How to Rebound from a Poor Credit Score

Fair Isaac Corporation provides consumers with FICO scores to gauge their creditworthiness. Scores range from 300 to 850; a "good" score, though not rigorously defined, falls in the mid-700 range. You can take steps to improve your score even if you had credit problems in the past.

Take control of your spending

Establish a budget and stick to it. This is the first step recommended by financial planner Anne Martorana. Monitoring your budget and modifying your financial habits to satisfy your budget goes a long way toward stabilizing your financial condition. "Don’t bury your head in the sand. Know what your debts and income numbers are," advises Martorana. She recommends updating your budget daily to track your actual income and spending. Quicken provides easy data entry and reporting features to establish, manage and modify your budget. The software also compiles what-if scenarios based on your budget.

Deal with your credit cards

Manage your credit cards by requesting lower rates and transferring balances out of the most expensive cards. Credit card interest can exceed 20 percent on your unpaid balances and can be a significant drain on your finances. "Contact your credit card companies, and ask if they'll lower the annual percentage rate on your card. Many do this just for the asking. Check in with them every six months," Martorana explains. As you pay off one credit card, use the savings to increase payments to your remaining cards and pay down any remaining balances. "Cards that are close to the credit limit negatively affect your credit score. Transfer balances so that none of your cards is close to maxing out," notes Martorana.

Manage your bills

Avoid making late payments, because they hurt your credit rating. Quicken can help you anticipate upcoming cash flow and bills with built-in income and bill payment reminders. You can set up automatic recurring income and expense items such as your paycheck, rent and cable TV bill. You also can establish automatic payments so that you don't ever forget to pay a bill. You can easily incorporate your reminders and automatic payments into your budget tracking to save time and avoid discrepancies.

Monitor your credit report

Review and correct your credit reports. Three major credit bureaus track your financial condition and issue credit reports. While they generally do a good job, mistakes can creep into reports that hurt your credit score. Scour your credit reports periodically for inaccuracies and incomplete information. Whenever you find an incorrect entry, contact the credit bureau and ask that your credit report be corrected. The credit bureaus offer error-correction procedures and allow you to append comments and explanations in your reports.

Pay loans with savings

Use some of your savings to pay down your loans. "Stop the bleeding," advises Martorana. "Pay off a chunk of your highest interest loan. Using savings to do this is a good strategy as the interest rate you are paying is most certainly higher than the rate you are earning on your savings.” Your FICO score depends in part on how much of your available credit you've already used. Paying down loans increases your available credit and your credit rating. In some cases, it's better to keep a small loan balance open and pay it every month to demonstrate your dependability. Closing unused credit lines doesn't raise your FICO score.

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