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Keeping an eye on your Credit Score

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#1
Disclosed for the 1st time, 'damage points' taken off for late payments
Borrowers already knew that late payments hurt their credit scores, but for the first time, they now know the extent of that damage.

Did you max out your credit card?
Expect a credit score drop of 10 to 45 points. Declare bankruptcy? Your score will plummet by up to 240 points, and your odds of getting credit will nosedive with it.

The "damage points" data, unveiled recently by FICO, are part of the most revealing glimpse into the firm's once-secret -- and still mysterious -- credit scoring model. The new information discloses how many points borrowers' scores will drop when they make the most-common mistakes.

'Help People Understand' Scores
"I hope this information will help people to better understand FICO scores and the value for them of avoiding credit missteps. It illustrates key points such as the higher your score, the farther it can fall if you stumble," says FICO spokesman Craig Watts. "Getting and maintaining a good score isn't complicated. We all just need to pay our bills on time, keep credit card balances low and take on new debt sparingly. "
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The greater transparency about FICO scores is important because American consumers' ability to get credit rises and falls with the number. FICO, the company that pioneered credit scoring, assigns consumers a three-digit number from 300 to 850, depending on how well they handle credit. Other companies also offer scores, but FICO's version is the most widely used by lenders in determining whether a consumer can borrow, and at what rate.
FICO's credit score has been around for decades, but only within the past decade have consumers gradually gained access to theirs. Though the raw numbers can be purchased, how they're figured remains a FICO secret, as closely guarded as the formula for Coca-Cola. Until Thursday, FICO revealed only broad categories of factors influencing the score, but not the number of points at stake for consumers who fail to pay as agreed. The "damage points" information, revealed in a report by personal finance writer Liz Pulliam Weston, will be made available through its myFICO.com Web site starting this weekend.
FICO's information shows that bankruptcy does the most serious damage to a credit score (up to 240 points), followed by foreclosure (up to 160 points) while maxing out a credit card has the least numerical impact (as few as 10 points).
Those with good or excellent credit -- so-called prime borrowers -- put more points at risk with each mistake. For example, someone with an average credit score of 680 who pays a bill 30 days late will see a drop of 60 to 80 points. But for someone with an excellent credit score -- 780 -- that same delinquency can send a FICO score tumbling by 90 to 100 points.

The Cost in Dollars
In order to show just how badly a drop in your FICO score can hurt your wallet, we spoke with members of the home mortgage, auto and credit card lending industries. We presented hypothetical scenarios of a consumer who decided to apply for a $200,000, 30-year mortgage; a $20,000, five-year auto loan and a credit card. While all the industry insiders stressed that a FICO score isn't the only factor in determining who gets credit and at what cost (other factors they cited include the borrower's debt-to-income ratio and whether they have already established a relationship with the lender), they were able to provide an idea of what a borrower who had the following credit scores could expect.

For a Consumer Who Started With a FICO Score of 780:
  • <LI style="PADDING-BOTTOM: 10px">Following a 30-day late payment, the consumer's car loan rate would jump nearly 3 percent, costing the borrower $26 more each month.
  • Following a debt settlement, the consumer would pay as much as $109 more each month on a home mortgage.
For a Consumer Who Started With a FICO Score of 680:

  • <LI style="PADDING-BOTTOM: 10px">Following a 30-day late payment, the consumer would pay $41 more each month for a car loan.


    <LI style="PADDING-BOTTOM: 10px">Following a 30-day late payment, the consumer would pay as much as $95 more each month on a home mortgage.
  • Following a debt settlement, the consumer would no longer qualify for a credit card.
Some Surprised By the Details
Consumer advocates say it's important for borrowers to know what can damage their FICO scores. "If they know it in advance, they won't go out and step in a pile of doo-doo. They won't go out and do some of these things," says Linda Sherry, director of national priorities with advocacy group Consumer Action. Even experts found some surprises in today's news. "FICO imposes bigger hits than I would have thought for being maxed out or 30-days late just once, reinforcing my view that it is a cruder, blunter instrument than they like to claim. Nevertheless, it is a powerful, widely used crude blunt instrument," says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. PIRG consumer advocacy group.
Of course, knowing the impact on a FICO score and actually avoiding these mistakes are two separate things: Amid rising unemployment and other daily financial struggles, paying bills and staying on-track financially becomes a much bigger challenge for many borrowers.
"Some of these things are out of their control," Sherry says of consumers.
Additionally, as Weston points out, consumers with identical FICO scores can have different credit histories. That means the same slip-up -- such as maxing out a credit card -- could have different impacts on consumers who have the same FICO score. In the examples they provided, FICO assumed each borrower had several active major credit cards, a mortgage, car loan and student loans.
Sherry acknowledges the benefit of putting a number to a financial blunder. "I don't think we necessarily knew the numbers that a bankruptcy could apply to a credit score," Sherry says.

