Equifax, an Atlanta based company announced on September 7, 2017 that there may have been a breach of their database sometime between mid-May and the end of July. This breach puts 143 MILLION consumers at risk. Here are some steps of what we can do to protect ourselves:
Just 33 percent of millennials own a credit card, according to a new survey by Bankrate. Many are happy to pay with cash or a debit card to avoid the spiral of carrying over a credit balance and getting hit with high interest rates. (I totally can understand that). But a good credit history can be essential when you apply for an apartment, a mortgage, an auto loan, or a job, or even to get a good deal on a cellphone. The better your credit history, the lower the interest rate on your future
loans. And it can be tough to get a credit card after shunning plastic for years.
Here’s how to start building a credit history, for the day you’ll need it.
Get on someone else’s card
A family member might agree to let you become an authorized user on her card. Basically, her credit history — which we’re assuming is good — is now yours. Please do not abuse your privilege and be a responsible authorized user.
Get a ‘starter’ credit card
For someone with no credit history, the Capital One Platinum credit card is an option. The card has no annual fee and no reward program, and with an APR of 24.9%, you’d definitely want to pay it off every month. While people with a short or blotchy credit history get cards with high interest rates, a 14 percent interest rate is average for those with good credit, and the rate could be 9 to 12 percent for someone with excellent credit. Use it and pay it off every month. Use the card responsibly, and over time your credit limit, which may start at $500, will be bumped up, maybe to $1,000 after half a year. Once you’ve had that card for six months, a lot more offers will come in that you might be pre-approved for, now that your credit profile has been built.
They’ll likely have a lower interest rate and a reward or cash-back program. Along with paying the card off every month, it’s important to keep your spending well below your credit limit. Your credit score could be dinged for using more than 30 percent or so of the available credit.
Apply for a secured card
To get a secured card, you put down a cash deposit as collateral; in many cases, that’s also your credit limit. As you promptly pay the balance in full over at least six months, you build a credit history. If you have a checking account with a big bank, that should be your first stop for a secured card. Be very wary of seeking a secured card from a company you’re not familiar with, because some companies that specialize in offering secured cards have “horrendous fees.”
Take out a credit-builder loan
If you don’t have a chunk of cash to use as collateral, a secured card may not be an option. With credit-builder loans, you’re basically borrowing from yourself to build a credit history. The loan goes straight into a savings account, and you make monthly payments until the amount of the loan is paid in full. Then you get your money back, minus a small amount of interest. Some credit unions offer this product to members, calling it a Savings Secure loan.
Some landlords and utilities report rent payments to the credit bureaus, but it’s hit or miss. If they want to buy a house down the road, it might help to show that record to the mortgage lender. It’s not on your credit history, but anything you can do to document that you are responsible with your debt payments helps.”
Build credit with microloans
Lenny is a mobile lending app that targets consumers between the ages of 22 and 35. A sort of microlender that reports your payments to two of the three major credit bureaus, Lenny can help you build your credit score and can be a cheaper way to get emergency funds than going to a payday lender or getting hit with multiple overdraft fees. To judge risk, the company looks at such things as your college, major, grade-point average, LinkedIn page, and many other data points.
For members, who pay $2 a month, Lenny can make loans from $100 to $10,000 in three minutes. If the loan is paid back within 30 days, there is no interest charge. The app has lots of prompts to alert you when you’re doing something that could hurt your credit score, such as getting too close to a payment date while having drawn down 30 percent or more of your credit line.
A standard dispute containing verbiage similar to the following:
update my account #XXXX to reflect, the actual credit limit, your reporting of
this account with my high credit can easily be perceived as fraud and an attempt
to diminish my credit rating. This improper reporting has caused me denial for
credit and has caused severe financial and emotional distress. I am sure that is
not your intention, and appreciate your expeditious response..
Please contact National Foundation for Consumer Credit or 1-800-388-2227 for information on debt management.
Inquiries can be classified into two categories; soft and hard inquiry. A hard inquiry shows up on credit report due to transactions you have initiated such as applying for a credit card, car loan, asking for a credit limit increase, set-up utility bills and applying for a new job. These inquiries typically stay for two years. Although, many will disappear within one year. As a general rule, limit inquiries to 7 per year only. Soft inquiries happen when existing creditor does a maintenance review of your file, when you pull your own credit report and a promotional credit is extended to you. Soft inquiries do not affect your credit rating. After a bankcruptcy discharge, debts that were discharged should be reported in the same category along with "good items" as accounts that are current. They should not be reported under derogatory category. Obtain a free credit report annually from Free Annual Credit Report. Upon bankcruptcy discharged, establish new trade lines by secured credit card and get an auto loan.
