Depending on your personal situation, filing for bankruptcy may be the best option to solve your financial problems. And while both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy come with major repercussions, they certainly don’t end your ability to get credit for the rest of your life. Even though these items stay on your credit report for seven or ten years, there are still several proactive steps you can take to rebuild your credit and qualify for financing before a bankruptcy drops off your file. You can also take comfort in the fact that even though a bankruptcy is visible on your credit report for several years, it actually stops affecting your credit score well before it drops off. With that happy thought in mind, we’ll take you every step of the way to determine in what other ways bankruptcy affects your credit and what exactly you can do to fix it.
How to Dispute a Bankruptcy on Your Credit Report
Disputing a bankruptcy on your credit report is tricky, but it’s not impossible. Plus, it’s a hugely effective way to accelerate the credit repair process. However, it’s incredibly difficult to accomplish if you try to do it on your own. To have the best chance at success, consider talking to a credit repair company to find out if you have a convincing case. A reputable credit repair firm has the experience and expertise to dispute any negative item on your credit report. You may be able to get the bankruptcy completely deleted well ahead of schedule and get accounts included in bankruptcy, like charge-offs and collections, removed as well.
Avoid Past Mistakes
Some people end up filing for bankruptcy because of excessive spending outside their means. But others find themselves in major financial trouble because of circumstances well beyond their control, from job loss to medical emergencies. Whatever your reason may be for reaching the point of bankruptcy, you need to come up with a plan to prevent it from happening again in the future. If you tend to overspend, create a monthly budget and think of ways to hold yourself accountable for sticking to it. You could give yourself a positive reward each time you put money into savings, or maybe schedule weekly updates with a friend who can help keep you motivated.
If your financial hardship came from something out of your control, start building a rainy day fund. Everyone should have one of these and ideally, you should save up between three and six months’ worth of living expenses. Then if you have an illness flare up or have trouble finding work, you have some backup cash to help you out until things return to normal. It may be difficult to come up with extra money for savings each month, so get creative in ways you can spend less and earn more.
Getting a Credit Card After Bankruptcy
One of the quickest and best ways to rebuild your credit after bankruptcy is with a credit card. That may seem counterintuitive since you don’t want to spiral into more debt, but a positive payment history is the most important component of your credit score. And since you probably have a lot of late payments on your credit report from accounts leading to your bankruptcy, you’ll likely need help rebuilding this portion of your score. You don’t have to charge all of your expenses on your credit card. Instead, start off by selecting one bill to pay every month with your credit card, then immediately pay off the balance. As you start to accrue on-time payments, your credit scores will eventually start to increase.
Now you might be wondering how to get a credit card if you have a bankruptcy on your credit report. There actually are a few unsecured credit cards that you can get fresh out of bankruptcy and even more secured credit cards available. With a secured credit card, you’re required to put a refundable deposit that equals your line of credit. When you charge an item to your credit card, you still have to pay for it out of your own wallet; the deposit merely serves as protection in case you stop making payments. Just like any other credit card, you’ll be charged interest if you don’t pay off your balance on time. This can be a great stepping stone to start repairing your credit after bankruptcy, especially if you can’t qualify for an unsecured card or the interest rate is too high.
Before choosing a credit card, make sure that the company reports monthly payments to the credit bureaus, preferably all three. Also limit the number of applications you submit, since each one knocks off at least five points from your credit score. Another tip for increasing your score is to keep your balances at 30% or less of your available credit limit and make sure you make your payments on time. Getting a credit card at this point is simply to rebuild your credit. Don’t use it for making large purchases or for making loans to yourself.
Buying a Car After Bankruptcy
At some point in your post-bankruptcy life, you’ll likely need a new car. You can certainly do so and even walk into a dealership with some bargaining power. To prepare for this moment, use your credit card responsibly for at least six months. This simple act adds to your credit score and shows that you can be trusted to make on-time payments. Also, save up cash for a down payment to help offset the loan amount. Even if you qualify for the full loan amount, you’ll likely be charged a high interest rate. Paying a sizeable down payment helps lower your financial burden so that you don’t set yourself up for another financial debt trap.
It’s also helpful to realize that you don’t need a brand new car. A reliable used car can be just as functional without the huge depreciation as you drive it off the lot. Call around to dealers to find available financing but also be wary of applying for a loan directly on the lot. Some car dealerships authorize multiple credit checks on your report from different lenders without you even realizing it. Aim to get offers in the way of pre-approvals based on a soft credit check. Also call around to local banks and credit unions to see if you qualify for financing. You’ll likely need to put in many calls to find a viable option, but you certainly can make it happen.
Buying a House After Bankruptcy
If you’re thinking about buying a house after a bankruptcy, you’ll need to wait a specific amount of time based on the type of bankruptcy you had and the type of loan you want. Referred to as a seasoning period, it typically takes four years after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge for a conventional loan and two years for FHA or VA financing. Of course, each individual lender has its own underwriting guidelines, so meeting this requirement alone doesn’t automatically qualify you for a loan. For Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you might be able to get a conventional loan just two years after the discharge date just one year for FHA and VA loans. However, you will need to show at least 12 consecutive months of on-time payments and permission from the court to take on new debt.
Because your credit score is so heavily affected by bankruptcy, you might also expect to see higher down payment requirements when you go to buy a house. An FHA loan, for example, typically allows for just a 3.5% down payment. If your credit score is under 580, you’ll need to pay a full 10% of your home’s purchase price as your down payment. That’s a huge difference. While there are no official guidelines for a conventional loan, you can still expect to put a larger sum down on your future home.
Your credit score has a huge impact on how much you’ll pay for your home, both in terms of down payment and your interest rate. That’s why it’s important that you spend those seasoning periods rebuilding your credit as soon as your bankruptcy has been discharged. Creditors want to see that you are now making an effort to pay your bills on time and that you are managing your debt better. By making responsible choices everyday after your bankruptcy, you’ll slowly rebuild your credit and your reputation as a trustworthy borrower.
Rebuilding your credit after a bankruptcy takes time, but it also takes effort. With just a little bit of strategy, you can create a comprehensive action plan to build a positive payment history and get that credit score up. Then when you need financing help, you’ll be ready with a strong application that proves you are indeed creditworthy.