Your credit score is important. In addition to affecting your eligibility for loans and the interest rate you’ll pay, employers, utility companies, and rental companies often run credit checks to help determine eligibility, deposit requirements, and more.
Staying on top of your credit report is key – to do so or a free annual credit report from each bureau (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). Through annualcreditreport.com, you can request, view, and print your report; there are also options to request your report by phone and mail. Learn more about how often you should obtain your credit score.
Related post: About Your Credit Score and Its Importance
Check for Incorrect Information
Once you have your credit report, take time to sort through it. Check your identity information (e.g. your Social Security Number, your name and address) and your credit history. Review the list of accounts including credit cards, outstanding debts, and major purchases. Should you find any mistakes or questions, make a copy of the report and highlight the errors.
If you find an error on your credit report, gather the information you have to back up your claim. This can include bank account statements or payment receipts. You can submit your dispute online or mail it to the credit reporting agency. If mailing, it’s recommended to send the letter certified mail, so you know when they receive it. Always mail copies of documents (not originals) and an explanation of why you dispute the information. The bureaus have up to 30 days to reply with an initial response. For additional information and tips on how to correct an error, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information page.
Errors can show up on your credit history due to something as simple as a clerical error where a number was filled out incorrectly or someone else’s information ended up on your report. Or, an error could also indicate something more serious such as fraud or stolen identity; reporting any error immediately can help rectify potential issues.
Start Improving Your Score
If your credit report is correct and you’re unhappy with your score, don’t panic. There are a variety of steps you can take to begin improving your credit. It won’t happen overnight, but small changes can make a big difference in the long run.
- Eliminate credit card balances. Having a credit card carries a lot of responsibility. Paying your balance in full every month, on time will help improve your score.
- Never miss a payment. Whether it’s a car loan or an electric bill, making your payments on time, every time, will positively affect your credit score over time.
- Know your limits. Making sure you know credit card limits and avoid hitting them will help you rebuild or improve your credit. A lower proportion of balances to your overall credit limit is indicative of healthy spending.
There are a variety of tools you can take advantage of to help improve your credit. Consider a financial management tool where you can easily set and follow budgets, create savings goals, and more. Learn more about what does and doesn't affect your credit score.
Know You’re Not Alone
If you’re dealing with a poor credit score, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Many Americans struggle with understanding credit and are dealing with a low score. One in five people surveyed by NerdWallet thought a score of 600 is good and while the average credit score in the U.S. is anywhere from 669 to 699, most lenders view that range as “Fair.”
If you find your credit score is lower than expected due to excessive debt, General Electric Credit Union (GECU) is here to help. Our Debt Management assistance program can help get your finances back on track and reduce unwanted stress in your life. Schedule an appointment to meet with one of our Member Consultants today. Find a branch closest to you.