Everything we do today stamps us with a score. Buying a house, applying for a credit card, renting an apartment, relocating and hooking up utilities, applying for a job, purchasing a cell phone, opening a checking account, obtaining auto insurance, applying for a license, and attending college; all require a peak at our credit score and if we aren’t careful our score can cost us thousands over a lifetime.
Credit scores range from 300-850 and below are five factors and their formula that determines where our score will range:
- Length of credit history = 15%
- Amount owed = 30%
- Payment history = 35%
- New Credit = 10%
- Credit mix = 10%
But monitoring our credit score can be a full-time job. I recently made a purchase that required a merchant to run my credit. It’s at that moment I found out derogatory information was on my report that didn’t belong there. So I started searching around for credit reporting agencies numbers and I ran into a list of recordings, which led me to frustration. It was my understanding that many merchants use Experian but it turns out that’s not the case, most banks use Equifax and that’s the agency my incorrect information was reported to.
So to keep your blood pressure at a manageable level, I am going to pass along the reporting agencies numbers that will get you to a live representative without going through 15 prompts.
When fraud or incorrect information hits our credit report it can be devastating. It’s our responsibility to regularly monitor and correct our reports. After contacting Equifax I found that I needed to file a dispute which would take up to 30 days and during that time I sent in legal documentation to support my dispute in hopes of speeding up the process. I learned, don’t assume the agent got the information documented correctly the first time. Each time you file something new about the same dispute a new case number is assigned which extends the resolution time to a new 30 day window from the new date the dispute is filed. Even though the credit reporting agency acknowledged receipt of my documents they informed me that they have to legally allow up to 30 days for the dispute to be resolved before the legal documents could be considered. What an eye opener this experience has been. I made a total of 23 phone calls to Equifax, spoke to nine different representatives and filed five different case numbers many of them for the same issue which extended my case resolution into a four month window. I am happy to say my report is up to date but what a full time job this became. Now my drive into work each morning feels like something is missing although I am enjoying the peaceful sound of spa music instead of my heavy breathing due to frustration of riding the credit merry go round.
So to prevent premature balding due to stress, here are five useful tips to improve your credit score
- Limit the number of your credit inquiries – an inquiry can impact your score by 2 points per inquiry and stay on your report for 24 months, affecting the score during the first 12 months.
- Pay on time, considering that payment history is 35% of your score being late will drastically reduce your score. Once you are late 30 days all 3 bureaus will be notified.
- Be cautious on closing accounts, it’s best to use your card like cash even if it’s just $200/mo since 15% of your score is based on the length of your credit history.
- Use only 29% or less of the available credit limit, anything over that heavily weighs on your score as your amount owed is calculated at 30% of your score.
- Monitor your credit report annually through a free service such as annual credit report or credit Karma.
It’s time to connect and wake up to strong credit. Take control of your bargaining power today because negative credit information stays on your credit report for 7 years. Remember in the credit bureaus eyes, you are just another ‘number.’
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