Give your Credit a Check-up
With a little research and five simple steps, it's easy to spruce up your credit
- Get the facts
The first step is to get a clear picture of your credit profile. Order your credit
report, credit score and debt analysis online to get a complete picture of your current
status. Look closely at the data from each credit bureau to see that it all matches
up. Keep an eye out for:
- Wrong mailing addresses
- Incorrect Social Security info
- Old employers
- Signs of identity theft
- Errors in your credit accounts
- Late payments
- Unauthorized hard inquiries
- Right the wrongs
Contact your creditors or send letters of dispute to the credit bureaus to have
errors on your credit report corrected. By law, the credit bureaus have 30 days to
investigate your claim and make any appropriate corrections.
- Improve your behavior
Identify problem areas on your credit report and make a plan for improvement. If
you've had a hard time paying your bills on time, sign up for an automated payment
service. If your debt levels are above 50% of your available limit, create a payment
plan to reduce your balances. Set goals for improving your credit and be sure to
celebrate when you reach a milestone.
- Follow up
Check your credit again 30-60 days after disputing errors and changing your behavior
to see how much you have improved. If any inaccuracies remain, continue to negotiate
to have them taken off your credit report. If you want to tell your side of the story,
ask to have a consumer statement added to your credit file.
- Monitor your credit
To guard against fraud and keep your credit healthy, sign up for a credit monitoring
service that will quickly alert you to any changes in your report. Keep copies of
your old credit reports and letters of dispute in a safe place for future reference.
Make a plan to evaluate your progress in the spring.