Helping You Make Better Decisions
While knowing the numbers may not keep you filing for bankruptcy if given no other choice, the information may help you make the best decision when faced with a bad situation.
FICO scores -- and the access to credit they provide -- are a valuable asset to consumers and supply a safety net when incomes are stretched. It's an asset that needs to be protected, Sherry says, even if job loss or catastrophic illness makes bill paying problematic.
"In that period of time, paying down debt is the last thing on your mind. Paying the minimum payment may also be the last thing on your mind, but you'll be doing yourself a big favor if you do," Sherry says.
 

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#3

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#4
Dealing with Debt: Which Debt Should You Pay off First?




If you’ve racked up a lot of debt on your credit cards, you’re not alone. In fact, of the 90 million households in the United States that own at least one credit card, the average debt totals a whopping $10,691, according to CardTrak.com.


Many of these households are only paying the minimum payments on their credit cards too. If that sounds like you, here’s some food for thought: If you carry the average credit card debt of $10,691 and only pay the minimum payments each month, it will take you nearly 33 years to pay off your balances completely.*


Clearly, the minimum payment method is not a great way to manage your debt. It’s time to start paying down your balances and rid yourself once-and-for-all of that perpetual black cloud. But where do you start?
If you have several credit cards – and many of us do – it’s smart to devise a payoff plan. There are two ways to do this that are widely talked about, each of which focus your energies on a single debt, while paying just the minimum payments on your other debts.


Keep in mind that these strategies will work for all of your debt, including auto loans, student loans and home loans, but for the sake of keeping it simple, let’s concentrate on credit card debt:


Focus: Highest Interest Rate
The first approach is to concentrate first on the credit card with the highest interest rate. If you’re not sure what your interest rates are, check your credit card statements or make a quick call to your credit card companies.


By focusing on the balance with the highest interest rate first, you’ll save the most money in interest in the long run. Make a list of your credit card debts in order of highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. When you’ve paid off the balance with the highest rate, check it off the list and move on to balance with the next highest rate.


While you’re focusing on a single card, make sure you’re also paying the minimum payments on your other credit cards. “Payment history,” or how reliably you pay your debt on time each month, has the largest impact on your credit score. Even a single late payment can take a toll on your score.
Not sure what your credit score is? You can take a peek at your credit score for free – plus your Experian credit report – at Quizzle.com.


Concentrating on the highest interest rate first, then moving down the ladder, is the soundest strategy financially, but often takes a lot of patience. If you think you need a little extra motivation and the benefit of small wins along the way, the next method might be better for you.


Focus: Lowest Balance
The second approach is to focus on the credit card with the lowest balance first. If you’re a fan of financial author Dave Ramsey, this method may sound familiar; he calls it the “Debt Snowball Plan.”


By concentrating on the debt with the lowest balance, you’ll get to experience small successes more quickly with each credit card that you pay off. This method will help you to build momentum – like a snowball rolling down a hill – and for many people, helps keep the motivation to stick with it.


Similar to the first strategy, you’ll want to make a list of each of your credit card debts in order of smallest balance to largest balance. When you pay off the card with the smallest balance first, check it off the list and apply your available funds to the next smallest balance. Again, don’t forget to also pay the minimum payments each month on your other credit cards.
The Debt Snowball is for those who have a hard time mustering and maintaining the motivation to pay down their debt. While you’ll likely pay more money in interest over the long-term with this approach, the psychological boost you’ll gain may be just what you need to succeed in becoming completely debt-free.


Ultimately, the method you choose to pay off your debt is less important than getting started… right now. If you have a lot of debt, it will take time, patience and continued commitment to become completely debt-free, but the freedom you’ll experience by doing so is entirely worth it. Take it from me, two years debt-free and loving it.


For free tips and tools to help you get your finances on track, including a free credit report and score, no strings attached, check out Quizzle.com.
More from the Quizzle Blog:

*Assumes minimum payment of 2 percent and an average interest rate of 14 percent.
 

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#5
http://www.transunion.com

http://www.transunion.com/corporate/personal/consumerSupport/contactUs.page


Contact Us


TransUnion is committed to providing you with quick and easy access to your credit data. Free Annual Reports and TransUnion Reports are accessible to the Vision Impaired. On-line reports are compatible with screen readers. Accessible formats can be requested by telephone or by mail; please specify Braille, audio or large print.


