Answer: Your first step is deciding what to do about your cards.
Visit a legitimate credit counselor (you can get referrals at www.nfcc.org) to determine whether you have enough income to pay off your cards over five years or so through a debt management plan, which typically lowers the interest rate.
You also should visit a bankruptcy attorney to see whether filing for Chapter 7 liquidation is an option. You may also want to talk to the attorney about settling your debts for less than you owe.
After the debt is paid, erased or settled, you can begin to rebuild your credit. Until then your efforts won't come to much, because your inability to pay your credit card bills will continue to erode your credit scores.
Liz Pulliam Weston is the author of the book "Your Credit Score: Your Money and What's at Stake." Questions for possible inclusion in her column may be sent to 12400 Ventura Blvd., No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or via the "Contact Liz" form at www.asklizweston.com. Distributed by No More Red Inc.