrant as 1B, the bottom left quadrant as 2A and the bottom right quadrant as 2B.
  • Looking at our list of expenses, write them into their corresponding quadrants. Within each quadrant (especially 2A and 2B), priority our expenses from the most important to the least important.
  • Continue until all of our monthly expenses have been added to our chart. It may look something like this:

Prioritizing expenses can organize your finances and reduce stress

We now have a visual plan of attack for paying our bills. Any expense in the 1A quadrant (top left) must get paid, absolutely, every month. Anything in the 1B quadrant (top right) should get paid also, but we can be flexible as to when it gets paid. Anything in the 2A quadrant (bottom left) should also be paid regularly, though we should aim to keep the number of expenses in this quadrant to a minimum. Finally, the 2B quadrant (bottom right) will contain expenses that we can remove from our budget whenever we are having a financially rough month.

Have a Great Week!

Todd Christensen

Director of Education, Debt Reduction Services

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Your Weekly Financial Review

Review Your Finances Weekly

You can build wealth by investing in your own business.

How often are you looking at your personal finances and your budget? Each month? Every two weeks? Do you know how much money you have to spend this week? What’s in your budget for your next trip to the grocery store?

Financial stability and long-term financial success essentially require that you establish a monthly spending plan and that every week you look at it, adjust it, and ensure you’re living by it.

Whether it’s Monday night before going to bed or it’s early on a weekend morning before heading to the gym, take at least 15 minutes each week to look over your spending plan and your finances – a typical millionaire spends about 4 hours per week!

A weekly review of your finances will help you determine:

  1. What is the balance in my checking account?
  2. How much money and on what will I be spending in the coming week?
  3. How will I make various payments and purchases this week? In cash, by check, online?
  4. How much additional payment can I make to my credit card debt? Can I notify Debt Reduction Services of an addition to my payment this month?
  5. How should I adjust my spending plan and/or my spending habits to increase my financial stability and decrease my debts?

Planning your spending, along with the development of effective spending habits, truly is the key to getting out and staying out of debt. If you’re consistently spending less than you earn, you’re increasing your financial discipline and are likely to be looking for new ways to decrease your debt and be better financially prepared for your future.

Do You Have Questions About Your Weekly Financial Review?

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So if you need more information on how to monitor your finances weekly or have any other questions about your personal finances, please feel free to comment below and we’ll get back on and answer right away!

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Is There Such a Thing as a Debtor’s Prison?

In this modern world that we live in, consumers are protected and have certain rights when it comes to debt collection. The practices of debt collection agencies have to abide by rules through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to the FTC, consumers are to be safeguarded from abusive, harassing or unfair debt collection practices. But, the question is, “Does this act protect consumers from being arrested for the failure to pay back their debts and sent to a debtor’s prison?” The short answer is yes, but there are some instances related to debt in which people have been sent to jail.
Debtor’s Prisons were abolished in the US in 1833, and thankfully so. Before the abolishment, being arrested for outstanding debt was a catch-22 situation. Since there were no work-release programs in place at that time, there was no opportunity for the debtors to make good on their outstanding debt. To make matters worse and put more debt strain on the debtor, they would be responsible for paying prison fees as well. So, without the financial help of friends or family, there would literally be no way to escape their sentence.
Consumers’ debt rights have come a long way, but why are people still being arrested if the debtor’s prison was abolished so long ago? Here are some answers that can shed some light.
What Could Put You at Risk for Arrest
While arrests can be made in a debt situation, it’s not the debt itself that will get you arrested; it’s the violation of the court order that can land you in jail. Depending on the court and jurisdiction, it may be required of the debtor to appear in court. If you are summoned to appear and ignore that summons, a warrant may be issued for your arrest for failure to appear in court. It’s very important to ensure that you don’t ignore any correspondence from the courts and are compliant in regards to being sued for debt and the appearances you are expected to make.
If you don’t know what to do, don’t procrastinate and push it aside. Ignoring a summons to appear in court will not go away. You have the option to represent yourself. However, you may want to consult an attorney that understands the laws on what debt collectors can and cannot do by law as well as your legal rights as a debtor. Depending on your state, there are some other specific restrictions on what creditors and debt collectors can and cannot do when trying to collect a debt.
Many types of debt collection practices are prohibited.
Should you have any debt that is in the process of collection, it’s important to educate yourself on the types of debt collection practices that are prohibited. In addition to being prohibited from harassment, debt collectors may not:

Use any threats of violence or harm
Publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau such as Experian, Equifax, and Transunion)
Use obscene or profane language when trying to collect on the debt; or
Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy and harass a debtor.
Take or threaten to take your property unless this can be done legally(meaning the debt is secured and tied to an item that can be repossessed);
Threaten to sue, garnish your wages and freeze your bank account if they have no intention of doing so.

Knowing what debt collectors are legally allowed to can be overwhelming. Consider consulting an attorney in your county to help you find out what you need to know to keep yourself protected.
If you’re concerned about your credit, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated each month.
You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.
 
