Having bad credit is something that affects many different aspects of your financial life -- costing you money in the form of interest rates and higher insurance premiums and even affecting job prospects. But you can fix your credit by yourself with a little time and patience. Here is a simple 5-step checklist for repairing your credit on your own with little money.
Apply for a Secured Credit Card. Unlike a traditional -- or "unsecured" -- credit card, secured cards are covered by your own money. Because the bank or lender is not risking its own money, this card is easier to get. You may only qualify for a minimal credit line -- often $500 or $1000 -- but this starts your credit rebuilding process.
Charge Only a Little. The key to building credit with any loan is to avoid misusing the credit offered. Contrary to what many people think, you do not need to charge large amounts to a credit card to build credit, nor do you have to carry a balance. Make small purchases and pay them off regularly -- avoiding interest while rebuilding your credit.
Apply for a Personal Loan. After about 6 months or more, you may want to apply for a personal loan at a bank or other lender. Why add a personal loan to your credit report? Because one thing that improves your score is having different types of credit or loans. A personal -- or "signature" -- loan with or without collateral helps add variety to your credit report. However, it's important to continue to be sure you make the personal loan payments on time and use the borrowed money wisely. If you have other outstanding debt with higher interest rates, this money can be put to good use. If you don't have other debt, you can even use this borrowed money to repay the loan itself or build an emergency fund for the future.
Be Patient. While most people with damaged credit want a quick fix, taking your time is key to doing it right. Showing your consistency and reliability by making payments on time each month will gradually improve lenders' trust. Avoid trying to open more accounts during this time because each attempt can make a small dent in your score. Limiting your credit and debt will also help you develop good credit use habits. Take this time to review your credit report and remove erroneous debts by using the free, Federally-authorized website, annualcreditreport.com.
Apply for an Unsecured Card. After about a year of on-time payments to your two accounts, you may find that you have built up enough of a good history to warrant an unsecured credit card. While the limit may still be small, this is a significant sign of credit score recovery. Continue to ensure that you use the card wisely -- paying off any debt monthly and always making all payments on time.
By following these simple steps and taking the time needed, you can rebuild your credit on your own -- and avoid scams, hucksters and expensive services. Doing so will help you feel more in control of your money and give you more freedom to enjoy a better future.