How to Rebuild Your Credit After Spending Time in Jail
Written by: Kristy Welsh
Last Updated: April 4, 2017
This article may not apply to you directly but maybe you know someone who was just released from prison. Or, if you were on the wrong side of the law and had to spend some time in jail, chances are your credit suffered as a result of being behind bars for a lengthly period of time. Now that you have been released from prison, you will want to start to put your life back together but doing that can be difficult. Years of no credit activity, past due bills going to collections, possible medical bills with no insurance to cover them, and a job making minimum wage all points to a long road ahead of you to get to financial stability. But take heart, you can get back on your feet and we have some tips to get you on the right track and help you rebuild your credit.
Remember You Are Not Alone
We don't want to downplay your hardship because you do have a long road ahead but the first thing to remember is that you are not alone. The world is full of people who are forced to pull up their boot straps and start all over again. People go through a messy divorce, bankruptcy, fire, flood, earthquake, lose a loved one, each and every day and they push on with their lives. You can, too! Probably one piece of helpful advise we can give is to try to find some type of support group for recently released prisoners. This can be very helpful mentally to be able to talk with others going through the same things as you.
Tips to Rebuild Your Credit
Once you have your personal issues in check, now it is time to work on your credit. Here are some tips to help you rebuild your credit from ground zero as quickly as possible.
Talk to Your Bank. If you have a checking and/or savings account, go in person to that bank and talk to someone face to face. Explain your situation and see about getting a low-limit credit card from them. If you don't get a positive response from them, try a credit union. They're often easier to deal with than the big, national banks.
Get a Co-Signer on a Loan. If you can find a friend or relative that will agree to be a co-signer on a loan or credit card, this will help your credit immensely. It might be hard to find someone to put their credit on the line for you, but you will never know until you ask.
Become an Authorized User on Someones Credit Card. This is a bit different than getting a co-signer in that you are being tied to someone else's credit card. That person still remains legally liable for the debt, but you get a credit file established. Piggybacking on someone else's credit file gives you an instant credit history — so make sure it is a good history and it stays a good history, if you know what we mean.
Open a Department Store Charge Account. This type of credit account is generally very easy to get but they can have high interest rates. Our suggestion is to get a charge account at a department store that you like to shop at and use it a few times each month. The most important part of this plan it to make sure you pay off the balance at the end of each month. You don't want to pay that high interest rate and you want this account showing activity and responsible management — both are great in increasing your credit score.
Get a Secured Credit Card. If you are unable to get an unsecured credit card from a bank or credit union, then apply for a secured credit card instead. Yes, you do have to put up money in a savings account as collateral, but these cards do report activity to the credit bureaus which will help you establish a credit history. Make sure you read all the fine print before getting this card as there are some really, really bad ones and there are some really great ones. Watch out for high fees, make sure they report to the CRA's, and see if it will eventually turn into an unsecured card after a year or two of on-time monthly payments.
As we said before, anyone who has had to start over can do it but you need to make sure you do not get too overwhelmed and too impatient. Take it slow and build up your credit gradually little by little. Then pull your credit reports each year to see how you are doing and to make sure your credit score is increasing. If you follow our easy tips, you will see a positive credit history develop in no time.
We also have numerous other articles regarding ways to rebuild your credit. Here are just some ways you can rebuild your credit:
- Use Credit Unions
- Rebuild Your Credit Without Using Credit Cards
- Pros and Cons of Prepaid and Secured Credit Cards
Follow these simple steps and keep reminding yourself there is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep a positive outlook and ask for help when needed — there are a lot of companies and people out there that are willing to give a helping hand.