Here are ways you can improve your credit score without paying a so-called …

Q: One of your columns this month talked about a grandfather whose credit score droppedafter his grandson defaulted on a car loan. You gave him a few tips to helprestore his credit rating.

Our problems are a little worse. My wife and I have significant credit card debt (more than $40,000) and we have a few late payments in the last couple ofyears. Our credit scores are in the low 600s. Weve seen some ads (they seem to pop up on our email) that promise credit repair. One said they could raise our scores by 100 points in a month. The cost is $300.

Can these places really repair your credit?

KA,Middleburg Heights

A: Are there some outfits that can boost your credit score? Yes. Best case: They cant do anything for you that you cant do yourself. The most they can genuinely do is dispute erroneous information on your credit reports. You can do that at no charge by dealing directly with the credit bureaus and your creditors.

Worst case: They promise you miracles, such as removing all of the late payments and defaults and boosting your score by 50 or 100 points. They do nothing but take your money. Both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Fair Isaac Corp., creator of the FICO score, warn consumers to steer clear of these credit repair scams.

However, if youre trying to increase your credit score modestly, there are some secrets that are legal and cost you nothing. Im going to devote the entire column today to this topic because I get asked about this frequently.

Before we run through some of these strategies, its important to stress that the best way to protect your credit score is to pay your bills on time. If you make payments late, that information likely will be on your credit record and no one can permanently remove accurate information from your file except the creditor.

As I mentioned in a recent column, payments dont get reported as late payments on your credit report until theyre 30 days late. That doesnt mean you wont get charged a late fee if a payment is so much as one day late. Another little tip: If youre juggling bills and trying to decide what to pay on time during a particular month, put a priority on credit cards (because they charge late fees immediately), then mortgages or auto or personal loans. Late payments on utilities or medical bills arent as harmful to your credit rating and the late fees are more modest.

The key is to make sure nothing goes to collection.

That said, here are some ways you can improve your credit rating if it needs a boost:


If you dont have a car or home loan youre currently paying, then use a credit card regularly and pay it off each month. By regularly, were talking every few months.

Many people, particularly older folks, brag that they pay cash for everything and never use credit cards. But if you dont have a recent payment history on anything, the credit models dont have much to use to tally your credit score. So youll have a thin file and possibly a lower score. Said another way, credit scores judge your ability to manage credit. If youre not managing any credit, your score will reflect that.

If you think you dont care because youre never taking out another loan, low credit scores can drive up premiums on homeowners and auto insurance.


Check your credit report for duplicate accounts, called tradelines.

Often times, the same credit card account can appear on your report two or three times if you get a new account number or if the card portfolio or bank gets sold.

Too many tradelines — either open or closed — can hurt you. If you have a lot, you can dispute them as duplicates.

The number of tradelines falls in the category of types of credit in use, which accounts for only 10 percent of your credit score. Reducing duplicate tradelines wouldnt help most people a lot, but could add a few points.

While youre looking for tradelines, look for other errors.

Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — is required by law to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months if you ask.

The three share a toll-free phone line and website for requests. Go towww.annualcreditreport.comor call 1-877-322-8228.Or you can send your information to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Include your full name, mailing address, Social Security number, date of birth and previous mailing address if youve been at your current address for less than two years. Also indicate which companys report you want: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, or all three.


If youre married and have credit card balances, split up the debt.

Say you have two cards with $5,000 balances. It looks on your credit report as you have $10,000 in debt and your spouse has $10,000, when you as a couple actually have only $10,000 total. This double-accounting brings down both of your scores.

To improve a couples scores, they could have one card in the husbands name and one in the wifes name and it would suddenly look as if each owed $5,000 less in credit card debt, and that would probably boost the scores for both of them.


If you have a short credit history or have debt, get yourself added on as an authorized user or joint owner on an account of someone who has a good payment history and a low balance or none at all.

You dont need to have the actual card or use the account.

The best part: If the account is 10 years old, the entire 10-year history will transfer to your credit record.

Being a joint owner carries slightly more weight than being an authorized user, but theyre regarded mostly the same.


If you have credit card debt, consider putting it on an equity line or loan.

