What is a credit report and how is it used?
Think of your credit report as your own personal file that holds information about your where you reside, what type of debt you owe on and what your payment history is with your lenders. Your credit report file will also include whether or not you’ve filed bankruptcy and if you’ve been sued to collect upon a debt you owe. If you have mortgage or automobile payments those will show on your credit report as well.
Creditors, lenders, employers, insurance companies or property management firms may purchase a copy of your credit report in order to determine your credit worthiness. They will look for positive items such as an established credit history, high balance to available credit ratios (do you have access to credit but keep the balances down?), on time bill payment, what types of credit do you use, and have you recently applied for new credit?
Steps you can take to build a better personal credit report:
First things first, get a copy of your credit report and study it. Look at the same information that others are looking at when determining your credit worthiness. You can receive a free copy of your credit report once a year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.org.
If something looks out of place make a note of it and begin fact checking. You may find a discrepancy on your report and will want to take the appropriate steps to resolve the issue. First, write a letter disputing the information on your report. You will want to specifically identify each issue you’ve found and include copies of supporting documents. Do not send the originals. Also make sure you keep a copy of your dispute letter as well. The second step would be to tell the creditor or entity that has reported information incorrectly within your file. Similar to step one, only send copies of supporting documents and make a copy of the letter and documents for you to keep.
Once you’ve ensured that the information is correct on your report you will want to review the primary factors that are used in determining your credit worthiness.
- Do you have collection debt that needs resolved?
- Do you pay your bills on time?
- Do you owe a high percentage of your credit limit on your accounts?
Those items all have a fairly heavy impact on your credit profile.
Begin setting goals and prepare a plan that allows you to resolve any issues identified. Perhaps you’ve found an old collection debt that you can make a priority to repay or maybe you’ve seen your balances maxing out. Regardless of the specific issue set goals to remedying them as soon as possible. This is also a good opportunity to create a household budget and set immediate, short and long term goals.
If you run into any issues along the way or just need advice on where to begin or what to do next you are more than welcome to contact Debt Reduction Services at 1-877-688-3328 and speak to a certified Consumer Credit Counselor. They can help you with your budget as well as help you identify areas that you can potentially save money in. Be wary of credit repair or debt settlement as you don’t want to find your situation become worse by working with the wrong company.
For more information on how to improve your credit report I recommend visiting consumer.ftc.gov for an abundance of resources that are aimed at protecting you, the consumer, as well as improving your overall financial picture.
I also highly recommend reading the book Everyday Money for Everyday People that was written by our Director of Education, Todd Christensen. The book can be downloaded on Amazon.com and is available in paperback or on the Kindle E-Reader.