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What It Costs Long Term to Have a Poor or Mediocre Credit Score 3 How Credit Scoring Came into Being 6 How Credit Use Has Changed Over the Years 7 Consumer?s Fight for Truth About Credit Scores 8 Credit Controversies 9 Credit Scoring?s Vulnerability to Errors 9 Credit Scoring?s Complexity 10 Credit Scoring?s Use for Noncredit Decisions 11 Credit Scoring?s Potential Unfairness 11 Conclusion 12 2 How Credit Scoring Works 13 What Is a Good Score? 16 Your Credit Report: The Building Blocks for Your Score 17 How Your Score Is Calculated 18 The Five Most Important Factors 19 Your Payment History 19 How Much You Owe 20 How Long You?ve Had Credit 21 Your Last Application for Credit 21 The Types of Credit You Use 22 Your Credit Scorecard 22 Your Results Might Differ 24 How Do I Get My Score? 25 3 Improving Your Score?The Right Way 31 Step 1: Start with Your Credit Report 31 Check the Identifying Information 32 Carefully Review the Credit Accounts 32 Parse Through Your Inquiries 34 Examine Your Collections and Public Records 34 Dispute the Errors 35 Step 2: Pay Your Bills on Time 36 How to Make Sure Your Bills Get Paid on Time, All the Time 36 Automatic Payments 38 Recurring Credit Card Charges 39 Online Bill Payment 39 Just Pay Your Bills As They Come In 40 Step 3: Pay Down Your Debt 40 You Need to Reduce What You Owe, Rather Than Just Moving Your Balances Around 40 You Might Need to Change Your Approach to Paying Off Debt 41 You Need to Pay Attention to How Much You Charge?Even If You Pay Your Balances Off in Full Every Month 42 How to Find Money to Pay Down Your Debt 42 Step 4: Don?t Close Credit Cards or Other Revolving Accounts 43 Step 5: Apply for Credit Sparingly 44 How to Get a Credit Score If You Don?t Have Credit 44 Check Your Credit Report, If You Have One 44 Set Up Checking and Savings Accounts 45 Use Someone Else?s Good Name 46 Apply for Credit While You?re a College Student 46 Apply for an Alternate Card 47 Get an Installment Loan 48 Credit Scores Without Credit 48 4 Credit Scoring Myths 49 Myth 1: Closing Credit Accounts Will Help Your Your Score 50 Myth 2: You Can Boost Your Score By Asking Your Credit Card Company to Lower Your Limits 51 Myth 3: You Can Hurt Your Score By Checking Your Own Credit Report 52 Myth 4: You Can Hurt Your Score By Shopping Around for the Best Rates 53 Myth 5: You Don?t Have to Use Credit to Get a Good Credit Score 54 Myth 6: You Have to Pay Interest to Have a Good Credit Score 55 Myth 7: Adding a 100-Word Statement to Your File Can Help Your Score If You Have an Unresolved Dispute with a Lender 56 Myth 8: Your Closed Accounts Should Read ?Closed By Consumer,? Or They Will Hurt Your Score 57 Myth 9: Credit Counseling Is Worse Than Bankruptcy 57 Myth 10: Bankruptcy Hurts Your Score So Much That It?s Impossible to Get Credit 58 5 Coping with a Credit Crisis 61 Step 1: Figure Out How to Free Up Some Cash 64 Step 2: Evaluating Your Options 67 Task 1: Prioritize Your Bills 67 Task 2: Match Your Resources to Your Bills and Debts 69 Task 3: Figuring Out a Repayment Plan 70 The Real Scoop on Credit Counseling 72 Should You File for Bankruptcy? 75 The Type of Bankruptcy You File Matters 77 Step 3: Choose Your Path and Take Action 78 Option 1: The Pay-Off Plan 78 Option 2: Credit Counseling 79 Option 3: Bankruptcy 79 6 Rebuilding Your Score After a Credit Disaster 81 Part I: Credit Report Repair 82 Scrutinize Your Report For Serious Errors 83 Know Your Rights 84 Organize Your Attack 86 What You Need to Know About Unpaid Debts and Collections 87 What You Need to Know About Statutes of Limitations 90 Should You Pay Old Debts? 