#1 Make sure mistakes aren't hurting your credit.
Reviewing your credit report can help you avoid costly errors. In one recent study, more than 50% of the credit reports checked contained errors. Other studies have shown similar results with as high as a 70% error rate. The most common error occurs when the information of another person, with a similar name or account number, is recorded in your credit profile.
#2 Track your history of payments.
Potential lenders want to see a history of timely payments before they'll consider offering you a loan or credit. Check your report to see that your payments are being reported accurately to the credit reporting agency (CRA). A history of late payments will result in higher interest rates being charged or having your credit application or a loan denied. Late payments will also lower your FICO score.
#3 Protect against potential identity theft.
Identity theft has become the fastest growing crime in our nation. Identity theft complaints jumped 75% from last year according to a recent Federal Trade Commission report. The monetary loss from identity theft crimes skyrocketed to a combined $53 billion in 2002! Accounts that appear on your credit report that weren't opened by you could be a sign of identity theft. Report any such occurrences to all three major credit bureaus immediately and have them place a fraud alert on your account. The three bureaus can be reached at:
Equifax 800-997-2493 www.equifax.com
TransUnion 800-888-4213 www.transunion.com
Experian 888-397-3742 www.experian.com
#4 Keep your inquiries to a minimum.
Make sure all of the listed inquiries were authorized. If there are unauthorized inquiries, write to the credit bureau and to the company that made the inquiry informing them that you did not authorize the inquiry and to remove it from your credit file. Potential creditors can regard too many inquiries within a short period of time (30-60 days) as a negative and can result in the refusal to extend further credit.
#5 Stay on top of your credit without hurting your credit score.
A credit score, also called a FICO score, is a numerical grade given to each consumer . Your grade or score is an analysis of your credit risk based on your credit history. Credit scores range from 300 to 900, and those with scores in the range of 640 to 700 are considered excellent credit risks. Those with FICO scores below 500 are considered to have the highest risk of defaulting on a loan and therefore most lenders won't even consider them. Consumers with higher credit scores receive the best rates and terms on credit and loans.
Author: James H. Dimmitt
James is editor of "To Your Credit" a FREE weekly newsletter to help you manage your personal finances. You can subscribe to his newsletter and also get a FREE copy of your credit report when you visit: http://www.yourfreecreditreportnow.com