Examine Your Credit Report
The first step in repairing your credit is to know exactly what’s on your credit report. Your credit report contains everything that affects your credit score, including all the things pulling your score down.
Yes, it may be painful to take a long, hard look at your credit report. You’ll be reminded of financial mistakes you’ve made. But you can’t fix things if you don’t know what the problems are.
You can get a free yearly copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.
In the United States, there are three different credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com will contain your credit score at each of the credit bureaus. You can also order a credit three-in-one credit report from any one of the bureaus, although you will have to pay for it.
There can be differences between the three bureaus, so it’s important to get reports from all three credit bureaus.
Once you’ve obtained your credit report, read it closely. The report can be pretty long and detailed, so give yourself plenty of time to go through it.
On the report, you should see:
- Personal information: name, SSN, birthday, addresses, and employers.
- Credit information: open and closed accounts, creditor names, original loan amounts, payment history, credit limits, amounts owed, and more.
- Public record data taken from the courts, specifically including bankruptcy.
- Hard credit inquiries from potential creditors.
As you read your report, look for the following information:
- Errors. Are there any accounts that don’t actually belong to you? Are there late payments that weren’t actually late? Make a record of any of these errors for later follow up.
- Past due accounts. The includes payments that are late and accounts that have been charged off or handed over to collection agencies.
- Current credit accounts. In particular, you’re looking for any credit accounts that are either over the limit or at the maximum.
You’re going to approach each of the above situations differently, so you may want to use different colored highlighters or pens to flag each type of scenario.
Reading your credit report for the first time can be overwhelming. Depending on your financial activity, there can be a lot of information to sort through. It can also be intimidating when you see the amount of work required to repair your credit.
If you’re feeling like this, remember that you’re only going to be taking one step at a time. You don’t have to fix everything at once. Step-by-step, you’ll progressively improve your credit score as you take the right actions. For now, just focus on highlighting all the important information.
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