Financial Literacy - Credit savvy
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Your post-bankruptcy credit score

2. Check your credit reports

After a bankruptcy discharge, make sure that your credit report is accurate. After all, your goal is to boost your credit score quickly, and inaccurate information will only prolong the time it takes for you to score high enough for conventional credit.

"Make sure that lenders are no longer updating your account every month, making it appear as though the delinquency just happened last month," says Ethan Dornhelm, principal scientist at FICO Scoring Solutions Division.

Debts that were discharged through bankruptcy should be accurately reported along with "good items" -- including accounts that were "paid as agreed" -- and any other accounts that you continue to pay on time that were not discharged in the bankruptcy.

For example, you typically cannot discharge federal student loans in bankruptcy.

Get a copy of your credit report and make sure everything is accurate. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three national credit bureaus. You can get them all at once, or better yet, stagger them every four months so you can your report more frequently.

"If it's not accurate, consumers have to contact the credit bureaus themselves and the bureau in turn investigates and contacts the creditor," Dornhelm says.

Credit bureaus generally have 30 to 45 days to investigate your claim.

You can request a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or by contacting Equifax, Experian and TransUnion directly.

3. Obtain a secured credit card

"After you go through any kind of major negative (financial) event, the most important thing is to get back on the horse and not just abandon the credit system entirely," says personal finance expert Emily Peters of Credit.com.

One of the most effective ways to boost your credit score after bankruptcy is to obtain a secured credit card, she says.

Secured cards are credit cards secured by a deposit account (usually a savings account) owned by the cardholder. The credit line is typically based on the amount deposited into the account. Deposits range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on the card.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo, for example, accept deposits from $300 to $10,000.

One caveat is that although these cards are still around, their numbers may be declining.

JP Morgan Chase announced it is discontinuing the secured credit card program initiated by Washington Mutual and closing those accounts.

"Secured credit cards are not a product currently offered by Chase," says Stephanie Jacobson, a JP Morgan Chase spokeswoman. JP Morgan Chase acquired the deposits, assets and certain liabilities of Washington Mutual back in September 2008.

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Jacobson says customers with funds in these accounts will receive a refund as well as a credit for a portion of the annual fee.

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