Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Gerri Willis Commentary:
Top Tips by Gerri Willis Column archive

Get smart about your credit

Gerri Willis answers your questions about about your credit score and getting a loan after filing for bankruptcy.

By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Question 1: How often does a credit card company report to a credit bureau? In other words, if I used cash to pay my credit cards down by half, how soon would this reflect on my credit score? -Sandra, California

Usually a credit card issuer will report to a credit bureau once a month. There's no rule of thumb as to what day of the month they report. And generally banks won't tell you either, according to Craig Watts of Fair Isaac.

Paying off your balance can certainly improve your score. In fact, you could see your score jump by 70 or 80 points if you pay off most of your outstanding debt. To bump your score up significantly, it's important to pay your bills on time for a significant period of time.

Question 2: My credit score is 619. A local lender will approve me with a fixed rate of 10.5 percent. I filed bankruptcy less than 2 years ago and I was told that after 2 years, my credit score will go up, and I could get a better interest rate. Is this true? -Justin

First of all, nice job raising your score to 619 after a bankruptcy. But keep in mind, what you're being offered now is in subprime loan territory.

Declaring bankruptcy is devastating to your credit score and it usually stays on your record for 7 to 10 years. So don't expect your credit score to climb enough to get prime rates just after two years. If you keep paying your bills on time and you keep your debt under control, you may be able to get into prime loan rate territory after 3 years or so. So keep the faith.

Question 3: If a person is listed as an authorized user of a credit card, are they responsible for the credit card debt in the event that the primary card holder dies? -Margaret

To answer you're question, no, you're not responsible. But the bigger picture here is that if you are listed as an authorized user of a credit card and the primary card holder is late paying bills, your credit score will be dinged - and vise versa. That's because the payment history of that card will be reflected on both credit histories.

Fight back against a foreclosure

Give your credit score a makeover

Sidestep credit card fees

Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send e-mails to toptips@cnn.com or click here - each week, we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com. Top of page