Credit check after holidays may prevent problems later
End-of-year holidays are filled with additional tasks and distractions, making it difficult to think more than one step ahead. After all the gifts and meals, however, there’s one more important step to take before relaxing: a credit report check.
Ignoring your credit security can lead to unpleasant surprises and long-term complications. The frequent use of electronic payment methods and online shopping only reinforces the importance of paying close attention to what appears on credit reports, said Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Extension resource management specialist.
“Whether it’s for a job, a new place to live or a new car, someone will need to check your credit, and that is the wrong time for surprises,” she said. “Regularly reviewing your credit report can help prevent identity theft and catch errors serious enough to possibly trigger a loan denial or higher interest rate on a credit card.”
Consumers are legally entitled to one free credit report each year from each of three agencies. Copies of the reports can be ordered at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Those agencies are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, and they collect information from businesses and organizations that provide regular reports on the payment behaviors of their clients. They sort and organize that data for easy-to-read personal credit reports. That overview is assigned a score that represents how risky it is to offer credit to that person. The higher the score, the lower the risk.
“You can monitor your credit for free year-round by requesting a report from a different agency every four months,” Clampet said. “Victims of identity theft who have a notation added to their credit histories are eligible to receive more than the three reports annually.”
Many credit card companies also offer free credit scores to account holders, but consumers should be aware these scores can be different than the score that would be used to assess credit worthiness in some circumstances.
“If you need help understanding your credit report, make an appointment with a non-profit credit-counseling agency,” Clampet said.
Other online resources include www.myfico.com, which provides a detailed explanation of credits scores, and www.bankrate.com, which offers tools to estimate an individual’s credit score.
For guidance on how to address errors on a credit report, consumers can go to the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov. Instructions for disputing errors also can be found on credit reports.