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Joseph’s Story: Rebuilding Credit Means Stability

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Rebuilding credit

Credit Sesame tells Joseph’s story and how rebuilding credit changed his life.

Credit scores are a measure of your risk to lenders and are often equated with eligibility for credit. What those three-digit numbers don’t show is how much credit can mean to your quality of life.

Credit Sesame’s team interviewed named Joseph, a Credit Sesame member for several years. His story illustrates how credit can change the everyday lives of people and their families.

Joseph’s story demonstrates the positive and negative aspects of credit. It is an example of how quickly mistakes with credit can happen, and the obstacles bad credit creates. However, Joseph’s story shows how perseverance can overcome adversity.

Through his own determination and with some help from Credit Sesame, Joseph has reached the point where his credit record is a resource rather than a problem.

He reports that he raised his credit score by a couple of hundred points, but to Joseph, the improvement can’t really be measured by a number. It’s more about how good credit has given him the stability he needs to build a future for his family.

Starting off on the wrong foot

Joseph is 37 years old and a single father in San Antonio, Texas. Though Joseph is having positive experiences with credit now, that wasn’t always the case.

He’s blunt about what went wrong. Joseph explains that when he was younger, he made a lot of bad choices and says,

“I really messed up my credit when I was 18.”

While everyone’s circumstances may differ, this is a common story. People often get credit for the first time without really knowing how to handle it. As a result, people tend to dig themselves a hole before they realize what’s happening.

The number one factor in a credit score is your payment history. The problem for new credit users is that if you start out on the wrong foot by missing some payments, that bad payment history defines your credit record.

In a best-case scenario, people learn a little bit about how credit works before using it. Too often, people don’t understand the dangers of credit until the damage is done.

Credit is a double-edged sword

What Joseph quickly learned is that credit is a double-edged sword. It can help you and it can hurt you.

Credit is based on trust that you must continue to earn it as long as you use credit. Everything about how you use credit is reported to three credit bureaus. The bureaus keep track of your credit history:

  • The payments you make, and the ones you miss.
  • The accounts you open and those you close.
  • How much credit you have available, and how close you are to maxing out your credit.

Lenders and credit card companies look at your credit history when deciding whether they can trust you to make repayments. If you have a history of using credit and making your payments on time, it will be easy to trust you with more credit.

On the other hand, if your credit history is littered with missed payments and other signs that you are unable to make payments, it makes it hard for any company to believe you can repay any sum they lend to you.

Your credit score sums up the information on your credit report. That little three-digit number is may be considered a measure of your responsibility with money if it’s high, or your irresponsibility if it’s low.

For people like Joseph who get into credit trouble at the start, a low credit score is a warning to lenders. It’s saying, “Watch out. You may not be able to trust this person with credit. Just look at the history!”

Life without credit is full of obstacles

Having damaged his credit, Joseph tried to get by using cash to manage his finances. He worked hard at his job as an auto mechanic, but he found having to come up with cash to pay for every expense wasn’t easy.

A single father with two young children runs into unexpected expenses. The kids’ needs don’t always wait for the next paycheck. Beyond that, finding a place to live was a challenge. Many landlords insist on good credit records from their tenants.

Joseph found that life without credit meant overcoming one obstacle after another. This was tough enough even when his job was going well.

At this point, Joseph knew he had to fix his credit – for his own good, and most of all for his family.

The challenge of rebuilding credit

The problem people in Joseph’s position face is that once you damage your credit, you need to re-establish trust before lenders agree to give you credit again. The catch is how to get start.

Joseph didn’t give up. He tried a couple of credit repair services but found they didn’t provide him with much help. In one case, his credit score actually went down when he started using a service that was supposed to boost his credit.

Determined to find a solution that worked, Joseph decided to give Credit Sesame a try.

The Credit Sesame difference

Joseph opened a Sesame Cash account and activated Credit Builder to start building credit with everyday purchases. Sesame Cash is a pre-paid debit card, so you don’t need good credit to qualify. However, money moved from Sesame Cash into Credit Builder is used as a security deposit for a virtual secured credit card reported to the credit bureaus. You use your debit card as usual and behind the scenes, Credit Sesame takes Sesame Cash debit purchases that total the credit utilization that you set and reports the utilization and payment to the credit bureaus.

Upon signing up with Credit Sesame, Joseph sensed almost immediately that it was going to be different. He found that Credit Sesame’s credit builder app gave him more practical guidance than other services he’d tried. He says,

“Credit Sesame gave me direction of where to look and things to do.”

The combination of advice and tools allowed Joseph to start making noticeable progress in his credit score. With Credit Sesame’s help, he was able to start having his rent payments reported to credit bureaus. This gave him a substantial monthly payment that would count towards his credit score.

Joseph did the hard work. He made the right moves and paid his bills on time. But he says he couldn’t have done it without Credit Sesame’s guidance. He describes it as being,

“like someone’s right there holding your hand.”

The value of rebuilding credit

In the early months of the pandemic, people stopped travelling and commuting to work. Demand for auto mechanics fell to near zero. Joseph lost his job. Then his washing machine broke and getting the kids off to school in clean clothes became a daily challenge.

But Joseph had improved his credit score from under 430 to 637. He made it through the pandemic living on credit and bought a new washing machine on credit, something he could not have done just a few years earlier.

Looking back on how far he’s come, he describes rebuilding his credit with Credit Sesame’s,

“It’s like looking over the Grand Canyon and not knowing how you’re going to get across, and someone builds you a bridge.”

Credit provides a foundation for building a future

As far as he’s come, Joseph isn’t done yet.

The new washing machine may have cemented the value of credit for Joseph, but now he has bigger plans,

“I’m going to be buying a house by the end of this year.”

Plus, he’s engaged to be married.

The real value of rebuilding credit

Not long ago, Joseph struggled from day to day trying to figure out how to pay the next bill in cash. Now he says,

“Without my credit, I don’t think I would have made it through the pandemic.”

He uses the word “stability” to sum up what having good credit means to his family. He says that now,

“I don’t have to worry with my kids any more.”

Joseph mentions his family a lot when talking about the difference rebuilding his credit has made in his life. He sees the lessons he’s learned as something he can pass along to his kids. He plans to teach them that “credit really matters.” His goal for his children is simple,

“I don’t want them to go through what I did.”

Joseph’s experience is a reminder of why it’s important not to damage your credit. However, it’s also an example that making a few mistakes isn’t the end of the road. With determination and the right help, you can overcome bad credit and give yourself and your family financial stability through good times and bad.

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Disclaimer: The article and information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

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Published October 30, 2022
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