Deals, though, are available for financing everything from home equity loans to cars to flat screen TVs. Zero percent financing is still available at times. Experts advise consumers to be cautious. Stephanie Bittner of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Delaware Valley also had the following tips:
- Before making any major purchase check your FICO credit report because many of them have errors which could be hurting your score. Fair Isaac, which developed the score, recommends that people "actively" seeking to improve their credit review their reports quarterly and even monthly.
- Make sure that your bills are current. Creditors won't look kindly on a consumer with past due accounts.
- Larger down payments are better in the eyes of banks because less money needs to be borrowed. "That means you are less of a risk to a lender," she said.
- Shop around. Banks have different lending standards and consumers may find better rates if they comparison shop
- Don't max out your credit. That will make it more difficult to borrow for future purchases.
Finally, consumers should be especially cautious about hiring companies that promise to "repair" their credit. As the Federal Trade Commission notes, "No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report." Many of these firms are probably scams.
Unfortunately, many consumers are seeing their credit scores plunge since they are falling behind in their bills. This makes it even more difficult for people who need to borrow money to get it.