Credit Tips

Why should I check my credit

Whenever you apply for a loan, a job, or an apartment, your credit comes under scrutiny. Your credit history and credit score are used by lenders to assess the amount of risk you represent. Lower credit scores or adverse credit history will result in higher interest rates that can cost you thousands of dollars in the long run. That is why improving your credit is so important.Checking your credit report is the first step. Sometimes a small mistake can linger on your credit report and continue costing you money for years. For example, if you change addresses and a bill does not get forwarded to you, or if a vendor makes a mistake in processing a payment, it may remain on your record as delinquent. According to a US Public Interest Group Report, as many as 70% of credit reports have errors on them.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring is a service in which an authorized agency notifies you whenever an update is made to your credit report, such as the opening or closing of an account, a change in address, or the processing of a loan payment. It’s a great way to keep track of your credit standing. It’s also one of the only ways to catch identity theft early, before any serious damage is done. Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime nationwide, affecting an estimated 10 million Americans last year alone.

How can I improve my credit score?

How can I protect myself from identity theft?

Building Your Credit History

Even if you don’t think your credit history is good, or if you don’t think you have any at all, consider checking your credit report to find out just where you stand. You might be surprised. If you notice negative information on your report, confirm that that information is accurate. Most derogatory information, such as a loan payment that was 180 days late, must remain on your credit report for at least 7 years. However, if a negative record is not accurate, be sure to send a letter of dispute to the credit bureau that reported the error. See the section below on disputing errors. The next step in building or rebuilding your credit history is to get a credit card. You may have to start with a secured credit card, in which a savings account is used as collateral for your credit. Also consider special-interest cards that are oriented to your purchasing habits, such as a gas card or department store credit card. No matter what card you decide to get, be sure to read the fine print and watch for high APR rates, setup fees, annual fees, and short grace periods. Be sure to use your new card responsibly and make all your payments on time.

Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report

When you check your credit report or account statements from financial institutions and notice suspicious or inaccurate information, you should first try to contact the creditor or company responsible for the inaccuracy. Their contact information will appear in your credit report. Minor errors can often be corrected over the phone. If this is unsuccessful, or you wish to dispute the information with the credit bureau that has reported it, it must be done in writing, either online or by mail. Send them a brief letter describing the error, and include a copy of your credit report with the error(s) highlighted. Also include any documentation you have that proves your position (for example, that you have paid an account that is marked on your report as delinquent). Be sure to include your full name, date of birth, social security number, mailing address, the name and of the creditor you have a dispute with, and your reason(s) for the dispute. Send the letter by certified mail and keep a copy for your records. By law, the credit bureaus are required to investigate your claim. However, they will not necessarily find that the item is an error.