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If you have fallen into the pit of bad credit, you have one sure-fire way to get out: change your habits to show that you can use credit responsibly. That's easier said than done, of course. To start improving your credit, you will need to make small steps and stay focused on your ultimate goal.

If Used Responsibly, a Platinum MasterCard Can Improve Your Credit Rating

If you don't have a credit card, then you need to get one. Since you have poor credit, you won't get the best deal in the world. Chances are that you'll have an annual fee and high interest rate. You will probably have a rather low credit limit, too.

None of these things matter at this point. (Although, you should compare annual fees and interest rates to get the best possible deal. There's no point in cheating yourself.)

These factors don't matter much because you are going to use the credit cards to develop healthier financial habits. If you really exercise good credit habits, then you won't even need to worry about interest or credit limits.

Start Slow and Learn to Use Your Credit Card Responsibly

Once you have your new Platinum MasterCard, make a small purchase for something that you absolutely need. Many people only use their cards to purchase gas or groceries. It's important to keep your balance as low as possible, so you might as well stick to the items that you have to buy.

When your bill comes, pay it immediately. Don't wait for the due date to approach. Send in your payment the moment you get the bill. That way, you never have to worry about the negative effects of late payments.

If at all possible, you should pay the full balance. This will help you avoid interest payments that can make credit cards so expensive.

Stay Realistic and Focused

It probably didn't take you too long to fall into the bad credit pit. It will, however, take quite a bit of time and effort to pull yourself out. Don't get too ambitious. If you expect your credit rating to jump by 100 points in a year, you're going to disappoint yourself. You can, however, improve your credit score faster by moving on to cards with higher limits. It often makes sense to get two or three credit cards so you have a larger overall credit limit. This looks good to the credit reporting agencies because it shows that you have access to more credit than you need.

Over the next few years, your good habits will do positive things for you. You might find that you qualify for credit cards with lower interest rates. You might even qualify for a home or auto loan. When that happens, you really know that you've made the right changes for a better credit rating.