NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- This month we looked at how banks, mortgage lenders, and credit card companies are digging in their heels on granting credit to low-credit score consumers. By and large, any U.S. adult with a credit score below 660 will continue to have a tough time getting a loan or credit card. In short, it's up to the consumer to bring that score up to an acceptable level (that's a FICO score of over 700 these days). But if that is an uphill climb for you, and one you may not be able to make for a while, all is not lost. There are some creative ways to earn credit even if your FICO score is down and out and at least for the moment unable to get up off the canvas.
- Use your good performance on the job. Despite conventional wisdom, lenders and creditors do understand that the past five years have been tough on Americans, and they've taken some fresh steps to look beyond missed payments to judge a consumer's creditworthiness. One area of study for creditors is your ability to succeed financially at work. Increasingly, pay raises and bonuses are showing up on lender's radar screens and can help you get a loan or credit.
- Up your home loan down payment. This one is tricky, but if you've been foreclosed or suffered another major financial calamity and now have a job and income again, you can still get a loan. How? By ponying up a higher down payment. Typically, most home loans require down payments of between 3% to 10% (especially home mortgages backed by the U.S. government). If you can swing a down payment higher than 10%, lenders will overlook a spotty credit report and may well approve your loan.
- Aim for a FHA loan.If you're in the mortgage market and have a checkered credit history, go for a Federal Housing Administration loan. FHA loans are easier to get for consumers with "soft" credit, as the U.S. government takes some of the risk away from mortgage lenders by insuring the loan. For information on getting a FHA loan, click here.
- Get a co-signer. You may be able to convince a family member, friend or professional acquaintance to "back" your quest for a loan. It's a touchy subject, because by co-signing a loan your financial backer accepts responsibility to pay back the loan if you can't. But if you make timely payments, not only will that ease the pressure, it will help boost your credit score - because you're listed on the loan as well.
- Avoid big banks, and get nimble. Big banks aren't above taking taxpayer cash when they're in financial trouble, but you can't count on them when the tables are turned. No worries -- instead, focus on credit unions and peer-to-peer lenders, both of which are more willing to lend money to hard luck borrowers who can make the case they're a good credit risk. Research a good, local credit union at Smarter Choice or start your peer-to-peer borrowing campaign, which pairs you up with individual lenders, at Lending Club or Prosper.