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Checking Your Credit Score: 7 Common Consumer Questions

Jul 22, 2008
Checking your credit score is an extremely important step for any consumer. To make sure you have a full line of credit available, and to make sure you're not the victim of identity theft, you should check your credit score consistently to make sure everything is order. The problem for many consumers when checking their credit score, or trying to improve it, is that they have questions and can't find the specific details that would answer those questions.

There are so many websites online offering information on credit that the sheer mass can be overwhelming, making it even harder to get the specific answers that you're looking for. Here are seven common questions that consumers ask in regards to their credit score and how credit reporting is done, and the answers to each that you've been searching for.

7 common consumer questions on credit reporting:

Q: Doesn't bankruptcy damage you so badly that it never makes sense?
A: This is a tricky question that depends on situation. If you are in debt way over your heard, have tons of overdue bills, have collections on you for bills you can't pay anyway, and are completely incapable of even making minimum payments, then you're credit score is probably so bad that declaring bankruptcy won't change things much. You should avoid bankruptcy at all costs, but if your situation is that bad, then the sooner you get it over with, the sooner you can start rebuilding.

Q: Is there ever any advantage to bankruptcy on a credit report?
A: Maybe, but bankruptcy is never a good thing. However, a bank looking at one potential borrower with a bankruptcy six years ago, but a good record since, will look better than a non bankrupt borrower who has a record of late or unpaid bills from the past couple years.

Q: My credit score is terrible, can it be fixed?
A: Yes, but with the caveat being that the time frame varies. If you just finished bankruptcy, forget about having a decent credit score at any point over the next year or even two. But just because you have late payments on your record for seven years, or bankruptcy for ten, doesn't mean that you can't recover during those times. Every month that passes by with you in good standing helps a little bit more, and by paying all bills on time (with a little extra where applicable), recovery can take place relatively quickly.

Q: How can I fix my credit score?
A: This is one of those questions that entire books have been written on. But in summary: pay every bill on time, with a little bit extra on credit cards (if possible), pay off all overdue bills so they don't become even more delinquent, pay off collections and make sure they report that to the credit agencies, and don't fall behind on any new payments and don't wrack up any new credit card bills.

Q: How can I start rebuilding my credit when I can't get a loan?
A: The easiest way is to start with secured credit cards. These are cards where to have a $200 limit, you have to pay $200 into an account. These cards tend to not be very good deals, but they do allow you to slowly rebuild your credit until you're in good enough shape to upgrade.

Q: What about those "credit fix" people on TV?
A: In a word: Don't. Many of these are scams or questionable, at best. Any legitimate mistakes on your credit report can be removed by yourself, and many of the tricks tried by these places can get you into trouble, or even prevent you in the future from using legitimate tools to fix your credit score. Learn how credit scoring works, and use that information to fix things yourself.

Q: So my credit's going to be terrible for the next 7 years?
A: Not at all. The more months of paying all your bills on time (and a little extra, when applicable), the better your score will get. I had a friend who had a major 6 month late black mark on a credit card bill that went to creditors, but three years letter his credit score was already up to 720, which is excellent. So depending on the level of damage, you can fix your score relatively quickly.
About the Author
Thomas Boston, Principal of 825credit.com is a personal finance expert and consumer credit advocate who specializes in responsible credit management and creation. He helps clients for free to reverse damage done by identity thieves plus late payments, chargeoffs and collection accounts. He can be reached online with comments,
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