By Kevin McCauley, Principal SquareOne Investments
Let’s face it. From the time we graduate high school our ability and tendency to pay our bills (on-time) is being recorded. And like death and taxes, it is assured that someone will be looking at our credit reports for the rest of our lives. But it isn’t just banks and credit providers anymore though. For example, you can count on any potential employer to pull up your consumer credit report. Why, you ask? Because your credit report shows not only your credit-worthiness but public records too. So any liens or judgements against you will be front and center. So aside from paying your bills on time, lets take a closer look at how to make sure your credit report paints the best possible picture of you.
1. Do I Really Need to Check My Credit Report?
My credit is fine you say, I pay my bills on time - all the time you say. My credit report will be fine right? Guess what? It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans have an error on their credit report*. That is 20% or 42 million Americans. And while it isn’t specifically stated, we will go ahead and assume those errors are not favorable.
2. How Often Should I Check My Credit Score?
Most individuals should be fine checking their credit report with one of the three major credit reporting bureaus on an annual basis. However, for those who have been the victim of identity theft or someone trying to improve their credit, it would make sense to check the full report on a more frequent basis.
Fortunately, as a result of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, all Americans are able to obtain a free copy of their credit report every 12 months. This report can be obtained at www.annualcreditreport.com which is a joint effort of the three major credit reporting bureaus.
3. What If I Find an Error on My Credit Report?
This is entirely possible. In a study conducted by the FTC, one in four consumers found errors on their credit reports that could negatively affect their FICO score. If a dispute is found, you should follow a two-pronged approach to disputing the error. First, initiate a dispute with the Credit Reporting Agency (Transamerica, Equifax, or Experian). This can be done either in writing or online. Be sure to include all supporting documents. Secondly, notify the provider of the information (credit provider) in writing that you are disputing the error with the Credit Reporting Agency. Again, be sure to include all supporting documentation. By law, the credit bureau must investigate the dispute within 30 days unless they deem the dispute to be frivolous.
It is common knowledge that having good credit can be a substantial asset when it comes with access to lower interest rates or more favorable terms when borrowing. Working towards and maintaining good credit is a small investment of time that will pay dividends for years to come. For more information please visit these sites:
* FTC Study of American Consumers from 2004 through 2012 as produced under Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.