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G) IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT SCORE
On an everyday basis consumers seek to purchase a home, rent an apartment, buy or lease a car, apply for a credit card, or purchase a cellular telephone plan. Many consumers are turned down for credit when they seek these items because their credit scores are too low or they have poor payment histories.
A credit score, much like an SAT score that will help determine your college future, often determines if you receive the best interest rate on a loan or if you can even receive a loan at all. The creditor uses the score to determine the likelihood that you will repay the debt you seek to incur. The credit score is based solely on information contained in your credit report.
Credit reports are compiled by three major credit bureaus. They are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These credit bureaus provide the most frequently used score, called the FICO Score. Fair, Isaac & Co. designed the FICO Score. The FICO Score is calculated based upon outstanding available credit, payment history, outstanding balances, balance transfer activity, balance to limit ratio and other factors. You can obtain your score from any of the major credit bureaus or from online sources such as WWW.MYFICO.COM. The costs of these reports are less than $13.00 each and the combined report should cost less than $40.00. You are entitled to a free credit report if you are denied credit. However, the free credit report may not contain your FICO Score. TransUnion should automatically include the Score in your report.
Several suggestions that should help improve your credit score are:
1. Make on-time payments for all your bills. Late or missed payments will lower your score. You cannot control previous missed payments. However, the older a missed payment is the less impact it will have on your score. It is always a good policy to pay bills on time. It is important to mail your payments far enough in advance that it will post on time. Online bill payment also helps.
2. Do not open new accounts unless you absolutely need to. Every time you open a new account it raises your available credit. Avoid the urge to open a new account every time that offer comes in the mail or every time that store representative offers you a one-time savings for opening a new account.
3. Correct mistakes on your credit report. Your score is based upon the information contained in your credit report. You should review your credit reports from all three bureaus at least once a year. Correcting a mistaken notation can take some time. So address it upon discovery and contact the credit bureaus to correct the error.
4. Avoid transferring balances.
5. Pay down your credit card balances. The FICO Score includes how much money you owe on your credit card versus the total credit limit. It is a good idea to keep the balances low.
Considering the credit crisis many consumers face, it is important for all consumers to monitor their finances. An educated and alert consumer will realize a potential problem by looking for the signs of financial stress. The same educated consumer will work to address the potential problem prior to financial disaster. Hopefully, the reader will become that educated and alert consumer. If you have any questions, or if you believe that credit counseling may be the right solution for you, please contact Community Credit Counseling Corp. at 1 (800) 996-8739, or visit us on the web at WWW.COMMCREDIT.ORG.
Good luck with your financial future.