Check Your Credit Report
Credit card companies and lenders rely on credit scores, which determine someone’s chances to borrow money — and how favorable the terms will be. Scores range from 200 to above 800. Scores below 620 are considered risky; 720 and over are excellent.
There are five categories of scoring: payment history (35%); amount owed (30%); length of credit history (15%); new credit (10%); and types of credit (10%). Lenders receive your score and “reason codes,” which are the keys to improving your score.
Check your own score yearly by ordering reports from the three major credit scoring companies: Equifax (www.equifax.com), Experian (www.experian.com), and TransUnion (www.tuc.com).
Notify the credit bureau of inaccuracies, along with copies of documents that dispute incorrect entries. Close accounts not in use. Request that late payments older than seven years be removed. Verify and update accounts and account numbers. Verify your address and Social Security number.
To improve your score: Pay your bills on time. Reduce outstanding debt. Build up your savings. Don’t fall for illegal schemes that help create a new credit identity.
At a minimum you should check your credit report at least once every 12 months. There are a lot of reasons to get it, and here are five:
- It’s free. Never pass up a freebie, especially when it can affects your financial health and well-being. Your credit report plays an important part in your credit transactions and many other financial relationships. Get your annual credit report.
- It’s an important step in rebuilding and maintaining good credit. Reviewing your credit report periodically will help you make sure it is in good shape when you are ready to apply for new credit and enable you to monitor your progress if you are recovering from past credit problems.
- It’s an important part of managing your personal finances. You should review your credit report just like you do your bank statements and credit card bills. Managing credit, keeping track of spending and putting aside savings are all essential to being financially successful.
- It’s often the first indicator that you are an identity theft victim. If you find names you don’t recognize, Social Security numbers that don’t belong to you, or accounts that aren’t yours, you might be a fraud victim. Experian and the other national credit reporting companies can help you stop the credit fraud and prevent future misuse of your identity.
- It’s the first step in correcting any information you feel is inaccurate. The vast majority of the time people find everything is accurate. But if you do find something wrong, your personal credit report comes with instructions for submitting disputes and contact information including a toll-free telephone number, Internet address and mailing address.