Credit Reporting


<TABLE class=tableList border=1 cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=5 width=470 height=110><TBODY><TR><TD class=evenRow height=19 width="50%" align=left>Need</TD><TD class=evenRow height=19 width="50%" align=left>Solution</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Learn about Credit Monitoring with TrueCredit.com</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
  • Online
  • Phone number: (800) 493-2392
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Purchase a TransUnion Credit Report</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
  • Online
  • Phone number: (800) 888-4213
  • Mail:
    TransUnion
    2 Baldwin Place
    P.O. Box 1000
    Chester, PA 19022
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Obtain a free, annual TransUnion Credit Report</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Dispute an item on your TransUnion Credit Report or check the status of an existing dispute.</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

Fraud and Identity Theft


<TABLE class=tableList border=1 cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=5 width=470 height=110><TBODY><TR><TD class=evenRow height=19 width="50%" align=left>Need</TD><TD class=evenRow height=19 width="50%" align=left>Solution</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Place a Security Freeze on your TransUnion Credit Report</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
  • Online
  • Phone number: (888) 909-8872
  • Mail or get more information about placing a Security Freeze on your TransUnion credit report by mail:
    TransUnion
    P.O. Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Place a Fraud Alert on your TransUnion Credit Report</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
  • Email: fvad@transunion.com
  • Phone number: (800) 680-7289
  • Mail:
    TransUnion
    P.O. Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Learn about Credit Monitoring with TrueCredit.com</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
  • Online
  • Phone number: (800) 493-2392
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Report fraud or identity theft</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
  • Online
  • Phone number: (800) 680-7289
  • Mail:
    TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
    P.O. Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Worried about Child Identity Theft?</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
  • Online
  • Phone number: (800) 680-7289
  • Mail:
    TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
    P.O. Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834
</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

Other


<TABLE class=tableList border=1 cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=5 width=470 height=110><TBODY><TR><TD class=evenRow height=19 width="50%" align=left>Need</TD><TD class=evenRow height=19 width="50%" align=left>Solution</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Opt Out of Prescreened Marketing Offers</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
</TD></TR><TR><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>Become better educated about credit</TD><TD class=oddRow height=19 align=left>
</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
 

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#6
http://www.experian.com
http://www.experian.com/customer_service/mail.html



For fast resolution to your consumer credit questions, please select an option from the table below.


You need help with:

Ordering your credit report and credit score




Order by phone: 1 888 397 3742 International callers who experience difficulties calling this number should contact their telephone service providers for assistance.







Disputes regarding your credit report You must have a copy of your Experian credit report to use this service.





Check out Disputes to request an online dispute, check the status of an existing dispute and review your results. Contact us at the toll free number on your credit report.







Fraud, identity theft and your credit




Visit our Credit fraud center to add alert statements to your account
Contact us by phone: 1 888 397 3742 International callers who experience difficulties calling this number should contact their telephone service providers for assistance.
Additional information on fraud including tips for victims, Experian fraud-prevention procedures, FAQ'S, and links can be found in Preventing credit fraud







Existing Triple Advantage membership customer questions




Triple Advantage members:
Email us or contact us by phone: 1 877 284 7942






Questions concerning your credit report or general question about credit




Browse the Credit education section and get the answers to your questions about the basics of credit reports and scores, identity theft and fraud, credit advice on the hottest topics and more.






Experian's National Consumer Assistance Center does not recognize faxing as a secure means for transmitting confidential consumer identification information. Therefore, we do not accept consumer correspondence that is faxed to any Experian office. Faxed documents are not processed. Order your report online or call 1 888 EXPERIAN (1 888 397 3742). For fast resolution, dispute online, or for assistance, call us at the toll-free number on your report or write to us at the address on your report.
 

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#7
http://www.equifax.com/cs/Satellite...92/5-1/5-1_Layout.htm?packedargs=Locale=en_US



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<!-- end Left -->Call 1-888-202-4025 to get more information about Equifax Business Solutions.
 

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#8
call experian, equifax and transunion individually to see how you can get your free credit report. I believe you can get a credit report free once per year. ;)
Best way to know is by calling.
 

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#9
7 Building Blocks of Good Credit

Make these moves and you'll have a good score. Guaranteed.
Does improving your credit score seem daunting? It doesn't have to be. Taking a few small steps now can mean the difference between a 550 and a 780. Follow these tips to see your score improve.


More from CreditCards.com:

• 5 Signs You're Getting Out of Debt Too Fast

• How to Keep Unethical Debt Collectors at Bay

• Citi, AmEx Launch Rewards Card Program: Two Cards, One Statement


1. Request a copy of your credit report
You're entitled to a free credit report each year from each of the nationwide consumer credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
"It is important to remember that consumers have more than one credit report. Since there are three different credit reporting agencies, the information on each of their credit files may differ," says Clifton M. O'Neal, senior director of corporate communications for TransUnion. Requesting a free credit report "can help consumers keep tabs on all of their financial activities."
O'Neal advises checking each report for fraudulent activity and correcting any errors that appear. Each credit bureau's website has information on how to fix errors.

