Vanessa Worthen just wanted to go to Disneyland.
A stay-at-home mom in the San Francisco Bay area, Worthen wanted to start traveling with her two children, a 6-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy. Naturally, she figured a travel rewards credit card would help.
âI wanted a card where Iâd get points back,â she says. âIâm always at the grocery store, shopping for the kids, and I thought itâd be good to use a card where Iâd earn travel points. I want to take my kids to Disneyland.â
So she applied for a popular travel rewards card. But she didnât qualify, and she had no idea why. It was baffling.
Looking for answers, she signed up with Credit.com, a free credit monitoring service. She ended up being surprised by the difference it would make.
Learning What She Didnât Know She Didnât Know
âI never had a need to check my credit before,â says Worthen, 35, of Novato, California, âbut Iâve been using their tips, and Iâve already seen my credit improve.â
In only six months, her credit score has shot up by 75 points. âIt was 630, and now itâs at 705,â she says.
Credit.com supplied her with a free credit score and a âcredit report cardâ identifying problems that were hurting her score. She got personalized tips for how she should manage her credit.
She quickly discovered one major problem: She owed a lot of money compared to her overall credit limit. That hurt her credit utilization ratio â the percentage of her available credit that she was actually using. Thatâs a major factor in credit scores.
Sure, she needed to start paying down her credit card balances. But at the same time, she also needed to acquire more credit. Believe it or not, she needed another credit card or two, or she needed to raise her credit limits on her existing cards.
âItâs kind of a funny thing,â she says. âTo have good credit, you need to get more credit.â
Worthen matter-of-factly notes that she didnât know much about all of this before signing up with Credit.com.
âThereâs a lot of information I just kind of assumed I understood, and I didnât,â she says.
The Curse of Unpaid Bills
After signing on with Credit.com, Worthen learned of another hidden problem that was hurting her credit: a couple of old, unpaid bills.
âThere were accounts I didnât know were in collections,â she says. âI just had no idea. I didnât know those were on my credit report. They [at Credit.com] were able to bring that to my attention.â
âOne was an old cable bill from an account that I had with an old roommate. She thought I had taken care of it, and I thought she had taken care of it.â
With Credit.comâs guidance, Worthen was able to work with the cable company, settle the bill for a reduced amount and get it off her credit report.
Now Sheâs Got a Game Plan
Now that sheâs seen the results, Worthen is following a step-by-step action plan suggested by Credit.com, where her credit score and her report card get updated every two weeks.
âIâm using their budgeting techniques to get my credit card balances down,â she says. âNow I have a game plan for how Iâm going to pay it off each month.â
Credit.com makes money by selling credit monitoring and identity theft protection services and by partnering with advertisers who pay for referrals.
Worthen gets what she needs for free.
And whenever she has a question, she actually calls the company on the phone.
âItâs very user-friendly,â she says. âEveryone Iâve talked to in customer service has been helpful, and theyâve followed up with me immediately.â
Now she has a credit score thatâs north of 700, and she has her coveted Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card to earn travel rewards. She uses it every time she goes to the grocery store.
Sure, she earns double points when she spends money on travel or dining out. But more importantly, she earns a point for every dollar she spends on groceries for her 6- and 2-year-old kids.
Vanessa Worthen has a plan for next summer.
Sheâs going to Disneyland.
Mike Brassfield (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Heâs been to Disneyland.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
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