If you have negative information on your credit report, it will remain there for 7-10 years. This helps lenders and others get a better picture of your credit history. However, while you may not be able to change information from the past, you can demonstrate good credit management moving forward by paying your bills on time and as agreed. As you build a positive credit history, over time, your credit scores will likely improve.
If you get denied for a major credit card, try applying for a retail store credit card. They have a reputation for approving applicants with bad or limited credit history. Still no luck? Consider getting a secured credit card which requires you to make a security deposit to get a credit limit. In some ways, a secured credit card is more useful than a retail credit card because it can be used in more places. Certain subprime credit cards are geared toward helping customers who wish to rebuild their credit; however, make sure you choose legitimate offers and compare the fees and interest rates before applying.
Your best bet is to call and ask to see if they can put you on a payment plan where you can afford to pay them (even if it’s just the bare minimum a month) or if they will possibly settle for less money. A tip: anything that has your name attached (banking account,utility bills, credit cards, anything you finance, student loans, medical bills, car loans, home loans, your apartment, etc) that you miss a few payments on or don’t pay at all can be reported to the credit agencies and sold to collections companies.
Your payment history is the most important factor in your FICO credit score and accounts for 35% of most scores. VantageScore doesn’t provide percentages, but the percentages used are likely similar to FICO’s. And even just one late payment can drop your scores significantly. Having a good payment history is critical to maintaining healthy credit accounts.