This Father of 5 Needs More Space. Here’s How He’s Fixing His Bad Credit

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This California couple is running out of room for their growing family.

Matsimela McMorris and his wife, Stacey Reid, just welcomed their fifth child into the world — a baby daughter. That’s making their two-bedroom apartment even more crowded. And their Mazda5 minivan is a six-seater, which is a problem for a family of seven.

McMorris, 33, works as a school bus driver in Anaheim. Reid works at Dollar Tree. They’re on a tight budget, but they’ve got financial goals.

They want to buy a home and a used Dodge Durango, a seven-seater. To make that happen, McMorris knows he’ll have to work on his credit.

A Solution for Poor Credit

Until recently, his credit score was pretty low. On a scale of 300 to 850, it was 461. Unless he raised it, he’d end up paying sky-high interest rates on an auto loan or a mortgage.

That’s why he’s using Credit Sesame, a free credit-monitoring app that helps people to fix their own credit. 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.

Right off the bat, the app sent McMorris a free “credit report card,” along with personalized recommendations for better managing his credit.

One suggestion made a big difference right away. McMorris hadn’t been able to get a credit card because his credit was so poor.

“Discover had turned me down,” he recalled.

This was a big problem for him because, to improve your credit, you must be able to show that you can wisely handle the credit you already have.

Credit Sesame recommended an option he hadn’t thought of before. He applied for a secured credit card — a card backed by his own cash.

He put a small deposit down as collateral, and Capital One sent him a credit card with a limit that was the same amount as his deposit. The bank essentially used his deposit as a line of credit.

This is a good way to rebuild if you have damaged credit. The secured credit card started reporting his payments and balances to credit bureaus.

I was like, ‘What else can I do to raise my credit?’ It was kind of like a video game.

After only a month or two, he noticed that his credit score had gone up by 52 points.

“Then it became an addiction,” McMorris recalled. “I was like, ‘What else can I do to raise my credit?’ It was kind of like a video game.”

Targeting Those Problem Areas

The challenge was on. Next on his target list were some old, unpaid bills that were hanging around on his credit report, darkening up the place like unpleasant memories.

He took care of an old Sprint cell phone bill. There was also an ambulance bill for thousands of dollars, dating from the time he broke his leg while chasing a thief through a commuter train station.

“Some kid just snatched my phone out of my hand,” he says. “I was chasing him, and he jumped down some stairs. I thought, ‘I’m athletic; I can do the same thing.’”

He couldn’t really pay the ambulance bill, so he reached out to the credit bureau.

“It was so old, they just deleted it,” he says.

Boosting His Credit Score 163 Points

By doing all these things, McMorris was able to raise his credit score by 163 points — all the way to 624. He did it in just a few months, he says. He’s still got a ways to go before he gets to where he wants to be financially, but he’s on his way.

His favorite thing about using Credit Sesame is its personalization. Based on his situation, it suggests concrete steps he can take to manage his credit better.

These are suggestions that apply directly to his life.

He and his wife are still eyeing that Dodge Durango, and they’re still hoping to buy a home at some point — even if they have to leave high-priced California to do it. He’s got to get his family of seven out of their two-bedroom apartment.

“It’s a little cramped,” says McMorris, with a rueful chuckle. “We’ve definitely got to get something bigger.”

That’s why he’s still checking Credit Sesame regularly. It updates his credit report once a month.

“It’s definitely a helpful tool to have,” he said.

If your credit isn’t as good as you’d like, check out Credit Sesame for yourself to see what you could do differently.

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.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. His credit could be better, and he’s working on it.