Smart consumer tips and strategies from Eyewitness News Online
You're always hearing about how important your credit report is, but do you really understand what's in it? If not, read on as we explain your credit rating and how it can make or break your financial wellbeing.
We asked an expert from one of the three credit reporting agencies to explain this important document. Maxine Sweet is the vice president of the Experian agency, one of the three companies that keep track of your credit history. Here's her expert information:
UNDERSTANDING YOUR CREDIT REPORT
There are four basic areas of information:
1. Identifying Information: Name, address and Social Security number
2. Account History: lists each account that has been reported to the credit service. It includes account numbers, dates they were opened, dates last paid and how much you owe on each account, as well as your payment history
3. Public Records: Financial data - like bankruptcies, judgements and tax liens
4. Inquiries: Records of who has accessed your credit report.
What if I find a mistake?
Call the credit reporting agency immediately (read on for phone numbers). Creditors have 30 days to respond.
Finding a Credit Reporting Agency
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free credit report within 60 days of being denied credit, employment, insurance or rental housing. You can also get your report free once a year if you're receiving public welfare assistance or believe your file contains inaccuracies stemming from fraud.
Otherwise, you'll pay a small fee, around $8.00. Because more than one of the credit agencies may have a file on you, most financial experts suggest ordering records from all three of the following major bureaus:
You may want to sign up with a credit monitoring service to know what's happening with your credit report at all times. The agency will tell you if any negative information is added to your report, among other things.
Use the links above to sign up for each agency's service or to learn more.
DID YOU KNOW?
A recent US Supreme Court decision upheld a federal law that mandates the time you have to clear up damaging mistakes on your credit report. You only have two years from the time of the error to file suit.
Maxine Sweet, vice president, Experian
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