Nothing can damage your credit rating more than personal bankruptcy.

To a banker it means you don't honor your obligations and it may prevent you from getting future credit. It's a red flag on your credit record for up to 10 years.Visa, U.S.A., San Francisco, says the best way to avoid facing bankruptcy is to recognize the warning signs. For example, if you're paying off a VCR, a refrigerator and computer as well a Christmas gifts from two years ago, you're probably living beyond your means.

You should have a "rainy day" fund set aside for an emergency - such as a serious illness or job loss - to cover you for six months. But if you think you man be headed for trouble, contact your bank. Explain the situation and ask for help.