Everyone who’s saddled with bad credit has a unique story.
A man burdened with $6,000 in unpaid bills. A couple recovering from job loss and foreclosure. A woman who fell behind on payments while living abroad. A single mom with a terminally ill child. A young woman with so much debt she couldn’t even get a credit card.
One of the toughest parts about paying down debt and fixing your credit score is knowing where to begin.
To create a rebuilding plan, first you have to know what you’re dealing with.
Your credit report will give you this information. You can get a free copy of it once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus — but they can be tough to decipher.
If you want to keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. This website breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and what you should do about it.
Folks who’ve used it tell us it’s a lifesaver, and they’re not alone: 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.
5 People Who Raised Their Credit Scores Using Credit Sesame
We spoke with five different people who’ve had profound problems with their credit. All five turned things around with Credit Sesame.
James Cooper: +277 Points
James Cooper knows all about having bad credit. As recently as 2017, his credit score was a lousy 524.
“I never had a credit card,” he says. “I had $6,000 worth of unpaid bills.”
He vowed to sort out his financial situation and fix his credit.
Although there are legitimate credit repair services, there are also shady ones that demand money upfront and promise way more than they can deliver. Then they’ll milk you for money until you wise up.
Cooper and a friend went through this ordeal with three companies. Then they found Credit Sesame, and the free credit monitoring service taught them how to fix their credit.
Cooper raised his score by 277 points — from 524 to 801 — over the six months from June to November 2017.
Inspired by his experience, now Cooper teaches high school students the importance of good credit.
Jerry Morgan: +120 Points
In 2008, the housing bubble burst. The three-bedroom home in New Port Richey, Florida, where Jerry Morgan and his wife, Vivienne, had lived for 10 years plunged into the foreclosure process.
Then Vivienne lost her job.
By 2017, the family’s financial situation started to look up again. So in September, Morgan decided to address his credit score.
“Frankly, with the experiences we have gone through, I was embarrassed to even check my score,” he said.
Before coming across Credit Sesame, Morgan hadn’t bothered to check his credit score in, well, quite a while. He says finally getting his finances on stable ground encouraged him to take a peek at this three-digit number.
Following recommendations from the service, he’s raised his score 120 points in six months.
Elisabeth Nyang: +168 Points
At the end of 2016, Elisabeth Nyang was in debt to the tune of $17,500— a mix of credit card debt, overdue bills and lingering student loans. She found herself there after two years of living in China.
In China, where it’s difficult to send money to the U.S., Nyang fell behind on her payments. In hindsight, she admits, the difficulty in transferring money was just an excuse — out of sight, out of mind.
But when she decided to move back to the States, she knew she needed to get her finances back on track.
“I can’t live like that,” she remembers thinking.
Since signing up for Credit Sesame in January 2017, Nyang has paid off that $17,500 pile of debt and raised her score from 495 to 663. That’s a 168-point jump.
Melinda Smieja: + 284 Points
In 2005, Melinda Smieja’s 13-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.
“So here I am a single mom, and my daughter gets sick,” she explains. “And I’m like, ‘What am I gonna do?’”
Between continuing to care for her younger daughter and moving from Seabeck, Washington, to Seattle to be near her 13-year-old’s medical care, she racked up credit card debt.
“I used [a credit card] for dinners, I used it for food,” she says. “For a place to stay. It got to the point where all of my credit cards were maxed out.”
Her credit score was down to 480 by the time she checked. And she’d racked up somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 in debt on 11 credit cards.
“It was something that I had been searching for [without realizing it],” Smieja explains.
It made her overwhelming situation manageable.
“I could look and I could say, ‘Okay, this is what’s all going on here. This is my debt. This is what’s happening. This is what’s making my credit [interest] high.’”
And she could finally tackle her debts, one at a time. The work wasn’t quick. It was slow and steady — but it paid off.
In 2016, for the first time, Smieja’s credit score hit 680, crossing the line of what lenders consider “good credit.” By late 2017, it was up to 764.
Dana Sitar: +68 Points
At 30, Dana Sitar’s history with credit cards, student loans and medical bills was pretty bad.
Student loan interest was piling up. Hospital bills were out to collection agencies. No one would give her a credit card. She landed a loan for a new car by the skin of her teeth. Her security deposits for car rentals and apartments were through the roof.
She wanted to fix it, but didn’t even know where to start.
Sitar, an editor for The Penny Hoarder, found Credit Sesame in 2016, and today, she’s breathing a little easier.
Credit Sesame, Sitar writes for The Penny Hoarder, is “answering all the questions swirling in my head, keeping me awake at night and threatening a panic attack every time I authorize a credit check.”
Since she started tracking her credit score with the app, she’s watched it rise — slowly but surely — by 68 points.
“Motivated by the easy access to my free credit report card through the app,” she says, “I haven’t been able to ignore my credit like I used to.”
Keep an Eye on Your Credit Score
Your credit score is important.
And why is that?
The better your score, the better deal you’ll get on a mortgage, car loan or credit card. We’re talking big money here.
To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and a credit report card for free from Credit Sesame.
Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.
This was originally published at The Penny Hoarder.