Do you Suspect you have a Poor Credit Rating
October 09, 2008
One of the biggest mysteries in life seems to be our credit report. The Better Business Bureau believes the key to this mystery is education. It has been our experience that most of us think our credit is worse than it really is. Perhaps you know you've been a little careless in this area—been slow or fallen behind on credit card payments, shifting balances from one card to another, or you missed a car loan payment, there is something you can do.
The credit score that lenders use is called a FICO® score. FICO® scores are your credit rating and most lenders base approval on them. Your credit score is a number based on the information in your credit file that shows how likely you are to pay a loan back on time - the higher your score, the less risk you represent to the lender. Your FICO score helps a lender determine whether you qualify for a loan and what interest rates you'll pay.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. There is only one authorized website: annualcreditreport.com. You have three FICO® scores, one for each credit bureau. (Equifax: (800) 685-1111, www.equifax.com, Experian: (888) 397-3742, www.experian.com, TransUnion: (800) 888-4213, www.transunion.com.
You aren’t powerless when it comes to determining your credit score or what appears on your credit report. The Better Business Bureau suggests that you:
Pay your bills on time. Make at least the minimum payment or more a little more and pay on time or before to avoid late fees.
Contact your creditors immediately if you cannot make a payment on time. Negotiate a new payment schedule.
Reduce the number of credit cards and close unused accounts (but not all at one time).
Have a plan and know what you owe and work your plan; pay off your highest rate cards first. If you missed a payment to a creditor a while back, but now you're up to date, you can try asking them to remove this negative information from your credit report.
Track your debts; keep credit card statements and shop interest rates with credit card providers. Remember paying one month late can sometimes raise your interest rate.
Switch to a secured credit card. If you cannot get credit or you cannot stick to a prompt payment plan, get a secured card. Because it is linked to your bank savings account, you can withdraw only up to the amount in that account. Be cautious and be certain to check out these companies with the Better Business Bureau.
Pay for everyday items with cash. Don't pay for your groceries with your credit card if you cannot pay the total balance each month. And be extremely cautious with gas cards.
Don’t be powerless, take control of your financial position. These are just few tips for consumers; for more information go to bbb.org or the Federal Trade Commission’s website at ftc.gov.
(Sharane Gott, president of the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, a nonprofit funded by ethical business, may be reached at 981-3497 or contact the BBB on there website: www.acadiana.bbb.org)