Your personal credit rating, to a great extent, determines what loans you’ll qualify for and the interest you’ll pay. Check these sites to find out where you stand, and how to fix credit problems.
• All’s fair to Fair Isaac. Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO) does the math behind the credit scores sold by consumer-reporting agencies Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Its site includes this page on fixing or improving your credit rating and has a lot of links and tips, the most important of which may be to force discipline into your credit use and to be suspicious of quick-credit-repair offers. There’s also a link to guidance for disputing errors in your credit history.
• The free pass. You are allowed, under a law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to get a free copy of your credit report every year from each of the big nationwide reporting agencies noted above. This is the centralized site for doing so. Beware of other offers, and remember that getting a free credit report does not include your credit score. You probably will have to pay to get that – and each agency produces its own report for a few bucks apiece.
• Report fraud. You need to call the police if someone has gotten hold of your credit-card number, or has made you the victim of any sort of fraud. Beyond that, the Federal Trade Commission has a program called Consumer Sentinel for channeling reports into a national database of telemarketing and identity-theft complaints. Start at this page to see how complaints are handled and the wide range of issues on which the complaint network has been gathering data.
• Practical advice. Bankrate.com columnist Leslie McFadden has some practical reminders about the strange world of credit ratings. For one thing, you won’t improve your score by closing credit-card accounts. That’s because your rating is based in part on how much available credit you have. Closing an account lowers that total. There may be other good reasons to close an account – to stop paying a high annual fee, for example – but this advice is good to keep in mind.
Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer