Most people don’t pay much attention to their credit score, which is easy to do when you’ve always been able to pay your bills on time and haven’t acquired much debt. But even the most responsible consumers can be hit with unforeseen circumstances such as a job loss or medical bills. Credit cards may be able to float the expenses for a while, but eventually the debt can mount up to a point where payments are no longer manageable. Missed or late payments can lower your credit score, but you may avoid bankruptcy, hoping to stop any further damage. However, sometimes bankruptcy is the correct choice, and there are things you can do to rebuild your credit score after filing.
Your Credit Report
If you have a pattern of late payments, filing bankruptcy can discharge many of your unsecured debts and put an end to those late payments. A bankruptcy will lower your credit score, but after you file, you’ll be given a “Discharge of Debtor” document that shows your debt has been forgiven. At this point, negative credit events stop, and you can begin establishing a positive credit history. First, you’ll need to request credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Review all of the information listed on your report to ensure accuracy, particularly that any debts included in your bankruptcy show a zero balance. You can correct any errors by contacting the credit agency.
After ensuring you have a clean credit report, you can begin the work of adding positive elements. You will most likely receive credit card offers as soon as your case is resolved, but be sure you review the terms carefully before accepting. You may need to start with a secured credit card with high interest rates and steep fees. While this is not ideal, it’s a place to start, and you can avoid paying any interest by making only small purchases and paying them off completely, on time each month. You might even want to use the credit card for a small monthly bill and set up an automatic payment, essentially ignoring the fact that you have access to credit to avoid the temptation to overspend. As time goes by, you’ll receive better offers for new credit cards or may be able to renegotiate the terms of your current card. Soon, your credit score will improve and you’ll qualify for better and better options.
Just like most negative events in life, ignoring your credit will not result in improved circumstances. It’s best to be fully informed about your financial situation and take direct action to make changes. If you’re in debt that you feel you’ll never be able to pay off, the first step is to determine if you can revise your budget to get back on track. If this isn’t possible, let me help you explore your bankruptcy options. After making this bold move, the opportunities to rebuild your credit will present themselves, and you’ll get back on your feet.