Your credit history
For better, for worse
Your credit report, good or bad, affects a lot of financial outcomes in your life. How much you pay for insurance, whether or not you get hired and if you can get approved for a loan are just a few of the many situations where your credit can ding or reward you.
“Here at the start of wedding season may be a good time to know what’s in your credit report, since the relationship you have with your credit is much like a marriage,” said Joe Buhrmann, manager of financial security at COUNTRY Financial®. “You need to be transparent, honest and vulnerable with yourself in order for the partnership to work in your favor. If you don’t know what’s in your report – now might be a good time to find out.”
COUNTRY Financial recommends checking your credit report on an annual basis at minimum. Federal law under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows consumers access to free copies of their credit report every 12 months, from three different credit reporting companies.
How to check your report
You can get your credit report from each credit reporting company through annualcreditreport.com. You can request all three reports at the same time or run them according to your needs. Accessing the report can allow individuals to ensure the information contained within it is current and accurate. Mistakes sitting idle on your credit report can damage your credit history.
“Checking your credit report on a routine basis is a solid way you can keep track of your finances,” said Buhrmann. “Knowing what’s in your report, monitoring its accuracy and reporting false information is a solid step forward in achieving financial security.”
In this digital age, the threat of identity theft is thickening, but checking your report at least once a year can help you better catch suspicious activity or false accounts tied to your name and Social Security Number. If you have been a victim of identity theft in the past, Buhrmann says you should be even more in tune with what’s being said about you.
“Identity theft is a real threat. Thieves want to use your personal information to commit fraud. They don’t care about the mess it could leave you in,” said Buhrmann. “Periodically monitoring your credit report is a surefire way to guard yourself against these encounters.”
If you find suspicious activity on your account there are ways you can report it and get it removed. You can also dispute errors and other inaccurate information and have them omitted.
If you find errors on your report, consider doing the following:
Tell the credit reporting company. Write a dispute letter. State the facts and explain why you believe the information is inaccurate. Supply copies of documents that support your position. Request the information be removed and corrected.
Tell the information provider. Write a dispute letter. State the facts and tell the information provider that you dispute an item or items on your credit report. Supply copies of documents that support your position. Request the snafu to be corrected.
Change can happen
If there is unpleasant information in your credit report that is true, there is some hope. Time, correcting your mistakes and changing your behavior can help. Paying your bills on time each month and never missing a payment can improve your relationship with lenders by showing them you are reliable and consistent.
You can also improve your score by limiting your debts. If you have credit cards, keep your total balance below your allotted credit limits – this is called your Credit Utilization Ratio.