91 Paying Old Debts Can Actually Hurt Your Credit Score 92 Just Contacting an Old Creditor Can Leave You Vulnerable to a Lawsuit 92 You?re Often Not Dealing with the Original Creditor 93 You Might Be Exposing Yourself to Some Pretty Nasty Characters 93 ?But You?ve Got the Wrong Guy!? 94 Part II: Adding Positive Information to Your File 95 Try to Get Positive Accounts Reported 95 Borrow Someone Else?s History 96 Get Some Credit or Charge Cards If You Don?t Have Any 96 Apply for a Secured Card 96 Get Department Store and Gas Cards 96 Get an Installment Loan 97 Consider a Cosigner 97 Make Sure Your Credit Limits Are Correct 97 Part III: Use Your Credit Well 97 Pay Bills on Time 98 Use the Credit You Have 98 Keep Your Balances Low 98 Pace Yourself 98 Don?t Commit the Biggest Credit Repair Mistakes 99 Hiring a Fly-by-Night Firm 99 Failing to Get It All in Writing 99 Reviving the Statute of Limitations 99 7 Identify Theft and Your Credit 101 How to Reduce Your Exposure to Identity Theft 106 Buy a Shredder 106 Get a Locking Mailbox 107 Protect Your Outgoing Mail 107 Keep Track of Your Receipts 107 Keep Your Financial Documents Under Lock and Key 107 Get Stingy with Your Social Security Number 108 Know What?s in Your Wallet 108 Ask About Shredding Policies 109 Don?t Let Your Debit Card Out of Your Sight 109 Opt Out of Credit Card Solicitations, Junk Mail, and Telemarketing 110 Don?t Use a Cell or Cordless Phone to Discuss Financial Matters 110 Be Wary of Telephone Solicitors and Emails 110 Purporting to Be from Financial Institutions 110 Monitor Your Social Security Statements 111 Monitor Your Credit Reports 111 Does Credit Monitoring Work? 111 What to Do If You?re Already a Victim 113 Keep Good Notes of Every Conversation You Have Regarding the ID Theft 113 Contact the Credit Bureaus By Phone and then with a Follow-up in Writing 114 Contact the Creditors By Phone and Then with a Follow-up in Writing 114 Contact the Police or Local Sheriff 114 Contact Bank and Checking Verification Companies 115 Contact the Collection Agencies 115 Get Legal Help 116 Don?t Give Up 116 When Parents Steal 116 What to Do If the Credit Bureau Won?t Budge 118 8 Emergency! Fixing Your Credit Score Fast 121 Repairing Your Credit in a Matter of Hours: Rapid Rescoring 122 Boosting Your Score in 30?60 Days 125 Pay Off Your Credit Cards and Lines of Credit 125 Use Your Credit Cards Extremely Lightly 126 Focus on Correcting the Big Mistakes on Your Credit Reports 126 Use the Bureaus? Online Dispute Process 126 See If You Can Get Your Creditors to Report or Update Positive Accounts 127 What Typically Doesn?t Work 127 Disputing Everything in Sight 127 Creating a ?New? Credit Identity 128 Closing Troublesome Accounts 128 Paying Off Collection Accounts 128 9 Insurance and Your Credit Score 129 History of Using Credit Scores to Price Insurance Premiums 131 But What?s the Connection? 133 What Goes into an Insurance Score 137 Keeping a Lid on Your Insurance Costs 138 Start Thinking Differently About Insurance 139 Raise Your Deductibles 140 Don?t Make Certain Kinds Of Claims 140 Be a Defensive Driver 142 Use the Right Liability Limits 142 Drop Collision and Comprehensive on Older Cars 143 Shop Around 143 Protect Your Score 144 10 Keeping Your Score Healthy 145 The Do?s of Credit Health 146 Pay Off Your Credit Card Balances 146 Have an Emergency Fund 148 Have Adequate Insurance 150 The Don?ts of Credit Health 151 Don?t Buy More House Than You Can Afford 151 Don?t Overdose on Student Loan Debt 152 Don?t Raid Your Retirement or Your Home Equity to Pay Off Credit Cards 153 Credit and Divorce: How Your Ex Can Kill Your Score 154 Get Your Credit Reports 155 Take Action 155 Don?t Be Late 156 Dealing with Mortgages, Car Loans, and Other Secured Debt 156 Consider a Fraud Alert 157 Look for Lenders Who Aren?t FICO-driven 157 In Conclusion: The Three-year Solution 158
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:
Credit scoring systems -- United States.
Consumer credit -- United States.
Credit ratings -- United States.