How to Build, Maintain and Repair your Credit
Building and maintaining good credit is important to planning and managing your finances, the better your credit rating and score is the lower your interest rate will be on credit cards, mortgages and auto loans.
In fact, you might not even be approved for a loan if you have a bad credit history or score.Start out by getting a free copy of your credit score to see where you stand, you are entitled to one free credit report per year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, you can get your free credit report by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
Now that you have a copy of your report in hand, check to see how accurate it is, you will be surprised how often mistakes show up, verify that each creditor listed is actually a creditor you have an account with or had an account with and dispute anything that isn’t correct, including addresses where you have lived in the past.
Tips to building and maintaining good credit
- Open a checking or Savings account, have a financial history will help with getting loans, also give you the ability to pay back the loans
- Pay your bills on time.
- Keep balances low (if possible)on “revolving credit” (i.e. credit cards).
- Pay off debt instead of moving it around when those 0% or low intro offers come in the mail.
- Don’t open lines of credit that you don’t need.
- Don’t close credit cards that you have had for a long period of time, the length of your credit history plays a factor in the credit score you receive.
Protecting your credit from credit identity theft is another proactive way of maintaining good credit, if you identity is stolen and fraudulent charges are made it will take some time to straighten it all out.
Tips on protecting your credit
- Guard your mail from theft by shredding mail before you discard it, especially mail that contains your personal information, including, charge receipts, copies of credit offers and applications, insurance forms, doctor’s statements, discarded bank checks and statements, and expired credit cards.
- Be protective of your personal information. Be cautious when giving out your credit card number, address, or other personal information. When possible, only share this information when you know you are dealing with a reputable organization.
- Never carry your Social Security card. Leave it in a secure place at home or in a safe deposit box if
you have one.
- Confirm online purchases are secure, look forthings like a lock and key at the bottom corner of your browser, a URL that begins https://, or the words Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
- Avoid using your card as identification, thieves can use this information to assume your identity and open bank accounts, make purchases, obtain cash, and even get a job or apartment with your identity. Only use your credit card at recognized and reputable merchants.
- You can put a “credit freeze” on your account,this will make your credit file unavailable to new creditors which will prevent anyone from opening credit under your name. Your existing creditors and you will have access to your file. If you want to obtain credit you will have to temporarily have the credit freeze lifted.
- Tips if you are a victim of identity theft and fraud
- If you suspect you are about to be a victim of fraud the first thing to do is put an initial fraud alert on your credit file, this alert will stay in place for 90 days and it will require creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.
- If you have already been a victim of fraud fill out an Identity Complaint Form with the FTC and put an extended fraud alert on your credit file which requires all creditors to actually speak with you before issuing credit. The extended fraud alert stays on your file for 7 years.
Repairing your credit will take time, it’s almost like building your credit but harder since the blemishes from the past will be on your file for a while.
Tips on improving or repairing your credit.
- Get current on all your accounts, if you are behind, creditors will send your accounts to collectors and this will have a negative impact on your credit file.
- Pay your bills on time, the longer you have paid your bills on time the better your credit score will be.
- If you are falling behind on your payments, contact the creditors or see a credit consular and let them know your situation, the creditors will more then likely work with you during the difficult time you are in.
- Get your credit report a few times a year to monitor your progress, though it will take time to improve, you will also be motivated to keep up the work habits when you see your score increase.