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Helpful Credit Information

Where to Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

Dispute Process Credit Scores
Debt-to-Income Ratio Do Not Call Registry Ways to Establish Credit

Where to Get a Copy of Your Credit Report
You can get a free annual credit report online by visiting, a central Web site that allows you to request a free credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies (CRAs): Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Availability is based on the rollout schedule set by federal law – Western States beginning December 1, 2004, Midwest States beginning March 1, 2005, Southern States beginning June 1, 2005, Eastern States & U.S. territories beginning September 1, 2005. The list of states included in the four areas noted above can be found on the Web site. To order a credit report by phone, call toll-free: 1.877.322.8228.

Until such time as free annual credit reports are available in your state, the only way to obtain a free copy of your report is when a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment, and you request your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. You are entitled to one free report per year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, if you are on welfare, or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise, a CRA may charge a fee up to $9 for a copy of your report.

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Dispute Process
If you find an error on your credit report, the CRA should be notified immediately. The CRA will re-verify the item in question with the creditor at no cost to the consumer. The law requires that reinvestigations be responded to by a creditor within 30 days and once the reinvestigation is complete, the credit reporting agency notifies the consumer of the outcome. If information in the report has been changed or deleted, the consumer is also sent a copy of their revised report.

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Credit Scores 
Your credit score is a number based on the information in your credit file that shows how likely you are to pay a loan back on time – the higher your score, the less risk you represent. The credit score that lenders use is called a FICO® score. Your FICO score helps a lender determine whether you qualify for a loan and what interest rate you’ll pay. FICO scores are calculated from credit data in your credit report that can be grouped into five categories: Payment History, Amounts Owed, Length of Credit History, New Credit, and Types of Credit Used. Lenders also look at your income, employment history, and credit history.

Raising your score takes time and there is no quick fix. Here are some tips to improve your credit history: pay your bills on time, if you have missed payments, get current and stay current, keep balances low on credit cards/revolving credit accounts and pay off debt, don’t close unused credit card accounts as a short-term strategy to raise your score, don’t open accounts you don’t need to increase your available credit, re-establish your credit history if you have had problems by opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time. A score is a snapshot of your risk at a particular point in time and changes as new information is added to your files.

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Debt-to-Income Ratio
This figure measures the percentage of gross monthly income that is used to pay monthly expenses.  Lenders generally like to see this percentage at 35% or lower.

1. Total your monthly expenses

2. Total your annual gross salary and any other income and divide by 12

3. Divide total from A by total from B

35% or less is a healthy debt to carry for most people, 37%-42% is not bad, but you should start paying off debt to avoid trouble, 43%-49% means financial difficulties may be imminent unless immediate action is taken, 50% or more shows you probably need to seek professional help to aggressively reduce debt.

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Do Not Call Registry
You can register free with the National Do Not Call Registry online at or calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register.

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Ways to Establish Credit
Building or re-building a credit report is not a quick-fix situation. Make sure your credit report is as clean as possible. You should open a checking and savings account if you don’t have one and do not overdraw your bank account. Apply for a secured credit or two and/or seek out easy credit – many stores extend credit to those without much credit history. Keep minimum activity on the account(s) and pay the minimum on time every month to establish a payment history. If you cannot get credit in your own name, try getting a co-signer to get the account and make your payments regularly and on time. Increase chances of getting a loan by applying a large down payment. It takes at least a year of positive credit habits to develop a good credit history.

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