If you’re like me and you spend the beginning of the year setting up all those appointments and updating lists of tasks that have to be done on an annual basis (like checkups, turning the mattress and replacing the batteries in smoke detectors), I have another item to add to your list: a credit checkup.
The start of a new year is a great time to check your credit reports and set yourself up for a worry-free year of healthy credit, or to set up a plan to reach specific credit goals. Follow the steps below to perform your annual credit checkup. (I promise it won’t be as uncomfortable as your dental exam!)
1. Pull Your Credit Reports
The best way to see your credit reports is to visit Annualcreditreport.com. There you’ll see that you can receive a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each report may have different pieces of information so it’s important to get reports from all three. Remember that these reports will not include a credit score, so if you want to know your score, you can get one from various sources for a fee. You can also get your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
2. Review and Highlight Each Report
Examine each report for accuracy of your personal information, such as name spellings, addresses and phone numbers; also make sure the debts listed are yours (and the balances are correct) and the payment history is correctly reported.
More specifically, look for these items:
- Accounts that do not belong to you — If you notice anything incorrect or debts listed that are not yours, right away begin the process of correcting any issues by calling the creditor and the credit reporting agency that’s showing the inaccuracy. You may also fill out a dispute form and file it with the creditor and the credit reporting agency.
- Late payment history — In your review, did you find late payments? If you think you paid this item on time and it is an error, you can dispute it with the credit bureau and also call the creditor to resolve as well. If you know you were late, make sure moving forward you make it a priority to pay all accounts on time. You can start today building healthier credit by not adding more derogatory information onto your credit report.
3. Keep Everything
Get a binder and some notepaper and keep all documentation — beginning with your credit report — filed in the binder. Anytime you speak with someone regarding your credit report or any debts, take notes including the time, date, name and ID number of the representative you spoke to. I know it may seem like overkill but you will be glad you kept good notes and every piece of paper because, inevitably, you will have to refer back to it.
If you haven’t checked your credit report in few years, be prepared for this process to take some time. However, you will find that each time you review your credit report it gets easier as you become more familiar with it, and as you maintain healthy credit throughout the year.
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