How to Keep Your Bad Credit From Getting Worse

Keep Your Bad Credit From Getting Worse

Does it feel like your credit score is riding a greased-up Slip ‘N Slide…down a hill…toward a cliff?

Don’t panic! You can hit the brakes by avoiding all the things that can make your bad credit even worse. And what exactly are those things? That’s what we’re here to tell you.

Start paying your bills on time.

This isn’t always easy. There’s a good chance that getting behind on your bills is what landed you with bad credit in the first place. It can be overwhelming just paying rent, utilities, and not starving. You might be tempted to just start ignoring your credit rating, but as nationally recognized credit expert Jeanne Kelly (@creditscoop) told us, that would be a mistake. Here’s what she said when we asked about how people with bad credit can run into trouble: “I think by ignoring their credit they can make it stay bad.”

To improve your credit, Kelly recommends that you “open new accounts to build up credit history and start paying bills on time.”

If you have friends or family who can help you catch up on your bills, you should really consider asking them. It might be a little embarrassing, but if they can help you get ahead on your bills and start improving your credit now, you might be able to pay back the favor one day.

On the other hand, if your bills keep getting past you, your credit will just get worse, and you’ll have a tough time dealing with your own emergencies, let alone anything that comes up with your friends or family.

Avoid scam lenders.

We’ve written about bad credit loan scams before, because they’re one of the most surefire way to make bad credit even worse. Having bad credit means your loan options are limited, which is a big problem when an emergency requiring money (a common sort of emergency) comes up. And scam lenders (like payday and title lenders) know this. They’ll attempt to take advantage of your desperation and lack of choices.

Financial writer Jen Smith (@savingwithspunk) offered this warning about predatory lenders:

“Anytime a lender makes you feel pressured or rushes through documents is a bad sign. Good lenders want to take the time to make sure the client they’re lending to is capable of paying them back. This means they’ll want to answer your questions and they encourage you to fully read documents before signing them. Scam lenders will ask people to sign unfinished documents or suggest that there’s no need to read them.”

As Smith suggests, be sure to ask as many questions as you need. One good question to ask is if the lender reports your payments to the credit bureaus. If they do, and you make your payments on time, your credit won’t only not get worse, it’ll start getting better!

(Sorry we didn’t stop ourselves from using a double negative in that last sentence.)

Avoid hard credit checks.

One sign that a lender isn’t on the up-and-up is that they don’t care about your ability to pay at all. Any legit lender should either be performing a credit check or looking into your income. That’s why it’s important to find out what kind of credit check a lender is going to perform before you apply. Here’s how John Ganotis, founder of Credit Card Insider (@Cardinsider) explained the difference between hard and soft credit checks: “A hard inquiry happens any time you’re seeking new credit. For example, when you apply for a credit card or an auto loan.

“A soft inquiry happens anytime your credit is checked, but not as part of a credit application that you initiate. For example, your credit card issuer may check your credit reports periodically to make sure you’re still financially healthy or you might request a copy of your credit report, neither of which would be a hard inquiry since they do not result in a new loan.

“All inquiries remain on your credit reports for two years. Soft inquiries do not affect credit scores. Hard inquiries affect FICO scores for one year.”

Since a hard credit check can negatively affect your credit score, you’re better off only dealing with lenders that perform soft credit checks if possible. Especially if your credit isn’t looking too hot already.

Don’t let your credit card balance get too high.

In addition to paying your bills on time, the balance on your credit cards is an important factor in your credit score. Even if you know you’ll be able to pay the bill each month, you should try to keep yourself at 30 percent or under of your total credit limit at any given time. This will help make sure your credit score is heading in the right direction.

Inertia is a powerful force, and if you’re already stuck with bad credit, you might feel the impulse to just give up and let it slide further. But with these tips, dedication, and whatever help you can get, you’ll be able go from bad credit, to rad credit.

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John Ganotis is the founder of John comes from a diverse background of software development, web publishing, and personal finance. He knows firsthand what it’s like to accumulate credit card debt, pay it off completely, and then start using credit to his advantage. His passion for technology and attention to detail have made Credit Card Insider one of the premier credit resources on the Internet, and he is eager to help others tackle debt and use credit as a powerful tool rather than fear it.
Jeanne Kelly (@creditscoop) After being turned down for a mortgage 15 years ago, Jeanne Kelly realized she needed to get her credit in order. Not only was she able to fix her bad credit, but she took the skills and knowledge she gained and decided to share it with the world. Now she’s a nationally regarded credit coach and expert, with multiple books and television appearances. She’s also been kind enough to share her insights with us on many different occasions. Follow her on Twitter and check out her site to get the credit help you need!
Jen Smith is a personal finance and debt payoff expert. She has been featured on Student Loan Hero, The Penny Hoarder, and AOL Finance. Her website is

The information contained herein is provided for free and is to be used for educational and informational purposes only. We are not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law and we do not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit. Articles provided in connection with this blog are general in nature, provided for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for individualized professional advice. We make no representation that we will improve or attempt to improve your credit record, history, or rating through the use of the resources provided through the OppLoans blog.