Building credit after bankruptcy

bankruptcyIn an earlier post, we told you about the effect bankruptcy can have on your credit score. People who put in some effort to rebuild their credit after bankruptcy can usually make their score rise a lot faster than people who just wait for their credit to fix itself. here we give you some tips for boosting your credit score after bankruptcy.

1. Check-up on your credit report. After filing bankruptcy, it’s important to make sure that your creditors have wiped your debts clean, or at least noted that the debt was discharged in your case. If old pre-bankruptcy debts come back to haunt you, they can drag down your score. That’s why for our clients, we offer a free check-up appointment after a bankruptcy case is finished. We’ll look over your credit report to make sure everything that was supposed to be wiped out was wiped out. If any accounts are still showing as active or in collection, we may use the Fair Credit Reporting Act to fix your report.

2. Secured credit cards (and other products designed to fool the credit scoring system). After bankruptcy, you might not be eligible to get a new credit card, or the cards you can get might not be the ones you want (watch out for sky-high rates, and predatory contract terms from the credit cards that solicit recent bankruptcy filers). Secured credit cards work like this: you give the credit card company some money for collateral (say, $500) and they give you a credit limit equal to the amount of collateral. But you use it like a credit card–your charges don’t draw down the collateral–the money you deposited just stays on file in case you default on the debt. And unlike a debit card, your on-time payments will help boost your score.

You can get a secured card by comparing cards on bankrate.com. But it might be an even better idea to approach a local bank or credit union that you have a strong relationship with–they might offer low-cost products that are meant to help you without all the tricks and traps.

3. Eventually, get an unsecured credit card. Often, after a year or so of on-time payments, the secured credit card company will return the collateral money and convert the account into a full-fledged credit card. A few months of on-time payments may also qualify you for more credit. Gas and store credit cards will probably be easiest to get, although they don’t have quite the same score-boosting effect as major bank credit cards do. But remember what got you into trouble in the first place–pay off your balances in full every month, and watch out for sleazy credit card practices that might get you back in trouble.

4. Stay away from credit repair scams. There are services out there that claim they can fix your credit for a fee. But these services aren’t worth the hassle. First of all, some of them will commit fraud to by trying to remove negative, but true information from your credit report, which may get you into more trouble in the long run. Also, you can probably do anything they’d do for you on your own without spending the money. In particular, stay away from any service that want money upfront for fixing your credit–this is prohibited by the Credit Repair Organizations Act, a federal law that governs credit-fixing agencies.

If you’ve filed bankruptcy and want help rebuilding your credit, or just considering bankruptcy and want to know what the impact on your credit will be, give us a call.

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