If you ever attend my Question and Answer sessions, (about how to raise your credit score), you know there is a common theme – debt, debt, and more debt.
How can someone with a lot of credit card debt raise their credit score? It’s the chicken and the egg conversation over and over.
Here’s the bottom line: Sometimes the best first step for you to take is either bankruptcy or debt negotiation.
So many of my clients are SO worried about their credit score that they don’t make a logical decision about the debt they have. When this happens, they end up paying the minimum payments on their credit cards, and never get what they ultimately want – Debt free OR a high credit score.
As I say over and over, the key to raising your credit score if you have debt is to learn your options.
Since I get so many requests for introductions, I’ve done the research on great referral partners for my clients.
If you have debt you cannot pay-off, click here and I’ll give you and introduction to a bankruptcy attorney and a debt negotiator.
If you have back taxes of $10,000, click here and I’ll introduce you to a tax resolution specialist.
If your credit is bad and you simply want to raise your credit score, click here and I’ll introduce you to a partner of ours that offers our credit improvement program.
If you have student loans, and you cannot keep up with the payments, click here and I’ll introduce you to a partner of ours.
Bottom line is this… if you are having a hard time with your debt, you need to take a look at all your options.
Once you gather all of this information, talk to me on one of my Question and Answer Sessions and together, we can figure out the next best steps to raise your credit score.
A while back, a student of mine called into my one-on-one Q&A session with a problem: She’d unexpectedly had her credit card limits reduced, which affected her debt-to-limit ratio, which in turn caused her score to drop.
Credit card companies do this regularly—they promise you a big limit, and then a few years later, they lower your limit out of the blue. This hurts your credit score, which is in part based on the debt you carry as a percentage of a limit.
In fact, 30 percent of your credit score is based on the debt you carry as a percentage of the limit.
For instance, let’s say you have a $5,000 limit and a $1,000 balance. Your balance would be 20 percent of your limit, which would be looked upon favorably by the credit-scoring bureaus.
But if the credit card companies went and dropped your limit to $2,000, your balance of $1,000 would be 50 percent of your limit, which would be looked upon negatively by the credit-scoring bureaus.
The credit-scoring bureaus will respond most favorably if you never carry a balance higher than 30 percent of your limit. So if they drop your limit, watch out! Your credit score will drop, too.
Well, like I said, this happened to one of my clients, and I told her how to fight back. Then I got this letter (which I’m editing slightly so that you have the complete context):
“I had one card with a limit that had been lowered, and I decided to try to get it raised a second time. The credit card company refused my request the first time, so I called back. After spending 1.5 hours on the phone with five or so people (who by the way, got a little more patronizing each time they transferred me to someone new), they still would not do it.
“But … during the conversation, one of them mentioned something about calling the “Portfolio Risk Department.” After just five minutes on the phone with ONE person in the Portfolio Risk Department, they restored my full credit limit! Done!
“I never would have known to even try this if not for your fabulous program and awesome encouragement! Thank you so much once again!”
At times like this, I love my job more than usual. I’ve said it before: Your credit score is your financial reputation, and I’m tickled pink to help people fight back when their reputations are being tarnished!
So if you need to increase your credit limit, call and ask for the Risk Department. Let them know your credit score is being adversely affected.
With that in mind, let me know if you have any questions about rebuilding your score. From time-to-time, I answer them in my weekly email/blog. Leave a comment below, and I’ll try to answer it in the coming months.
Did you know that each time you make a payment on a credit collections account, your credit score could be damaged?
It’s shocking but true. When you are 30 days late on a bill, a creditor will report a late payment to the credit bureaus. This happens again at 60 days and again at 90 days. Once you are 120 days late, the bill will typically be turned over to a credit collections company. Each late payment causes your score to drop, and the collection causes it to drop even more.
It would make sense that once you paid the credit collections, your score would increase. But this isn’t the way the credit-scoring system works.
A collection notice will stay on your credit report for seven years from the date of last activity. So each payment on a collection account renews the seven-year time-frame and causes your score to drop again, If you have credit collections, your goal is not negotiate with the creditor to stop this from happening through something called a letter of deletion.
A letter of deletion is basically a letter from the creditor or collection company telling the credit bureaus that the item was sent to collection erroneously. When you get a letter of deletion, the collection activity (but not the late payments that preceded it) will be wiped from your credit report. This strategy allows you to pay the collection, which is the right thing to do, while protecting your credit score.
That said, getting a letter of deletion is easier said than done. Oftentimes, the credit bureaus will try to trick you into accepting a letter of payment, but don’t fall for this trick. A letter of deletion is not the same thing as a letter of payment. A letter of payment simply states that you have paid the collection account. A letter of payment is useless, but a letter of deletion actually tells the credit bureaus to remove an item from your credit report.
Other collection companies will simply refuse to provide a letter of deletion, but you can still negotiate.
In fact, let’s go over your options, starting with the best case scenario.
Option One: Pay the Collections Account in Exchange for a Letter of Deletion
You could immediately pay the collections account, in exchange from a letter of deletion. Now, you could either pay in full or, if you cannot afford the full amount, try to negotiate for a smaller one-time payment to settle the account and receive that letter of deletion. A lot of creditors will settle for cents on the dollar, especially if you have a bad credit score and they think you might enter bankruptcy. After all, they would rather receive something than nothing!