The credit scoring models view mortgages differently from credit cards. Balances on mortgages — first or second mortgages — dont really hurt your score. Credit card balances of $40,000 could devastate your score; a $40,000 home equity line wouldnt hurt you much at all.

Realize, though, that you could be putting your home at risk if you dont repay. And home-equity lines and loans are more difficult to get these days than before the housing crisis.


Dont lower your limits on credit cards; lower limits hurt you even if you pay off the balance every month.

One of the most critical things that credit scoring looks at is the amount of credit youre using. The amount you owe counts for 35 percent of your score, and the proportion of credit youre using is part of that category.

This proportion is important regardless of whether you pay your balance in full each month.

Say you have a $3,000 credit limit and charge $2,000 that you plan to pay off in full the next month. You know youre going to pay that off and I know youre going to pay it off, but the credit scoring model doesnt. So it looks as if youre using 66 percent of your available credit, and thats not good.

You should aim to keep statement balances at 25 percent or less of available credit.


Dont close credit accounts, even if youre not using them. Not only do you want to keep your available credit thats not being used as high as possible, but you also want to maintain your oldest accounts on your files.


If you have only one credit card or have high balances on a few, consider opening a new account that you use only once or twice a year and pay in full. Again, this will dilute your credit in use.


Dont use a finance company for an unsecured loan.

The credit scoring models will ding you a little for using companies like finance companies or rent-to-own stores. A loan from a bank or even purchases on a credit card for the same amount wont hit your score as much.


Pay off balances on bank cards before paying off store cards.

Bank cards — MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express — carry more weight in credit scoring models than store cards like Macys and Kohls.

So if youre carrying a big balance, its less damaging to have it on the store card than on the bank card.


If you have a shaky credit score, open a new card and use it. Having a positive current payment history will help dilute the bad stuff. Not make it go away, but dilute it. You may be surprised by how quickly your score improves if you have current information thats positive, as opposed to nothing new — just the bad stuff.

If you have a really low score, you might need to start with a secured credit card, instead of a traditional credit card. One good source for referrals to all sorts of cards is

If youre using one or two credit cards every few months for small purchases and paying them off entirely each time, your score should increase significantly in a year or two.

But if you apply for a card and get rejected, dont keep applying for others. This will hurt you. Go the secured routeinstead.


If you have an old collection item, consider carefully whether you want to pay it off.

Say you have a credit card bill thats more than six years past due. Its already beyond the statute of limitations in Ohio and will fall off your credit report at seven years. Heres a link to the statute of limitations for credit card debt in every state:

But if you decide to pay the bill or get on a payment plan, that could start the seven-year clock running all over again. Its admirable to want to do the right thing by paying an old debt, but it could hurt your credit score more.

Companies buy old debts for pennies on the dollar and harass people to try to get them to pay. But if you pay it off, it will start the seven-year clock all over again as far as the default being on your credit file.Remember that any debt collector thatthreatens to sue you fora debt that is beyond the statute of limitations is violating theFair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If your conscious is tugging at you about an old debt, consider donating the money to a charity instead of paying off an old debt that cant hurt you anymore.

Murray is The Plain Dealers personal finance writer. Because of the volume of requests, she cannot help everyone who contacts her.

To reach
On Facebook: MurrayMoneyMatters
On Twitter: @teresamurray
Previous columns

Credit Score Fluctuations

Credit scores fluctuate on a monthly basis in some cases. Do not panic! Your credit score can go up or down for what appears to be no reason at all. There are a lot of changes happening right now with the credit reporting agencies. If you have not made any significant changes and your credit score goes down, the first thing you should do is evaluate your credit report. Look for any changes. Monitor your credit report frequently in order to have something to compare to your current report. Retrieve your free credit report from The free reports from all three bureaus can be obtained once on a rolling 12 month basis. You can also utilize free credit sites, such as or At these sites you will be able to view your credit report and your credit score, obtain helpful tips, and read recommendations on how to improve your credit score. When you see these fluctuations, here are some things to look for in your credit report:

