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Ask Savvy: How Do I Get My Bad Credit Under Control? Part I

Dear Savvy,

I have bad credit and am trying to get it under control. Can you give me any tips on how to control it quickly? Can I get an apartment with bad credit? And is me having bad credit stopping me from getting a better paying job?

See my answer to the first part of this question when you


Savvy says: Not everyone has the same credit score, but all credit scores are based on the same components: Payment history, outstanding debt, length of credit history, any new credit, and types of credit used. Payment history and outstanding debt together make up 65 percent of your total score, so if you have bad credit, chances are these are the areas you should focus on most when repairing your credit.

Your credit score won't turn around in a dash, but adopting these habits will steadily improve your score as you prove to creditors that you're a responsible borrower. Here are the most important steps in repairing your credit — commit to them and hold yourself accountable to each of these items.

  • Make sure your credit report doesn't have any errors that could be lowering your score. Report any errors immediately.
  • Pay more than the minimum payment on your credit cards until you've paid them all off. Remember that closing cards can negatively affect your debt to credit ratio, so be sure to keep them open, particularly the ones you've had the longest.
  • Pay your bills on time, without fail. Whether or not you've made punctual payments is the heaviest factor in your score.
  • If you continue using your cards, be sure to never go over your credit limit. This puts you at risk for interest rate hikes and a dent in your credit score.

Stay tuned for my answer to part two of the featured question!


Join The Conversation
blu-eyes blu-eyes 8 years
I was just recently contacted by one of my credit card companies whom I have been with the longest, but don't have balance. There letter said that in 60 days they will be closing the account due to inactivity. I called right away I because I know this lowers your credit score, but they told me it was too late.
cvandoorn cvandoorn 8 years
Actually, sometimes no credit is better than bad credit. You start off with a clean slate. When I got my first car, I had no credit, but yet I was able to finance it at a good rate. If I had bad credit, that rate would have been much, much higher. Although it is probably equally as hard to obtain a credit card if you have no credit, just like if you have bad credit. I remember getting rejected for all but one card, because I had no credit history.
Liss1 Liss1 8 years
I got in bad credit card debt about five years ago and it took me a couple of years to get back on track. It is hard sometimes, especially when you are near your credit limit and then you get a late charge that makes you go over your limit so you get an over the limit fee. It's an awful feeling when you feel like you are never going to be able to pay off your cards. Now i try not to use them at all.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
Once we bought our house, we sort of stopped really fixating on our FICO score because we don't plan on taking on any major debt in the future. We both had good FICO scores when we bought our house (well, my husband's was better than mine) and we got a very good interest rate on our loan. Our scores have both gone up slowly and steadily since buying our house, mostly because we don't have a ton of CCs and we always pay our balance every month. Oh, another thing that can lower your score is having a lot of lenders looking at your score. So when you're looking for a loan, don't go to a bunch of banks at once and try to get approved because it makes them think you're looking to take out a bunch of loans...I know it's stupid, but it's how it works I guess.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 8 years
ilanac13, I share the same issues. I was very irresponsible with money when I was younger and I'm still paying for it. I haven't been late on a payment for two years now, but my credit is still a sinkhole. Oh, well. Five more years, I guess. :P
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
bad credit is the worst thing, and what's even more frustrating is knowing that you'll be suffering from any problems that you have no for years. i wasn't the best in college when it came to that stuff and now i'm stuck dealing with it even 6+ years later. i just wish that all that messiness would just go away so that i could have the high credit score that i've earned.
Renees3 Renees3 8 years
i just recently had an old collection taken off my report and somehow my score went DOWN. ridiculous. I'm just waiting for my mortgage to go on there and that should raise my score a bit too. I really screwed up my credit when I was younger but I've been building it up slowly. Making payments, not buying a ton on CCs but using them here and there. Its rough but its good to be working towards a goal. And hey I was able to buy a house so it's working!
Antioxidant Antioxidant 8 years
You can get an apartment with bad credit. My friend had NO credit (which sometimes is worse than bad credit) and had to pay a massive downpayment just to move in to her complex. It's such a strange thing, credit.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
It's a tough world out there and I learned the hard way when I was 19. Whatever you do try not to default, ie get to a collection agency because then it will take 7.5 years to fix your credit!!!
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