According to a 2015 Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) report, 56% of consumers have subprime credit scores. Living with bad credit can often mean you miss out on some of the better financing rates, causing you to pay more in interest. Avoiding the consequences of bad credit can be difficult, but there are a few steps you can take that can help you avoid letting this control your life until your scores start to improve.
1. Do Repair Work Before Making Large Purchases
Before applying for the loan that will help you buy a home or car, or make another large purchase, it’s a good idea to review your credit reports — which you can get for free every 12 months by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com — and look for any errors that need to be fixed. By doing this, and learning where the problems are in your credit, you’ll have an idea of what work needs to be done. (You can monitor how any adjustments you make affect your scores by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)
Consider talking to a credit repair professional to gauge the severity of the damage and how long it could take to recover. Keep in mind anything you pay a credit repair company to do you can do yourself (for free), but it can be helpful to outsource the work to an expert. In the meantime, you may want to contact lenders to learn about their standards for financing. For example, ask how a larger down payment would affect your monthly payment and the interest rates provided, or whether a letter of recommendation from your employer would make a difference in their decision process.
2. Shop Around for Financing
It’s always a good idea to shop around for the best financing options. In the case of bad credit, it’s especially useful to research multiple lenders to help you secure the best deal. While Bank A might consider your credit score subprime, Bank B may have different scoring standards. You can compare local credit union terms to national banks and, if you do, be sure to read the fine print with all your options. Some lenders require a co-signer or larger down payments for subprime applicants.
3. Remedy the Problem Areas
Existing bad credit can be difficult to fix if the root causes are still at work. For example, if you’re relying on credit cards or payday loans for all your purchases, this can translate to paying interest on top of principal balance, meaning higher spending in the long run. Plus, having maxed-out credit cards can impact your credit, as your credit utilization (how much debt you have compared to your total credit limits) makes up a large percentage of your scores. In this situation, you may want to consider a balance transfer credit card, which can help you pay off your credit card debt faster.