Option 2: Make Payments in Exchange for a Letter of Deletion Upon Final Payment
If you cannot afford to pay the account in full, or if you are unsuccessful in negotiating a smaller one-time payment, you can always offer to make payments in exchange for a letter of deletion upon final payment. This option is extremely risky. If you miss a payment, your score will take a nosedive, which will be particularly painful if it nullifies your agreement to receive that letter of deletion. So use his option very carefully.
Option 3: Ask That the Payments Are Not Reported to the Bureau
Sometimes you will be unable to negotiate a letter of deletion, no matter how hard you try. So what can you do? Make a full payment in exchange for a promise from the collection company that it will not report the payment to the credit bureaus. Stopping the creditor or collection agency from reporting this information will stop your score from dropping when you pay off the balance.
Now, this option could cause a problem down the line. If you buy a house, some banks will insist you pay your collection accounts before you get the home loan. And if the collection company hasn’t reported your payments (per your request), your credit report will show that you have an unpaid collection account. If this happens to you, you can always call the collection company at close of escrow and ask them to report the account as paid in full. Waiting until close of escrow will help preserve your credit until the last possible minute, so we suggest delaying your request until then. You could also get a letter of payment, which won’t help your credit score, but will help you prove to the bank that you’ve paid the collections.
Finally, Option 4: Make a Payment
You might be dealing with a hard-nosed collection company that won’t provide you with a letter of deletion no matter how many times you try. You might be dealing with a collection company that will not stop reporting to the credit bureaus. If this is the case, then start negotiating to pay the least amount possible. Some people negotiate to pay 10 or 20 cents on the possible.
Remember, you could get sued for failing to pay your bills, so if you are worried about the affects of a judgment on your credit report, start negotiating. Try to be strategic—if you plan on buying a car, for instance, wait to start the negotiation process until you’ve bought the case. This way, you can preserve our credit score unitl you’ve already secured a low interest rate.
This is a complicated subject, so if you have a collection account, consider taking our 720 Credit Score Challenge.
One of my friends just told me that he owes $68,000 in credit card debt. He’s 26 years old. And he has that feeling in the pit of his stomach—you know that feeling. He can’t ever truly relax because he’s so worried. All these questions start racing through his head…
- How I will ever pay all these bills?
- Will I ever have fun again?
- Are they going to sue me? And if they do, will my wages be garnished.
As I was talking to him, I was reminded of the last time I felt that way. Several years back, I carried a loan for a friend of mine. He was making a fortune, but he had declared bankruptcy a few years prior, so he didn’t qualify for the loan. So I foolishly agreed to carry the loan on his behalf. He would pay me; I would pay the bank. I knew he was good for it.
Until one day he wasn’t. The market took a nosedive, and so did his business. Suddenly, he couldn’t pay me one month. And his loan skyrocketed to $9,841 a month. I got that feeling. That terrible feeling. How was I going to absorb an extra $9,841-a-month when my own income was down?
The next month, he couldn’t pay me again. So I remember how it feels. It’s terrible, to put it mildly.
The trouble with that feeling is that it stops people from taking rational steps. They just want the feeling to go away. They’ll do anything to make the feeling go away. For some people, that means ignoring it entirely. Others start worrying so much that they cannot focus on the solutions in front of them. There’s so much emotion packed into financial problems that it’s hard to be clear-headed and strategic.
But here’s the truth: There’s always a way out. I’ve had clients who have owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that cannot be discharged during bankruptcy—like most student loans and some back taxes. And there’s always a way out. Yet, you aren’t necessarily going to see it if you are panicking.
So here’s something I want you to try this week. Go sit somewhere peaceful and calm. Give yourself permission to feel that panic for five or ten minutes. Then ask yourself a question. Ask yourself: “If I were to consider every single opportunity for resolving this situation, what would be on that list?”
Then start making a list. It might include things like declaring bankruptcy, selling your house, or getting a second job. It might include things like dipping into your children’s college fund or selling your car and taking the bus.
These are things you might be thinking that you would never, ever consider. But don’t judge the things on your list. If you pile more fear on top of the fear you already have, you aren’t going to find a solution. The key is that you want to allow your mind to open up to all of the possibilities. Let it wander. Invite it to consider the absurd.
And see what you come up with. There are always options. In fact, the universe is filled with infinite possibilities. The question is: Can you see the options?
So take a deep breath. Believe that there is a way. And let me know what you come up with by leaving a comment below.
And one other thing because I want to give you an example of a solution that you might be afraid to think about.
Most people are terrified when they think of bankruptcy. Considering filing bankruptcy just makes them feel worse. But is it really that bad? I don’t think so. Bankruptcy allows people an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. It gives them the chance to start over, without having to feel financial stress day in and day out. And it also allows them to start rebuilding their credit score a while lot faster than if they just keep struggling to stay afloat for years on end.