GET RID OF YOUR COLLECTION ACCOUNTS. Did you know that paying a collection account can actually reduce your score? Here’s why: credit scoring software reviews credit reports for each account’s date of last activity to determine the impact it will have on the overall credit score. When payment is made on a collection account, collection agencies update credit bureaus to reflect the account status as “Paid Collection”. When this happens, the date of last activity becomes more recent. Since the guideline for credit scoring software is the date of last activity, recent payment on a collection account damages the credit score more severely. This method of credit scoring may seem unfair, but is it possible to pay a collection and maximize your score?The best way to handle this credit scoring dilemma is to contact the collection agency and explain that you are willing to pay off the collection account under the condition that all reporting is withdrawn from credit bureaus. Request a letter from the collector that explicitly states their agreement to delete the account upon receipt/clearance of your payment. Although not all collection agencies will delete reporting, removing all references to a collection account completely will increase your score and is certainly worth the involved effort.
GET RID OF YOUR PAST DUE ACCOUNTS. Within the delinquent accounts on your credit report, there is a column called “Past Due”. Credit score software penalizes you for keeping accounts past due, so Past Dues destroy a credit score. If you see an amount in this column, pay the creditor the past due amount reported.
GET RID OF YOUR CHARGE-OFFS AND LIENS.
Charge-offs and liens do not affect your credit score when older than 24 months. Therefore, paying an older charge-off or a lien will neither help nor damage your credit score. Charge-offs and liens within the past 24 months severely damage your credit score. Paying the past due balance, in this case, is very important. In fact, if you have both charged-off accounts and collection accounts, but limited funds available, pay the past due balances first, then pay collection agencies that agree to remove all references to credit bureaus second.
GET RID OF YOUR LATE PAYMENTS.
Contact all creditors that report late payments on your credit and request a good faith adjustment that removes the late payments reported on your account. Be persistent if they refuse to remove the late payments at first, and remind them that you have been a good customer that would deeply appreciate their help. Since most creditors receive calls within a call center, if the representative refuses to make a courtesy adjustment on your account, call back and try again with someone else. Persistence and politeness pays off in this scenario. If you are frustrated, rude and unclear with your request, you are making it very difficult for them to help you.
DO NOT CLOSE OLD CREDIT CARDS.
Strive for owning 3 to 6 credit cards. You may close credit cards if they are less than 2 years old and you have over six credit cards. 15% of the score is determined by the age of the credit file. Use old credit cards once every six months to avoid it from becoming inactive and unused in credit scoring.
For everyone else, there are standard FICO scores, which range from 300 to 850. The median is 723, meaning half of consumers score better and half score worse. The higher the number, the stronger the rating. TAX LIENS.
Paid tax liens that have been paid, released or satisfied can be deleted from a credit report and public records within 30 days. Federal unpaid tax liens can be deleted if they have balances less than $25,000 with on time payments to the IRS.
Credit Bureaus - Here's how you can contact each credit bureau:Equifax: 800-685-1111, www.equifax.comExperian: 888-397-3742, www.experian.comTransUnion: 800-888-4213, www.transunion.com Each bureau credit score should be close to one another. However, sometimes they are not and there are several reasons for this. The first reason is not all creditors report the same information at the same time to each agency and creditors are not required to report to all credit bureaus. The 2nd reason is each credit bureau uses its own customized version of the FICO credit scoring model developed specifically for that agency and its data. Thus, the results may differ. The 3rd reason is some information may not follow the individual completely due due to different names because of marriage or variations in their name or different addresses. That's why it's imperative that you must check your credit report at least once a year.
Myth: If you have a good FICO score, one late payment won't hurt it.Fact: A first-time delinquency can drag down your score by at least 100 points. The later the payment, the more the damage.
Myth: You have to pay to fix errors on your credit report.Fact: Nobody needs to pay to fix errors. Contact the credit bureau that created the report and work with the bureau to erase mistakes. The process usually takes abut 1 billing cycle to complete. If you can't wait - we can assist you with service that could help expedite the process.
Myth: You will be penalized for checking your credit report.Fact: People can check their credit report or score as many times as they want without hurting their credit rating. When shopping for a mortgage, your credit can be checked multiple times in a 30-day period without penalty.
Myth: You should close as many credit cards as possible before applying for a mortgage.Fact: Having credit cards open does not harm your credit score and can even help if they are in good standing. Having them maxed out hurts.
Myth: It will take seven years to improve credit.Fact: Most negative items will remain on your credit report for up to seven
years, as long as they are accurate, verifiable, and actually occurred within
that period of time. Of course, many items are NOT accurately reported, and are
not verifiable. Therefore they can be removed.
Myth: Foreclosure or bankruptcy permanently hurts your credit score.
Fact: Foreclosure will remain for seven years and Bankruptcy Chapter 7 will remain for a decade and Bankruptcy Chapter 13 will remain for seven years. In both cases - the bankruptcy will remain in the public records section for 10 years. You can buy again in as little as 2 years depending on your circumstances.
Myth: The credit bureaus are government agencies.
Fact: Credit bureaus are for profit companies. They collect data to sell to lenders and providers and ARE NOT affiliated with the government. They are governed under Federal Trade Commission.
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