  • Recently closed accounts. The average age of your credit accounts can be a negative or a positive. Closing a credit card account, especially one with a long history, can affect your score. The closed account no longer aids you in a positive way. If the account is closed and you still owe a balance, it certainly affects your utilization percentage. Read my article, To Increase or Not to Increase, to learn all about how utilization percentage can effect you and what to do about it.
  • Credit card limit changes. A lowering of the limit can negatively affect your score. If the credit card company lowers your limit and you continue to hold a balance, the above referenced utilization scenario also applies. An increase in your credit limit typically doesnt change your score in a negative way. It may actually increase your credit score.
  • Applying for credit or inquiries. Inquiries lower your credit score, typically by just a few points. However, often times, if you absolutely need the credit, then its perfectly fine to take the negative hit. The reward is higher than the negative side effect of not obtaining the credit you desire.
  • Collections, judgments, garnishments, and liens are all negatives on your credit report and will lower your credit score immediately. Attempt to prevent this at all cost. Negotiate settlements prior to these types of accounts showing up on your credit report.
  • This one may blow your mind, but NOT using credit can lower your credit score. This does not mean go buy a car every year or refinance your home; however, using your credit cards periodically is good for your credit score. Some skeptics and conspiracy theorist may think this is a ploy by the credit cards companies and banks in conjunction with the credit bureaus to get you more in debt. Ill leave the conspiracy for you to discuss among your friends. It is true that not using credit can lower your credit score. Your credit report is a history of how well you handle (pay) your bills. If you never use your available credit, the credit card companies have nothing to report. My suggestion is to treat yourself and/or significant other to dinner and pay using your credit card at least once a quarter. To avoid paying interest on the card, make your payment BEFORE you receive your statement. This way its almost like paying cash for the dinner and you may even receive some reward points.

If your credit score increases, thank the credit gods. FYI, there are no credit gods or magic fairies that can increase your score. However, there are some simple ways to do so. Using your credit cards is just one way to increase your score. Managing your credit by paying your bills on time, keeping your overall balance to limit ratio below 30%, and applying for credit only when necessary are some of these ways.

Credit score fluctuations are common. Keep calm, like the t-shirts say and use the tools provided in this article. Stay tunedcome back for more great reads about increasing and protecting your credit score.

Image Credit

Related Reads

CFPB regulates car loan companies for first time: Plain Dealing

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The CFPB issued a new rule Wednesday to regulatecompanies that finance car loans and leases.

This marks the first time auto lenders that arent banks will fall under federal supervision.

The final ruleallows the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to supervise the biggest non-bank auto lenders — those who make, buy or finance more than 10,000 auto loans or leases a year.

Consumers may wind up dealing withnon-bank auto lenders when they seek financing at thecar lot, rather than borrowing directly from a bank or credit union.In dealer-arranged loans,the dealer, not the consumer, choosesthe lender.

But dealers mayget incentives that consumers dont know about, and the CFPB has said its concerned dealersmay pick loans that are best for the dealer, not the car buyer.

The bureau said it will focus on making sure these lenders fairly market and disclose loan terms, provide correct information to credit bureaus, comply with fair lending laws andfollow the rules when they try to collect on loans or repossess cars.

Auto loans are the third-largest source of household debt for Americans, behind mortgages and student loans. Americans owed about $900 billion on car loans at the end of last year, the CFPB said. On top of that, more than a quarter of all car owners lease their vehicles.

The 34 companies expected to fall under the new rule together originate about 90 percent of all non-bank auto loans and leases.

Consumers in the market for cars can either get loans directly from banks and credit unions or they can go through dealers to find financing through banks or non-bank auto-finance companies.

The bureau already supervises auto lending by large banks and credit unions.

The final rulegoes into effect in September.

Maybank, the Largest Bank in Malaysia, Seeks to Disrupt Finance as it Backs …

Amran Hassan, Head of Innovation at Maybank, Shares Insight into Maybanks Innovative Approach

Malaysia has been a leader in Asia in advocating, and legalizing, investment crowdfunding. Securities Commission (SC) Malaysia, the regulatory body that oversees the securities markets, has been a champion of new forms of finance. Embracing the concept of crowdfunding for what it is, a more efficient and effective approach to capital allocation, SC Malaysia organized a coalition of groups to realize a new capital raising ecosystem, designed to boost innovation and economic growth.

