10 Things You’re Embarrassed to Ask About Credit

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5. I don’t have any cards. Is there any other way to build my credit?

Aside from starting off with a secured credit card, you can still build credit without cards. Here’s how:

  • If you have an installment loan or two, paying those debts will help you build credit. Installment loans include student loans, auto loans, mortgages or personal loans.
  • Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card can boost your credit. That person’s good history will typically be factored into your credit. And as long as the individual maintains responsible credit use, your credit will continue to receive benefits.
  • Getting a co-signer for a loan will ensure you good rates, and help you to build credit–as long as that co-signer’s credit score gets you approved for the loan. This is only advised if 1.) you were already planning to apply for a loan and 2.) the co-signer is a person you trust. Both of your credit files will be combined for the loan approval and rates.

RELATED: Too Many Americans Embrace Low Credit Scores

6. What should I do if a collections agency calls about old debt?

First, you need to verify that the debt is yours. You can do this by sending a debt validation letter, which is a written request for the collections agency to verify your ownership of the debt. There’s a good example of what this type of letter looks like here. The agency will have to do one of two things: 1.) stop attempting to collect the debt or 2.) send verification that the debt is yours.

If it turns out that the debt is indeed yours, work out a way to pay it in full. During this process, negotiate with the collections agency regarding how the account with appear on your credit report after you’ve paid. While most agencies won’t agree to completely remove the account as if it never existed, it’s still worth it to ask. If you settle the debt for less than the amount owed, the collector will probably agree to mark the account “paid – settled” instead. Both of these notations will still negatively affect your credit report, but future lenders will be happier to see that you’ve paid off some debt. Either way, get this agreement in writing before you pay the debt, and find out how long after payment the update to your report will be posted. After you’ve paid your collections debt, be sure to check that all agreements have been fulfilled.

7. Why do employers look at my credit report?

This shouldn’t be a huge concern unless you’re applying for jobs with fiduciary responsibilities. If you’re applying for a position that involves managing a company’s finances, but you’ve had trouble managing your own in the past, employers may think that you’re less suited to the job. Otherwise, your credit report likely shouldn’t be a huge factor in whether or not you get a job. A lot of times, it isn’t checked at all.

RELATED: Why Don’t I See the Same Credit Score as My Lender?

8. If I pay off a loan faster than the terms of payment, does that hurt my credit?

It could, but probably not by much. Plus, the benefits of having less debt usually far outweigh the consequence of losing a few points on your score. Here’s a quick run-down of how paying off a loan early can affect your credit:

If you only have one line of credit other than credit cards—like an auto loan, student loan or mortgage–paying it off, and closing the account, will affect your mix of credit. Having a variety of credit (credit cards, auto loans, a mortgage, student loans) is good for your credit because it shows that you can manage different types of debt. Of course, a good credit score is also supposed to save you money. For example, if you have the cash to pay down your auto loan debt, it makes sense to do so early. Otherwise, you’ll just be spending additional money on interest payments. 

RELATED: Will Paying Off My Debt Hurt My Credit Score?

9. If I co-sign on someone’s loan, how will it impact my credit?

This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Co-signing means that you’re using your good credit to get someone else’s loan approved–probably because that person has poor credit or little credit history. Your credit score will be affected by both the positive and negative activity on the loan. You’ll gain the benefit of an extra line of credit without having to worry about making payments, but if the other person misses a payment and defaults, your credit will be dinged (as this woman found out when her credit score plunged 200 points). So make sure to weigh the pros and cons thoroughly.

10. I’ve declared bankruptcy. Is there any hope for my credit?

Yes, although it will take some time to rebuild. After a declaration of bankruptcy, a credit score with a “good” rating can drop 150 points. An “excellent” score will take an even bigger hit. You’ll be unable to apply for most types of credit, including credit cards, and you’ll have to wait two to four years to apply for a home loan. When you’re ready to start rebuilding, take it slow by applying for a secured credit card (see #1). After you’ve shown responsible use of a secured card for about a year, try to apply for an unsecured credit card. If you keep making your payments in full and on time, your credit should improve.

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