Credit needs annual checkup, too
No matter whether you use credit or not, keeping an eye on your credit report is important for many reasons, Marion and Dickinson County extension agent Renae Riedy says.
A mistake on your credit report might be only a mistake, but it could have negative consequences.
Credit reports are checked by insurance companies, some landlords, banks, and even potential employers.
Checking your credit score can also alert you to identity theft.
Riedy said she was aware of someone who had three credit cards taken out in their name.
“They didn’t realize it until they started getting bills,” she said. “It was a short-term gig but it was several thousand dollars.”
Sometimes credit reporting agencies simply make mistakes, such as when another person has a name the same as, or close to, someone else.
“If someone else has your name, a mark might have been put on your credit report by mistake,” she said.
Sometimes the way people use their credit can result in something interpreted as negative by someone who checks the credit report.
Riedy said she knows a couple who was not in debt but used one credit card which they pay in full each month. Because of the timing when the couple pays their bill and the timing when the credit card company makes their monthly report, it appeared they were always carrying the same balance — as if they were never paying it down.
“They were actually being penalized and they couldn’t figure out why they didn’t have the best rate,” she said. “They were able to do some other things to build their credit score up.”
A poor credit score can raise the price of insurance, convince a potential landlord not to offer you a lease, cause lenders to increase your interest rate, and turn an employer away from offering a job.
Checking your credit score isn’t difficult, and it doesn’t cost money.
All three major credit reporting agencies are required to provide a free credit report at least once a year upon request, Riedy said, and inaccurate information on your credit report can be changed.
You can see your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Trans Union and Equifax, by going to the website annualcreditreport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228 to ask for the reports.
Because of federal relief programs related to COVID-19, consumers can get credit reports as often as weekly through the annualcreditreport.com website through April 2022.
You also can get a free credit report any time you have been denied credit. The company that denied you credit is required to tell you which credit reporting agency they used, and you can contact that agency.
“Some people feel it will affect their credit score if they check their credit report,” she said.
That’s not the case with an annual check, or during the COVID-19 provisions through next April.
With student loan collections delayed as part of COVID-19 relief, some people are finding that a missed student loan payment is showing up as a negative mark on their credit report, Riedy said.
Riedy can be reached at (785) 263-2001 Ext. 3 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.