Speaking at the recently held Synergy and Crowdfunding Forum (SCxSC), Rajit Ajit Singh, Chair of SC, stated;

“The establishment of the [equity crowdfunding] is a component of SC’s strategy to democratise finance. Over the years, Malaysia has developed a diversified and well-established RM 2.8 trillion ($7.46 billion) capital market, helping businesses to grow as well as financing long-term investments in the economy. However, for capital markets to be inclusive; small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups must also be able to obtain market-based financing. Hence, it is timely to further widen access through innovation in financial technologies such as ECF platforms.”

No clearer endorsement could be made by an official of a government entity. But the securities regulator is not alone in embracing change, and endorsing the disruption, of existing financial structures.

Maybank is the largest bank in Malaysia. They proudly claim to be one of the worlds strongest banks. Maybank is a regional operation serving over 22 million customers across Asia.  But being big, does not mean they have lost touch with the fast changing world of finance, and the basic needs of small business. In fact Maybank initiated its inaugural crowdsourcing initiative back in 1996. Evolving over the years, Maybank has incorporated a more focused approach towards ideation, and adoption, of new practices deemed key to future strategic growth.

Leading the innovation charge at Maybank is Amran Hassan. A former executive at Accenture, Amran understands the world of finance is changing. He recently stated, the only way is to embrace the startup world. If you cannot defeat them, join them. If banks dont realize that, they are going to be like Borders [bookstore]. Sage advice for the world of traditional finance.

Amran is championing the cause to bring financial innovation to Maybank either under the banks branding or with the banks support.

If they have a financial advisory tool or a good application to manage spending on credit cards, we want to know how it works.  Maybank has partnered with VC firm 1337 Ventures to find promising FinTech startups and speed up the market validation and commercialization process. Speaking at the SCxSC event, Amran discussed the innovation of crowdfunding saying;

I think crowdfunding is exciting. Its something that we cant ignore because it  opens a new access to liquidity.

Crowdfund Insider recently spoke with Amran to learn more about Maybanks innovation leadership and his perspective on disruptive finance.

Crowdfund Insider: SC Malaysia has been very progressive in advocating on behalf of legalizing investment crowdfunding.  Why is this?

Amran Hassan: This is not something new for the SC as they had earlier mooted this idea a year ago. The current development is a natural progression. They can see that it is only a matter of time before equity crowdfunding reaches our shores, so, they being proactive about it.

Crowdfund Insider: What do you think of the final rules as released? Do you see any weaknesses? 

Amran Hassan: I think the rules are sufficient to allow the equity platforms a fair chance at being successful, whilst protecting the interests of both the investor and the companies raising funds. However, it is too early to make judgement where the weaknesses are if any.

Crowdfund Insider: What is your opinion on smaller investors participating in these types of investments? 

Amran Hassan: I think they should look at ECP as another channel to invest. However, in diversifying their portfolios, they must do their due diligence when entering into a new market. Having said that, the SC has limited the retail investor to a maximum of RM 5,000 per issuer, with a total amount of not more than RM 50,000 within a 12-month period.

Crowdfund Insider: How important are these new rules for fostering an innovation economy in Malaysia? 

Amran Hassan: The platforms, if successful, will in essence create a new funding stream, especially for the SME. However, funding is just one aspect of growing innovation as a powerhouse industry in the economy. That also requires other factors including skills, market relevance and infrastructure, amongst others.

Crowdfund Insider: Which sectors do you see benefiting the most from the new rules? Technology?  Other sectors? 

Amran Hassan: I think all sectors would benefit. This is not just about technology entrepreneurs getting seed or Series funding. This is about any good businesses getting funding to further expand their business, be it in retail, famp;b, hospitality etc.

Crowdfund Insider: Maybank is the largest bank in Malaysia. Why are you so supportive of startups? 

Amran Hassan: History has taught us that companies survive or thrive through innovation. Those who sit still or rest on their laurels will ultimately perish. I believe that startups is one of many avenues of innovation that can be embraced by Maybank, or indeed, the whole financial industry as a whole. They not only bring innovative products or services to the table, but also a different culture and mind-set. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of innovation and innovative people in the banking sector, but as I said, we must not rest on our past successes and always be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

Crowdfund Insider: Maybank has partnered with VC firm 1337.  How is that working out? 

