The surest way to clean up bad credit is to pay your bills on time for six to twelve months; at that point your scores should have improved substantially and with another six to twelve months you could even have good credit. But for many people, paying on time is not simple. If you have a checking account with electronic banking and a debit card, you can simply pay your bills automatically, or online in seconds, or call and pay with your debit card, or even use the snail mail and send in a check.

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But for those without a checking account, paying bills on time is a greater challenge. Say you get your paycheck on the first and it's Friday; your mortgage is due on the 5th. So on Monday you go to the bank your employer uses (and the branch might be on the other side of town -- there goes your lunch hour), you cash your check and buy a bunch of money orders to pay your bills (or you head to a convenience store because the money orders cost a lot less there), you make another stop to buy stamps, then you pull everything together and mail in your payments. A simple task like paying a few bills can take hours -- and if you get sick, have a family emergency, or work a double shift, you may end up paying late despite your best intentions.

"Second chance" checking accounts help those who are listed in Chex Systems or Telecheck. If you have been denied a checking account because of bounced checks in your past, you may be able to join decent society again with a second chance checking account. Second chance checking accounts are offered by banks and credit unions. They may require a substantial deposit, and there will likely be monthly maintenance fees. Look for an account that will convert to a regular checking account if you don't bounce any checks for a certain length of time. Some of these even come with financial management counseling to help you improve your payment history.

Second chance checking accounts can help give you a fresh start and improve your credit rating. By making bill paying easier, you improve your likelihood of paying on time. Start yourself on an upward trend -- get a checking account, improve your payment history, qualify for lower interest rates, pay off debt, get a better mortgage, save money.