Quick. What’s the most valuable thing you own? Your house? Your car? Guess again. It’s your good credit. Because without that, you can kiss good-by that new mortgage, the car loan, that loan for your kids’ college education. Your Credit Report contains all the information collected about your loan payment history, and it’s what lenders use to determine your credit-worthiness. You should check it every year to make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date.
Your Credit Report
Your credit history is contained within a credit report. A credit report lists personal information about you plus a list of all your obligations, past and present, for the previous 7 years.
Information older than 7 years automatically drops off the history, to be replaced by new information. But if you have negative information on your report, 7 years is a long time to have it haunt you. And it’s difficult to re-establish good credit.
Your credit report contains information about where you work and live and how you pay your bills. It also may show whether you’ve been sued or arrested or have filed for bankruptcy.
Credit reports are kept by companies called credit bureaus. If you’ve been denied credit and can’t understand why, or if you’re just curious about what your credit history looks like, you can obtain a copy of your credit report.
If you have been denied credit within the last 60 days based on information on that report, you are entitled to a free copy of your report. Otherwise, you may have to pay a nominal fee to obtain your report ($3.00 to $8.00 based on the State you live in and what company you order your report from)… but it’s worth it. Often there are errors in the data. A study found errors in almost half the reports examined.
Because businesses use this information to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, and employment, it’s important that the information in your report is complete and accurate. The good news is, it’s easy to check.
You can apply for your credit report on-line just by clicking on this hyperlink. You’ll be taken to a page within our site that will allow you to quickly apply for your report. Then you can return to other information on this site about checking and correcting your credit report, Debt Consolidation, or any other personal finance topic.
Checking and Correcting Your Credit Report
If you’ve been denied credit, insurance, or employment because of information supplied by a CRA, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) says the company you applied to must give you the credit agency’s name and address. If you contact the agency for a copy of your report within 60 days of receiving a denial notice, the report is free.
If you simply want a copy of your report, the easiest way is to apply for a credit report on-line. That will give you the information held by the Credit Reporting Agency used by this bank. In other words, you’ll see what we see. It’s a great idea if you’re concerned about your credit rating and considering applying for any kind of loan.
That way, you’ll know whether you’re in the best position you can be before you apply and can correct any misconceptions the credit report may give.
In addition to the CRA used by our bank, information on you may be held by other CRAs, as well.
To find out what information other CRAs have on you, call the CRAs listed below:
You can write for your credit report at the following addresses, but you should first call the numbers indicated for more information:
Equifax Information Service Center 1-800-997-2493
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Trans Union Corp. 1-800-888-4213
Consumer Disclosure Center
Box 390, Springfield, PA 19064-0390 44070
Experian Information Solutions, Inc. 1-888-397-3742
PO Box 740241, Chatsworth, CA 91313
What if there’s an Error in Your Credit Report?
f there is an error in the information contained in your credit report contact the creditor that reported it. If you can prove there’s an error, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the creditor to correct it. If an item is incomplete, the CRA must complete it.
For example, if your file shows that you were late in making payments on accounts, but fails to show that you are no longer delinquent, the CRA must correct the report to show that your payments now are current. Or, if your file shows an account that belongs to another person, the CRA would have to delete it. Also, if you request, the CRA must send a notice of correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months.
If, on the other hand, there is a dispute about the information, you may write an explanation, which is attached to your credit report.
The agency must investigate and record the current status of the disputed items within 30 days unless they believe the dispute is ‘frivolous or irrelevant.’ If the credit-reporting agency can’t verify a disputed item, they must delete it. The item may be reinserted if the furnisher later certifies the information as accurate. The CRA must notify you if this information is later certified as accurate. If you still can’t resolve the problem satisfactorily, write to:
The Federal Trade Commission
Division of Credit Practices
6th Street & Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20540
But remember, you can’t erase bad credit information that is true. You’re stuck with it for the next 7 years. In fact, if you’ve had a bankruptcy, you’re stuck with it on your report for 10 years. Also if you’re applying for:
- $150,000 or more in credit;
- a life insurance policy with a face amount of $150,000 or more; or,
- a job paying $75,000 or more
The CRA can give out information on you going back indefinitely.
So your best bet is to take care of your good credit.
Registering a Dispute
If you disagree with the information on your credit report, there are a few things it is important to do.
1. Send the letter explain what you dispute directly to the CRA. Although the Fair Credit Reporting Act doesn’t require it, FTC staff recommend that you submit your dispute in writing, along with copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position.
2. Your letter should:
- include your complete name and address,
- clearly identify each item you dispute,
- explain why you dispute the information, and
- request deletion or correction.
3. You may want to include a copy of your report with the items
in question circled.
4. Send your dispute letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the CRA received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.