“Had my Financial Counselor not educated me about credit, credit cards and my financial situation, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. In the past, I didn’t have any goals. Zero goals. Today my problem is not being able to decide which goal to give priority!”
When Alex went to the car dealership, they said he had no credit, “not even for a bicycle!” He remembers the words exactly, because even though he understood the joke, this was a hard moment for Alex, who had always worked hard and thought he was doing everything right.
Alex Delgado came to the United States from Ecuador more than 20 years ago, and for most of that time, Alex has lived and worked in New York City. He finished high school in Ecuador and studied English as a Second Language at LaGuardia Community College. Now, he works primarily for his mother’s small business. At one time, he had worked his way up to a management position in a Domino’s Pizza franchise, and when his friend hires employees, he pays Alex to train them.
It’s a living, but Alex wants more out of life. He didn’t know that credit was the key to getting there.
“When I arrived in this country, I had no credit,” he says. For most of his life, Alex didn’t see a need for it. He paid for everything with cash, and seemed to be doing fine. “Through Discover, I eventually established credit. But in the end, I ended up damaging my credit because of late payments and maxing out my cards. I didn’t know these actions were negatively affecting my credit.” That was when his mother, already a member at Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union, helped Alex open his own account and told him about financial counseling.
Then came that day at the car dealership. After that, Alex made an appointment with Fitzgerard Restituyo, a Neighborhood Trust Financial Counselor.
They looked at Alex’s credit report together. His credit score was rated “very bad” at 576, and he had nine accounts in collections. Alex shared: “My Financial Counselor helped me get many collections accounts deleted. He told me I had consumer rights I could exercise. We sent numerous letters and he spoke with different agency representatives. It was very professional help.”
Knowing his rights, and with Fitz’s support, Alex was able to get all nine of his collections accounts removed, all but eliminating his bad debt. Then, to build his credit, Fitz helped Alex open our Credit Building Loan. Alex makes a monthly payment, set up to deduct automatically from his checking account so that his payments will be reported to the credit bureaus on time. In 13 months, after he has made all his payments, strengthening his credit score, the principal reverts back to Alex’s savings account.
Alex is still working on his credit card debt, but his habits have changed entirely. By making his credit card payments in full and on time every month, in conjunction with his credit builder loan, Alex has brought his credit score up to “good” at 663.
“I feel more secure now. I feel like I’ve grown as a person. Before going to the financial counseling service, on a scale of one to ten, I was at a two. Now, I feel like I’m at a 10 and will work to reach 11. I feel like I can accomplish my American dream,” Alex says. He hopes to use his experience – and his financial success – to one day buy a Domino’s franchise. “Had my Financial Counselor not educated me about credit, credit cards and my financial situation, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. In the past, I didn’t have any goals. Zero goals. Today my problem is not being able to decide which goal to give priority!”