2. Take steps to improve your credit score
The credit bureaus and other companies track the information contained in your credit report, and crunch them into a three-digit number called a credit score. Having a low credit score will raise a red flag for lenders and could lead to having a loan application rejected. Or even if the application is accepted, your interest rate could be much higher. In other words, if you want to buy a house or a car, improving your credit score is an essential first step.
"If you are going to be applying for credit at any point in the future -- whether a new credit card, a mortgage, a home equity line of credit or a small business loan -- your credit score will largely determine how little or much you are going to have to pay for that credit ... if you get it at all," says Russell Wild, certified financial adviser and co-author of "One Year to An Organized Financial Life."
You can improve your credit score by paying bills on time, keeping your debt below 35 percent of your available credit, paying down debt and disputing errors on your credit report.

3. Read (and understand) the terms and conditions of your credit card contract
No one wants to read the fine print, but it contains all the important information about payment terms, interest rates, annual fees and penalties. Your credit card contract -- also called a card agreement or "terms and conditions" -- lays it out, though it often takes strong eyes and college-level reading comprehension.
"Most people don't bother reading the terms and conditions, and that's a mistake," says David Jones, president of Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA). "You shouldn't be surprised when your interest rate goes up because you missed a payment. It's all there in black and white."
Most credit card agreements are hard to understand, but that could change: As part of the 2010 Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will have the power to mandate changes in contracts to make them easier to understand.


4. Read your monthly statements carefully
According to Jones, credit card statements are easier to understand than ever. The Credit CARD Act of 2009, whose major provisions took effect in February 2010, required new design and disclosure requirements to make statements more reader-friendly. Among the requirements, the fees for making late payments and how much is being paid in fees and interest on different types of accounts must be shown. CreditCards.com has put together an interactive look at the new credit card statements, using examples from all the major card issuers.
If there's something that doesn't make sense, call your credit card company or a credit counseling agency accredited by the AICCCA or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to ask questions.

5. Pay down -- or pay off -- your credit card balance
"As soon as the January bills come in and cardholders realize how long it's going to take them to pay off their holiday spending, paying down credit card bills becomes a priority," Jones says.
One of the changes mandated by the CARD Act was that card statements must show how long it will take to pay off a balance if you pay only the minimum.
When it comes to paying off credit card balances, avoid making new charges, focus on paying off the card with the highest interest rates first and always pay more than the minimum payment.
"Even if you can only pay $5 over the minimum balance, it's a good idea because it goes straight to the principal and helps reduce your debt, even a little," says Jones.

6. Use credit cards that match your spending habits
Choosing the "right" card at the checkout can save you a bundle, according to Wild.
Consider the payment terms, he says, "most notably the interest rate you'll pay if you don't pay off your debt at the end of the month."
Cardholders who don't pay off their balances at the end of the month should be willing to sacrifice rewards to get a card that has a lower interest rate.
Wild also suggests using caution with store cards, especially those promising zero interest. If you have a history of late payments, interest rates can skyrocket which is an expensive mistake.
Annual fees can also add up. If you're paying $50 per year on several airline rewards cards but have never cashed in a single air mile, those accounts might not be the best fit for your spending habits.

7. Think twice before canceling cards
Your credit score is determined, in part, by the variety of accounts you have, and whether you have eaten up a lot of your available credit by carrying balances. In other words, outstanding balances on multiple cards will affect your credit score. Wisely manage those balances and don't be in a hurry to close out accounts.
"Any major changes in your credit habits, including canceling cards, will throw up a red flag and impact your credit score," says Jones. "If you want to reduce the number of cards you carry, cancel one card and a few months later cancel another instead of canceling them all at once."
Having multiple lines of credit and low balances gives you a low credit utilization ratio, which is good for your credit score. Be sure to keep your balances low -- overall, and on each credit card you have. And use each card every so often so the credit card company doesn't cancel the account.
If you're struggling with debt and having too much available credit may lead to the temptation to spend, you might be better off canceling those credit cards. It's better to let your credit score take a hit for closing accounts than to face the consequences of charging too much debt and not being able to pay it off.
 
#10
Step one: Know what kind of debt you’re dealing with. Money you borrow for a home or an education is considered “good debt.” That’s because these items can help boost your financial position. In addition, some home and student loan debt may be tax-deductible. There’s no need to put pressure on yourself to repay those loans as long as you can continue making regular installment payments.

Bad debt, on the other hand, includes anything that doesn’t improve your financial position and that you can’t pay for in full within a month or two, from a fancy meal at a lavish restaurant to a birthday gift for your spouse. Bad debt is usually in the form of credit card debt or a personal bank loan. You should tackle bad debt first.
 
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