Whether you are buying a home, improving your credit, or guarding against identity theft, there are a few things that everyone should know about credit. BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke to TrueCredit, a national provider of consumer credit management, for a quick recap on how to maintain or improve your credit standing:
You have three credit reports. There are three major credit bureaus:TransUnion (www.transunion.com), Equifax (www.equifax.com), and Experian (www.experian.com). All three independently collect and maintain financial records on consumers. Since each bureau collects different information, it’s important to check all three credit reports at least once a year.
It’s OK to check your credit. Contrary to popular rumors, checking your own credit report “is not going to harm it in any way; it’s not going to hurt your score,” says Lucy Duni, director of consumer education for TrueCredit. Inquiries from too many lenders and creditors, however, can hurt your score.
Negative information takes time to expire. Late payments, delinquencies, and bankruptcies will stay on your report for seven to 10 years. However, you can turn around the negative impact by paying your bills on time every month. “If you’re getting ready to get a home or car, checking into your credit three to six months in advance is a good idea,” says Duni. Creditors will see that you’re straightening out your credit.
An active account is better than an inactive one. “You want to show the lender you have an active, responsible credit history,” says Duni. So stay active by using at least one credit card a month. The longer you keep up your stable credit activity, the better your credit score.
It’s up to you. Only you can identify and report inaccuracies on your report. You should be diligent about making corrections by filing a dispute with the agency. “If you find an inaccuracy, maybe a wrong address or you paid a bill on time, but the record shows late payment, the first thing you should do is to go to the original creditor,” she says. Make sure you have documentation and alert credit bureaus if you don’t get a resolution. “The more your readers understand the dispute process and follow that as close as possible, the quicker the resolution,” says a TransUnion representative.