But you won’t see options like this if you do not allow your mind to consider them. So if you would like a referral to a bankruptcy attorney, send an email to Info@720creditscore.com and we will put you in touch with a bankruptcy attorney in your area. Otherwise, keep us posted on your progress by leaving a comment below!
If you are facing the pressure of mounting bills, creditors calling your home all day, and compounding interest payments pulling you more and more underwater, hiring a bankruptcy attorney might be your best option, but beware of bankruptcy scams!
Filing for bankruptcy can be a tricky process, and seeking the help of a bankruptcy expert is not a bad idea. Still, know that some unscrupulous companies will try to take advantage of your financial stress. Knowing what to look for will help you avoid these bankruptcy scams.
Some dishonest companies target people who are undergoing a bankruptcy. But instead of offering legitimate services, these bankruptcy scams profit from the desperation of people in the throes of financial crisis. These companies usually advertise on the Internet, in the newspaper, or directly contact people whose bankruptcies are indicated by public-record notices.
Some companies may charge you for services that you can do yourself. For example, these companies may charge you for finding a lawyer, something you can definitely do on your own. Click here for an introduction to a bankruptcy attorney that we work with.
Even worse, many disreputable companies might make unlikely promises. For example, some will promise to remove your bankruptcy by working out a compromise with your creditors. You pay them a chunk of cash, which they promise to distribute to your creditors. When and whether they pay those bills is up for question. And more importantly, no one can remove a bankruptcy from your record!
The number one sign of bankruptcy scams is when the offer sounds too good to be true. There is no magic cure for bankruptcy. If the company is over-promising by saying they can make your bankruptcy disappear, they are not disclosing the full truth.
Also beware of any company that takes your money without informing you of your rights. These might be fly-by-the night bankruptcy scams who will disappear with your cash in their pockets. Call around and ask for referrals from bankruptcy attorneys and industry experts before settling on a bankruptcy company. You will likely have much more luck if you do the research rather than waiting for the company to find you.
After renting for years, my wife and I just bought a house.
It’s our ideal house—exactly what we were looking for in the exact neighborhood we wanted. We have dreams of raising our children there, and we smile thinking about the birthday parties, sleepovers, and graduation celebrations that will fill our home in years to come. When our children grow into adults, we imagine what it will feel like when they return for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We think about what it will feel like when they come to visit with our grandkids many, many years from now.
It’s a house that will be a home that will hold a family that builds memories together.
Right now, though, as I write this, our dream house is infested with scorpions.
The family who owned the house moved out 3 years ago. Unbeknownst to us, in the absence of human occupants, scorpions took up residency.
Talk about a buzz kill.
We planned on having a special celebratory dinner to mark our first night in our home. But in place of this, my wife and kids are sleeping at my parents’ house while I walk through the house hunting scorpions.
You might not know this, but it’s easier to find scorpions at night because they are nocturnal. Scorpions glow neon blue when illuminated by a black light.
These are facts I wish I didn’t know. I wish our perfect vision had come true.
I’m trying not to get too depressed about it because there’s a lot to be happy about, too. We’ve had the house treated, and in seven to ten days, the scorpions will be gone (fingers crossed). My two oldest kids just started first grade and kindergarten at a great school. My wife and I have a rock-solid marriage, and my two youngest kids are healthy and happy.
But those scorpions.
I told a friend of mine about the scorpions, and her response was laughter.
“I don’t think you understand,” I said. “It’s awful. Have you ever seen a scorpion? Can you imagine how scared we are? There’s no way our kids can be in the home. They glow-in-the-dark. It’s a kid’s worst nightmare: A glow-in-the-dark monster.”
She laughed again.
“I know, but it’s only scary right now. In a few years, you guys will look back on this as a great memory. You’ll think: Remember what a nightmare it was when we moved into this house, and it was infested with scorpions? And you’ll think: Look at our family. We’ve gone to battle together.”
When she put it like that, I thought: It’s only scorpions. We’ve been through worse. Surely, we can get through this!
I am reminded of another friend, who couldn’t find a job when his daughter was young. He lost his job while his wife was pregnant, and he didn’t find a job until his daughter was three.
Recently, I asked his wife, Connie, what their daughter’s first word was. She joked, “I can’t remember for sure. All we talked about during those first few years was Mick’s job search, so her first word was probably ‘résumé.’”
Then they shared a laugh. “Remember how awful that was?” Mick said. “We had to live with my parents.”
But they both had big grins on their faces. It was only awful back then. Now, it’s part of the fabric that bonds their family.
Here’s my takeaway: Our struggles define us as much as our victories. In future years, we will remember the tough times we have survived as battles that we have won. The scorpions in our lives will turn into beautiful, sacred memories that mark a lifetime.
I know that many of my readers are having financial struggles, and I know that these metaphorical “scorpions” can be worse—much worse—than my actual scorpions. It is my hope that you fight this battle and win it, so that in future years, this chaotic time somehow transforms into a memory you can look back upon with a smile.
In the coming months, we will be transforming our website so that it supports you in this mission. Please keep visiting our blog so that we can continue to share our message with you. And as always, we want to hear from you. We can’t address every comment left on our site, but we do read each and every one, and we use this as input in developing content for our site. Please let us know what is on your mind by leaving a comment below.