Advertising
Advertising

5 Tips for Rebuilding Your Credit Scores After Your 20s

5 Tips for Rebuilding Your Credit Scores After Your 20s

If you’re anything like me, your early 20s were not your most financially sound years. With a low-paying job, rent and bills to pay, and plenty of shiny gadgets tempting you at every turn, credit cards often seem to magically make it all work… until they don’t anymore.

Sadly, once you get your act together and want to start making adult purchases such as cars and houses, those foolish financial missteps can come back to haunt you. Thankfully, there are many ways to help repair your credit scores, which in turn will allow you to secure better financing on those large, milestone purchases your more mature mind is now focused on. Here are 5 suggestions to help you get there.

1. Consider Debt Consolidation

Not to be confused with debt forgiveness or bankruptcy, debt consolidation simply refers to the idea of moving all of your outstanding debts to one place in an effort to make paying them off easier. There are a few reasons why this could be a good idea, not the least of which is the path to financial freedom it provides you. Additionally, depending on how you choose to consolidate, it could serve to boost your credit scores.

Advertising

The two most popular forms of debt consolidation are personal loans and balance transfers, both have their pros and cons. First, personal loans can be good for boosting your credit scores because they will move your debt from revolving lines of credit to installments. That’s significant because your maxed out credit cards will carry more weight than installment loans when it comes to your credit utilization ratio. Since credit utilization/available credit makes up 30% of your FICO scores, paying off your credit cards with a loan should give you boost.

Sound good? Well, there are a couple of snags you should know about. As you’re undoubtedly aware, banks aren’t really in the business of lending you money for free. Because of this, you’ll want to ensure that the interest rate and APR (annual percentage rate) you’re offered on a loan doesn’t exceed what you’re paying on your credit card(s). On top of that, many lenders will charge what’s called an origination fee—a percentage of your loan amount that you pay to the lender and don’t get back. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to do the math or use a personal loan calculator when exploring your options.

Another form of debt consolidation is a balance transfer. Typically this is done by opening a new credit card with a 0% introductory rate and then transferring the debts from your other cards to your new one. Although this might save you a good amount of money in interest if you’re able to pay down the entire debt quickly, it could end up hurting even worse if you let that introductory offer end. Additionally, be aware that most cards charge you a balance transfer fee – as high as 5% of the amount you are transferring. Lastly, opening a new card will actually ding your credit temporarily since it’s a new credit inquiry, but the added credit availability will help you down the road.

Advertising

2. Keep Your Cards Open

Regardless of what method of debt consolidation you use (or don’t use, for that matter), you may be surprised to learn that closing your paid off cards is actually a terrible idea. Sure, it might feel good to call up your credit card company and tell them where to go, but closing your account can hurt your credit scores big time.

Part of the reason for this goes back to the idea of credit utilization. If you close your accounts, you’ll have far less available credit, which is a disadvantage in the eyes of FICO. Plus, a lesser (but still important) factor affecting your scores is your length of credit history. Unfortunately, when you close an account, the time you held that card no longer gets added into this average. It’s a much better idea to leave your cards open and just use them responsibly.

3. Try A Secured Credit Card

Didn’t get the “don’t close your cards” memo until it was too late? If you’ve really tanked your credit, it may be difficult to get approved for a new credit card at first. Even more frustrating, without a credit card, rebuilding your scores can be tricky. That’s where secured credit cards come in.

Advertising

What makes secured cards different from the ones you’re familiar with is that they require a deposit. The size of that deposit will depend on the card issuer and the credit limit you’re seeking, but it’s typically a few hundred dollars. Since you’re giving the card issuer collateral, these cards are far easier to obtain than unsecured ones, making them a good choice for those who are nearly out of options.

4. Pay Your Bills On Time

This may seem obvious, but it’s a huge help. Although any overdue payments you’ve made in the past will stick to your credit report for seven years (much like swallowed gum), putting those behind you and establishing a clean streak will serve you well. Additionally, while you will still see those errant payments on your report, their damage to your scores will diminish with time, so don’t fret too much.

5. Monitor Your Credit

Even if you abide by all of these tips in hopes of repairing your credit scores, how will you know if any of your efforts are paying off if you don’t bother to check? Thanks to modern technology, keeping up with your credit scores is now easier than ever, and often free.

Advertising

One place you should start is AnnualCreditReport.com, which provides you with your Equifax, Experian, and Transunion credit reports free once a year. The bummer here is that, in order to actually view your scores, you’ll have to pay. However, reviewing your report is extremely important because you may catch errors that are dragging your scores down unfairly.

As far as your scores are concerned, some credit cards now provide you a FICO score on your statement or on their website. If not, you can also try sites like Credit Karma to get a rough idea of what your scores look like. I say “rough idea” because Credit Karma utilizes the Vantage model for calculating credit scores as opposed to the more common FICO model. Because of this, you may see discrepancies, but at least you’ll be in the ballpark.

Yes, it’s true: adulting is hard. Alas, many of us make some major financial mistakes in our 20s that affect us as we attempt to be real adults a decade or so later. The good news is that, even if you’ve trashed your credit scores in the past, they do change and can recover. By paying off your debts, looking for secured forms of credit, paying on time, and keeping an eye on your credit, it will only be a matter of time before those dark fiscal days are finally behind you.

Featured photo credit: Pymnts.com via pymnts.com

More by this author

Earning Easy Money on Your Extra Funds Is Borrowing From Your 401(k) a Smart Move? Five Quick Money Tips for the New Year 4 Apps Worth Downloading Just for the Bonus Perks 4 Better Things To Do on Black Friday Than Shop

Trending in Money

1 How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt 2 How to Use Debt Snowball to Get out from a Financial Avalanche 3 How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money 4 The Best Ways to Save Money Even Impulsive Spenders Can Get Behind 5 How to Answer the Tough Question: What are Your Salary Requirements?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

Advertising

Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

Advertising

I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

Advertising

Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

Advertising

So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

Read Next