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The post Is There Such a Thing as a Debtor’s Prison? appeared first on Credit.com.
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Focusing Your Financial Energies

 

Achieve your goals by focusing in on your finances

Focus Your Financial Energy and Reap the Rewards

We offer the following suggestions for your household finances that can help you narrow in on your focused goals:

  1. Continue to make payments to your creditors if you’re in the process of paying off debt. Having fewer of the proverbial creditors “knocking on your door” means less of a likelihood of additional and unexpected fees and/or interest rate hikes.
  2. Stay in contact with your creditors if you can’t make your next payment. Bankrate.com recently quoted Justin Leach of Toyota Financial saying, “Call your creditors.  So many people are afraid to talk to their creditors.  If the customer calls us without us looking for them, it makes a big difference.”  It is not in the creditor’s best interest to send you to collections, so chances are they will be more than willing to work with you on a modified payment plan.  Be open and honest. And if they ask you for something, such as a letter regarding proof of hardship, get it to them as quickly as possible.
  3. Focus on your emergency savings fund even if you haven’t yet paid off your credit cards and other such debts. Even a savings account or certificate of deposit (CD) of just $1,000 can help lessen the impact of most household financial emergencies that send far too many in our society into a financial tale spin that frequently ends in bankruptcy.
  4. Limit unplanned, unnecessary and/or extravagant expenses such as frequently dining out, expensive vacations, costly gift giving, store-bought bottled water, vending machine purchases, daily lattés, and pricey entertainment.
  5. Check your credit report regularly through www.AnnualCreditReport.com since errors can easily find their way onto your credit report without your knowledge. Some errors significantly damage your credit worthiness in the eyes of creditors!  According to Rod Griffin, spokesman for Experian, they have over 200 million credit records in their system, and their most difficult challenge is keeping everybody’s information straight.  One in four credit reports contains a serious error that may affect the individual’s ability to acquire credit, or worse. Some errors might lead to increased interest rates or fees.  And if the error negatively affects your credit score, there might even be a chance that your car insurance premium could go up. And don’t assume that correcting an error through one bureau automatically fixes the error on all three of the main bureaus.

We all know the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Now is the time to get going on your household’s financial foundation: paying off debt, building savings, and reining in expenses that have kept us living paycheck to paycheck in the past.

If you have any questions, would like to discuss your financial challenges, or are just looking for advice, please call us at your convenience. As always, we are here to help and look forward to hearing from you.

1-877-OUT-DEBT (688-3328)

www.debtreductionservices.org

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7 Do’s and Don’ts of Credit Cards

Learn to use your credit card to your benefit.

What to Do & What to Avoid With Credit Cards

While credit cards can be a pitfall to many consumers, they are not inherently bad. They do come with the risk of borrowing more than can be repaid. However, knowing how to charge wisely can ensure that your household sees only benefits and none of the bills. Here are some tips to avoid the debt while enjoying the perks:

  1. DON’T carry a credit card in your wallet around town. Having a credit card in your wallet means you’re much more likely to use it (and overuse it at that). If you keep a credit card for “emergency purposes only,” then you’re unlikely to be in such a financial emergency close to home that you absolutely need a card. Keep a small emergency cash stash in your car or wallet. I can all but guarantee that even if you were to lose that cash, it would still be less than the overspending and the interest you’d put on the credit card.
  2. DON’T carry a balance on your credit card. In spite of the common sense of this advice, I hear far too many supposed financial experts tell their clients (who in turn become more likely to be our clients) to build their credit by carrying large balances on their credit cards while making only minimum monthly payments for 6 to 12 months. The reality is that you do not have to carry ANY balance from month to month to build your credit. If you want to make a small purchase or a regular payment on your credit, go ahead and do so, but pay it off in full every month by the due date.
  3. DO have a major credit card and use it regularly for small purchases (see #2 above) to build your credit in advance of buying a home. Credit card activity (monthly payments, zero balance) on your credit report is one of the most influential factors in your credit rating.
  4. DON’T get a secured credit card that does NOT report your activity to the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion). They’ll charge you fees and probably high interest but not provide you the benefit of building your credit history.
  5. DO shred all credit card offers you receive. That barcode on the offer could be filched from your garbage by an identity thief to open up an account in your name. Better yet, call 888-567-8688 or go to www.optoutprescreen.com to stop receiving all those offers.
  6. DO travel with a credit card rather than a debit card. If you lose your debit card or have it stolen, your entire checking account (and any savings attached to your account as an overdraft alternative) may be at risk. If you lose your credit card, contact the card issuer immediately and you’re likely not out any money at all.
  7. DON’T close out old accounts unless they’re charging you fees or unless the temptation to overspend on the card is too great to resist. Old accounts can boost up to 15% of your credit score.

These do not account for all my Do’s and Don’ts, but they’ll do for now. If you have some Do’s and Don’ts of your own, please feel free to share.

Have a great week!

Todd Christensen

Director of Education, Debt Reduction Services

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