Managing Your Credit

Managing Your Credit

To get the most from your credit card, do your homework. Review your income and expenses, estimate how much money you might have available to pay down your credit card debt, and consider cutting back on, or eliminating, optional expenses.

If you’ve fallen behind, are using cash advances from one credit card to pay off another, or your credit cards are maxed out–that is, at or near your credit limit–there are steps you can take to help yourself.

Talk with your credit card company. Explain your financial situation and ask to work with the company to find the right payment options for you. Companies want to work with you to resolve this problem, so contact them as soon as you think you will have a problem paying your credit card bills.

Consider a credit counseling service. Reputable credit counselors help you look at your budget and determine potential repayment options. They may charge a fee for their services.

Beware of Credit Rescue Scams

Your credit card company and legitimate credit counselors can best help you find the right options for you. Learn how to recognize credit repair scams on the Federal Trade Commission’s credit repair website. Report suspicious schemes to your state and local consumer protection agencies, which you can find on the Federal Citizen Information Center’s Consumer Action Website.

Your credit card company has to include a number for accessing credit counseling services on your statement under Federal Reserve Board regulations. Before you choose a counselor make sure the service is legitimate. You can visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website to learn more about choosing a credit counseling service.

If you had credit problems, you’ll want to begin improving your credit score. Read our Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores to learn more about what a credit score is, how it is created, and why it is important. Our 5 Tips: Improving Your Credit Score will help you learn more about what you can do to improve your score. The Federal Trade Commission’s guide to Building a Better Credit Report offers additional resources.