Rebuilding Your Credit after Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy offers many debtors the fresh start they need to achieve financial stability, but to enjoy financial opportunities, it is necessary to rebuild your credit once the bankruptcy process is complete. For more than two decades, Brian R. Cahn & Associates, LLC has helped northwest Georgia consumers and businesses take advantage of protections afforded under bankruptcy law. Here, our office provides tips on rebuilding credit after bankruptcy.
Take the Right Steps after Bankruptcy to Rebuild Credit
A bankruptcy discharge is the formal order entered at the successful completion of a bankruptcy case. The discharge is your ticket out of bankruptcy and the beginning of a fresh financial start. To take full advantage of this opportunity, it is critical to build and maintain good credit. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest rate on credit cards, mortgages and auto loans.
No sooner than four months after receiving your discharge, but no later than nine months after discharge, your first step should be to secure a copy of your credit report to see where you stand with the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You are entitled to receive one free credit report each year, and you can get it easily by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. Beware of other websites that sound “free” because they may require you to pay a fee or enroll in a monitoring service.
Once you get your report, check it for accuracy because there are often mistakes. The bankruptcy case should say “discharged” (not “dismissed”), and each account that was discharged should say “discharged in bankruptcy.” Conversely, any account that was reaffirmed should say “account in good standing” if you are current. Verify that each creditor listed is actually one you use or have used in the past, and dispute any errors, including old or outdated addresses.
Tips on Rebuilding, Maintaining & Protecting Good Credit
- Open a checking or savings account. Having a financial history will help you secure a loan.
- Pay your reaffirmed or post-bankruptcy bills on time. Take advantage of auto-pay to avoid late payments and fees.
- Get current on all your accounts. If you are behind, creditors will send your accounts to collectors and this will negatively impact your credit score.
- Keep balances as low as possible on “revolving credit” (i.e. credit cards).
- If you fall behind on payments, contact your creditors or see a credit counselor and let them know your situation. This will give you a chance to work something out with the creditors, possibly delaying reports of delinquencies to the credit agencies. Please see our debt settlement page for more information about working with creditors.
- When possible, pay off debt instead of transferring it to low interest rate cards.
- Do not open lines of credit you do not need.
- Proactively protect your credit from identity theft by using secure websites and immediately reporting any lost cards or personal documents. If your identity is stolen and fraudulent charges appear, it will take some time to straighten it out.
- Get your credit report a few times a year to monitor your progress. Although it takes time to raise your scores, watching them rise should serve as motivation to reinforce these new habits.
Talk to an Experienced North Georgia Lawyer about Bankruptcy & Rebuilding Credit
We understand that making a new start after bankruptcy can be intimidating for our clients, but with diligence and care, a better financial future is possible. For more information about the bankruptcy process and rebuilding credit, please contact Brian R. Cahn & Associates, LLC to schedule a free consultation.