Amran Hassan: It has worked out great. We have just completed our #maybankfintech program with them and they have helped connect us to the startup community within the region. They have also introduced new structures and frameworks on how we deal with innovation.

Crowdfund Insider:  FinTech is a very hot space today. Are you concerned about Maybank being challenged in any way? 

Amran Hassan: I am not so much concerned as I am excited. The word ‘disruption’ has been over used when it comes to talking about fintech. I truly feel the word we should use to describe it is ‘opportunity’. The thriving FinTech space is really reminding banks on how we should connect and stay relevant to our customers and to really understand customer experience and their journey in the financial world.

Crowdfund Insider: How do you see disruptive finance expanding across Asia? 

Amran Hassan: As I mentioned, its about the growing opportunities. There are new generations now who know nothing other than the ease of mobility, personalised services and near instant responses from the services and products that they live with everyday. Asia to some extent is leading the way. Take China and the rise of AliBaba and Tencent or the innovative banks like Hana Bank in Korea.

Crowdfund Insider: What is next for you?  MayBank? 

Amran Hassan: I am looking forward to being a central part of the FinTech community here in the region, to really help it grow. Maybank will continue to engage with the startup community and with this collaboration, hope to bring more relevant banking services to our customers with the best customer experience possible.

Sanders’ Views Becoming More Mainstream Than Clinton’s Conservative Views

With frontrunner Hillary Clinton having been found to have committed major ethics violations as Secretary of State, showing a tremendous drop in favorability and trust in the polls, and having views significantly to the right of a Democratic Party which is becoming more liberal, it is time for Plan B. With the momentum being displayed by Bernie Sanders, Plan B just might be Plan Bernie.

While Hillary Clinton is a very poor choice to run in the general election, some fear that Bernie Sanders might have difficulty winning because of calling himself a Democratic Socialist (even if his views are closer to European-style social democrats than socialism). It is questionable if that matters considering that Barack Obama won the general election twice, despite being called a Marxist Socialist by the Republicans. As the Star-Ledger Editorial Board put it, Sanders socialism is mainstream:

He has made income inequality a central theme, and he wants to revamp the tax system so that the wealthy pay a larger share. Check and check: Gallup reports that 63 percent call wealth distribution unfair, and 52 percent favor heavier taxes on the rich.

He is scathing about how big money has corrupted politics, and 61 percent of agree that Citizens United should be overturned. That includes 71 percent of Republicans who want to limit campaign contributions.

He wants to reduce student debt, at a time when 79 percent believe that education is no longer affordable for everyone, and 82 percent support creating low-cost loans for education.

He believes government should be proactive to reverse global warming, which is consistent with 71 percent of Americans, while 48 percent of Republicans say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who fights climate change.

He also endorses a $15 federal minimum wage and believes that Wall Street banks should be shrunk, two concepts that poll very well.

Even the term socialism doesnt poll like it used to, because younger voters believe Sanders is espousing a broader social rights agenda. The 18-to-29 bloc even finds socialism (36 percent) almost as favorable as capitalism (39 percent).

Or perhaps they just know that socialist precepts, in large part, represent the civic and cultural foundation of our nation.

Consider: Many things we take for granted today were conceived by leftist coalitions that included Socialists and other Progressives, such as the eight-hour workday, womens suffrage, Medicare, and Social Security. Some were used as the platform for Eugene Debs bid for the White House a century ago, though back then they called it social insurance.

Labor rights, decent work conditions, and paid maternity leave were in large part socialist ideas, too, some championed by a Socialist congressman from the lower East Side named Meyer London.

And civil liberty was an ironclad tenet throughout our history – as long as your skin wasnt a tint darker than the majority but when we interned Japanese Americans in 1942, one of the loudest objections was voiced by the prominent Socialist of the time, Norman Thomas.

Meanwhile the alternative is Hillary Clinton, who helped George Bush lie the country into the Iraq war with false claims that Saddam had connections to al Qaeda, continued to push for increased military intervention as Secretary of State, is weak on issues including civil liberties, government transparency, and the environment, and shows the influence of her association with the religious right in her positions on social issues. Bernie Sanders positions might be more mainstream than Clintons, despite her selective attempts to sound more liberal, and are definitely preferable for a Democratic candidate.

