Monday, November 25, 2013

Rebuilding your credit after Bankruptcy

Don't despair if you have wrecked credit after filing for bankruptcy––you can take measures to rebuild it. Here's how to get your finances together, whether you've filed bankruptcy or you just need help stabilizing your money.

  1. Open a new checking and savings account. If you do not already have both a checking and a savings account, open one of each at a local bank or credit union. 
  2. Get a secured credit card. Once you have a little money put away, you can put some of it toward a secured credit card. A secured card functions essentially like a debit card in that you pay the bank the money beforehand, but your payments should be reported to all three major credit bureaus and go toward pumping up your credit score.
  3. Get a retail or gas credit card. When you're back on track with a secured card, you can try applying for a retail or gas credit card.
  4. Pay off your balance every month. You might have heard that carrying a balance is great for your credit score, but that's not necessarily true. Especially if you have bad credit, the credit bureaus want to see that you're capable of paying off the balance as often as necessary. Only buy what you can afford at the end of the month.

  5. Get copies of your credit report from all three major bureaus. You can get one report a year from each bureau for free. Figure out where you are now, and where you'd like to be in two years. This can help you evaluate how drastically you need to restructure your finances.
  6. Pay your bills on time. If you tend to be late paying your bills and incur late fees, now's the time to stop. Draw up a calendar with all of your due dates (or enter it into your phone), and check it religiously. Make sure the money is ready ahead of time, and try to mail payments or do online transfers a day or two ahead of the deadline
  7. Dispute incorrect information on your credit reports. Make sure you follow up with any reporting agency who lists incorrect information on your credit report or who continues to allow discharged debt to appear on the report. To dispute incorrect information on your credit report listed by the bureaus listed above, you can use the online dispute form on Equifax, the credit maintenance services page on Experian, and the dispute section under the personal services category on TransUnion.

  8. Budget for essentials. Sit down and figure out how much money you absolutely must spend every month. Try to be as strict as possible when it comes to differentiating between needs and wants––for instance, you might want unlimited texting but you don't need it to live. Once you know how much money you need to live, you can start figuring out how to leverage the rest of it toward rebuilding your credit. 
  9. Use your remaining money to rebuild your credit. Whatever you have left over after you pay your living expenses can be used to rebuild your credit and purchase items that aren't absolutely necessary (such as entertainment, gifts, etc.)

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