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Bad credit is something that sticks to a person's credential for a long time. Unless, you really put in effort, planning and resolve, it is very hard to undo the damage it does to your creditworthiness. All the lenders, private and federal, stores, credit card companies etc. will look at your credit score and any stories of default, high outstanding debts and missing monthly payments consistently will substantially lower it leading to bad credit. A person with bad credit has trouble getting loans, getting credit cards etc.
However all is not bleak, if you have a bad credit. With some standard steps, you can improve your credit score. The first step is to get a detailed credit report from the credit bureaus. If there are any cases where you are not responsible for late payments e.g. processing not done correctly by the company, wrong entries of credit which you weren't involved in, you must contest them and get rid of them. There are some companies that specialize in improving credit score by contesting and eliminating as many bad marks as possible.
The next step is to weight your outstanding balances in various credit cards and the interest rate you are paying for each of them. There are a few different paths of approach here. If your debts are manageable you must start with highest interest debts, so that you will pay less interest. If you are worried of your clutter and motivation levels, start paying off the small debts first, so you are clear on a few things at least. You can also apply for a balance transfer, where some credit cards offer 0% interest rate for an initial period that could vary between 6 months to 18 months. You need to decide if you can pay off all your debts by then because that would help your case. If you cannot then you would be in bigger trouble as the credit card you are moving to, will probably have a greater interest rate after the initial period.
By making payments consistently every month, you can improve your credit score. Do not close existing accounts till you build a decent credit, as your new card will most likely have no history. Coming out bad credit is almost like coming out of an addiction as you will have to hold yourself back from making shopping expenditures which will put you back on square 1.