Credit is more than a point system towards graduation in higher education. Or something you give your spouse when he or she remembers to do something thoughtful. Or even an adjective before the word “card.” Your credit, in its simplest terms, is a numerical rating of how well you behave fiscally. October is National “Get Smart About Credit” Month, and in honor of this, we bring you some tips from our friends at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a loan or even an insurance policy, there’s a file about you, and it’s called your credit report. National credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses with a legitimate need for it. These companies then use the information to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment or a lease.
Having a good credit report means it will be easier for you to get loans and lower interest rates, so knowing what’s in your report, and addressing questionable items, is important. Here are some tips from the FTC on how to assess and clean up your credit.
How do I get a copy of my credit report?
Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. The reporting companies use one Web site, one toll-free telephone number and one mailing address for consumers to order their free annual report. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
What if there are inaccuracies – how do I get them fixed?
Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report that you dispute, state the facts and an explanation, and request that the information be deleted or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your credit report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the credit reporting company received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Credit reporting companies must investigate legitimate disputes, usually within 30 days. They also must forward all the relevant data about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the disputed information. That organization must investigate and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the disputed information is determined to be inaccurate, the organization must notify all three nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past, although there will likely be a fee for this service.
For additional information or for help with cleaning up your credit, feel free to talk with our Susquehanna Bank Financial Services Representatives, or contact your local nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Agency.
What tips do you have to help other consumers maintain a good credit rating?