Originally posted at Liberal Values

Related Posts:
Bernie Sanders Contrasts His Views With Those Of Hillary Clinton
What Bernie Sanders Believes

Click here for reuse options!

Attempted Traffic Stop Ends in Car Dealership Wreck

The SUV landed on top on one car, smashing it, and damaged six other vehicles, according to a CHP spokesperson.

An employee of the Auto Finance car lot said he thought the driver was going at least 70 miles per hour.

Thats pretty heavy. Thats a Ford Expedition. I am going to guess he probably had it in 4-wheel-drive. The way he landed, he crawled on up there, employee Mike  McCulough said.

After the crash, Johnny Jackson, the maintenance worker at the Somerset Edison Apartments said the foot chase began.

One of them ran outside and hid behind a car (in the parking lot of the complex), Jackson said.

2.2 Million ‘Boomerang’ Homebuyers Will Re-Enter the Market in the Next 5 Years

TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, studied the population of credit-active US adults over the course of several years — the end of 2006 (the end of the bubble, when prices began to decline), the end of 2009 (when the bubble burst) and the end of 2014 — to determine the figures. Between 2006 and 2014, TransUnion was able to track 180 million consumers, and in 2006, 48% (78 million) of that population had a mortgage, and 8% (7 million) of that group had trouble repaying that loan between 2006 and 2009. By December 2014, 18% (about 1.3 million) had rebuilt their credit to meet Fannie Mae underwriting guidelines, and TransUnion estimates 2.2 million of the remaining 5.7 million former homeowners will rebuild their credit to that point within the next five years.

How Much House Can You Afford?Before you consider buying a home, check out how much you can afford. Plus, see how changes in your finances will affect the result.
Find Out Now

To be considered eligible to re-enter the mortgage market, consumers have to have no unpaid judgments, garnishments or outstanding liens; no accounts past due; a FICO credit score of at least 620; and enough time elapsed between the negative event occurred and when they wish to re-enter the mortgage market (ie four years after a short sale and seven years after a foreclosure), according to TransUnion. Even among the 18% of consumers who have rebounded from the credit damage they sustained during the financial crisis, the majority (58%) have yet to re-enter the mortgage market.

“As boomerang buyers who experienced foreclosures or other negative impacts become eligible to re-enter the mortgage market, they may not immediately do so if they are not aware they are eligible again, or feel daunted by their prior experience,” said Joe Mellman, vice president and head of TransUnion’s mortgage group, in a news release about the data.

Rehabilitating your credit after missing payments on your mortgage or losing your home to foreclosure can certainly be intimidating, and it requires a lot of patience. That doesnt mean you should stay away from the mortgage market if you desire to own a home. When working toward your goal of becoming a homeowner again, regularly monitor your credit (you can do that for free on to track your progress and understand how your financial behaviors affect your credit scores. The foundation of a good credit score is making loan and credit card payments on time, paying other bills so they arent sent to collections and keeping your balances of revolving lines of credit (such as credit cards) as low as possible.

More on Mortgages amp; Homebuying:

  • Why You Should Check Your Credit Before Buying a Home
  • How to Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage
  • How to Search for Your Next Home

Image: monkeybusinessimages

MYbank set to be a mighty disruptive influence

Likewise, the loan system for individuals is just as difficult, with the only viable option being spending on credit cards. But this is limited by each credit card company, and as with the West, it’s more and more difficult to amass large credit debt across different cards.

Tech giants disrupt the financial industry

Tencent and Alibaba have revolutionised China’s financial industry over the past few years. They have launched the WeChat Pay and Alipay mobile payment apps respectively, and these are the default methods of payment online. But as both firms expand their mobile ecosystems, offline payments are embracing this technology.

Are you ‘credit invisible’? How to boost your score.

Not having a credit score absolutely impacts your qualify of life, said Steve Joung, founder and chief executive officer of Chicago-based apartment rental agency Pangea Properties. If you have better credit, you can rent a nicer apartment. You can get in a neighborhood that is closer to transportation and to your job. Your apartment building might have more amenities that bring you happiness. The quality, condition, and location of where you live is a big factor in your overall happiness and satisfaction.