Studies show that the majority of credit reports contain errors. Whether through clerical errors, mistaken identities, improper accounting, or simple misunderstandings, there are an estimated 200+ million Americans with errors on their credit reports. And in many cases, these errors are significant. As many as 25% of all credit reports contain errors serious enough to cause someone to be denied on a credit application.
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Each of the nationwide credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months if you ask for it. Go to annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Otherwise, a credit bureau may charge you a reasonable amount for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.
Of course, if keeping accounts open and having credit available could trigger additional spending and debt, it might be more beneficial to close the accounts. Only you know all the ins and outs of your financial situation, and like thumbprints, they're different for each person. Make sure you carefully evaluate your situation; only you know what can work best for your financial outlook.
One of the best ways to quickly build a payment history is to use a credit card. A secured credit card can help with this step if your poor credit precludes you from qualifying for a “regular” credit card. A secured card requires that you keep money in a linked savings account as collateral. Because the money is already there, it is easier to get approval for a secured card — especially when you have poor credit. In either case, your payments are reported to the bureaus every month, so it makes a big difference in showing that you pay regularly — and on time. (See: Wise Bread's review of the 5 best secured credit cards.)
In general, older consumers have higher credit scores than younger generations. Credit scoring models consider consumers with longer credit histories less risky than those with short credit histories. The Silent Generation and boomers enjoy higher credit scores due to long credit histories. However, these generations show better credit behavior, too. Their revolving credit utilization rates are lower than younger generations. They are less likely to have a severely delinquent credit item on their credit report.
Whether we like to admit it or not a little three-digit number rules our credit life that’s called our credit score. If you have a good credit score of, say, more than 750 you should be able to get just about any type of credit you apply for and at a good interest rate. Conversely, if your credit score is down in the dumps at 580 or less, you will have a hard time getting any new credit and if you can it will have a pretty stiff interest rate.
It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked. That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far.
Start with derogatory marks like collection accounts and judgments. It's not uncommon to have at least one collection account appear on your report. I had two from health care providers I used after having a heart attack; my insurance company kept claiming it had paid while the providers said it had not, and eventually the accounts ended up with a collection agency. Eventually I decided to pay the providers and argue with the insurance company later, but both collections wound up on my credit report.
If you have missed payments, get current and stay current: the longer you pay your bills on time after being late, the more your FICO Scores should increase. Older credit problems count for less, so poor credit performance won't haunt you forever. The impact of past credit problems on your FICO Scores fades as time passes and as recent good payment patterns show up on your credit report. And good FICO Scores weigh any credit problems against the positive information that says you're managing your credit well.