Learn about reports and credit scores.
Learn how to get a copy of your credit report and how to correct errors in it. This will help you improve your credit score.
Your report and credit score can affect your ability to get a loan, rent a property or even get a job.
A credit report contains the payment history of your bills, current debts and other financial information. Companies and lenders use your credit report to calculate your credit score (usually between 300 and 850).
The higher the score, the lower your interest rate for a loan or credit card.
Learn some of what you can do to start or improve your report and credit score:
Get and review your credit report:
Request a free annual report from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion on the official AnnualCreditReport.com website, check for errors or fraudulent accounts. This report does not include your credit score.
Credit reports included in your payment history and financial solvency. This information is used to calculate your FICO credit score, that is, the level of risk you represent for a creditor.
In addition, creditors, certain, insurers and other companies purchase these reports to determine:
• How much money you can borrow or not
• What interest rate will be charged?
• If you pay your bills on time
• If you have been sued
• If you have ever declared bankruptcy
Check your credit reports to make sure everything is correct, it is important that you know that:
• Your data is correct every year with the three credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
• No other person has requested a credit line using your name.
• Negative information can remain up to seven years in your report and up to 15 years if it is a bankruptcy.
• You can contact each credit reporting company to correct incorrect information.
• If you apply for a loan and do not get it because of your credit report, you have the right to request a free report within 60 days.
How to get your free credit reports
Once a year you can request a copy of each company through Annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
The Federal Trade Commission offers more information on these free credit reports.
Correct errors in your credit report:
Write to the credit reporting agency and the information provider (bank, credit card company, etc.) detailing each error or fraud. They are required to investigate. Keep a copy of the letters or electronic communication with them.
If you find errors in your credit report, use this sample letter to report errors. Then, send the letter (along with the supporting documentation) to the following entities:
• Credit reporting companies. Find the contact information of the three companies on their pages: Equifax (in English), Experian (in English) and TransUnion (in English).
• Information providers. They are your bank, credit card company or other organization that provided the credit reporting agency with inaccurate information.
Get detailed instructions on how to report errors.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both the credit reporting company and the information provider are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information on your credit report.
If errors continue to be reported on your credit report after you have disputed them in writing, you may file a complaint with the Office of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB).
Know your credit score:
Request your score by paying a credit reporting agency or get it for free on your statement or on the website of your credit card company. Paying your bills on time and reducing your debts can help you improve your score.
How to start your credit history
With a good credit history it can be easier to get a job, apartment or even a credit card. However, establishing and maintaining good credit requires discipline and planning.
Understand your account status and how to monitor your credit card. Also, find out how to start and maintain your credit or help your children start their own.
Before requesting credits or loans, be sure to check if the conditions offered are favorable and reliable.
When requesting a credit card, consider the following:
• The annual interest rate (APR). If the interest rate is variable, ask how it is determined and how much it can vary.
• The periodic rate. This is the interest rate used to calculate financing expenses on your balance in each billing period.
• The annual membership fee. Some cards charge you an amount each year for being a credit card holder.
• Rewards programs. Use online resources to find the card that offers the rewards that interest you most.
• The grace period. This is the number of days you have available to pay the bill, before you start running the finance charges.
• Finance charges. It is important to know exactly what you are paying in financing charges. By law, financial institutions must disclose the method they use. To avoid paying finance charges on credit card purchases, pay your balance due each month.
• Other charges. Find out if special charges are charged for cash advances, for late payments or for exceeding the credit limit. Some companies also charge a monthly fee.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Law protects you when dealing with entities that usually offer credit, including banks, financial companies, stores, credit card companies and credit unions.
How to dispute charges
The Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to dispute charges that appear on your credit card that are incorrect, that you did not make, or that are about goods or services that you did not receive. Follow the steps below:
• Send a letter to the creditor within 60 days of the date the bill was issued.
• Include your name, your account number, the date and amount of the charge in dispute, as well as an explanation of why you are disputing the charge. Send your letter by registered mail and request the acknowledgment.
• The creditor or card issuer must acknowledge receipt of your letter in writing within 30 days of receiving it and conduct an investigation within 90 days. You do not have to pay the amount in dispute during the investigation.
• If there was an error, the creditor must credit your account and eliminate any associated fine or cost.
• If the invoice is correct, you must be notified in writing how much you owe and why. You must pay the debt and any associated financial charges.
• Search online for a sample letter to file a complaint.