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It might have stayed that way had he not charged the cost of a move from New York to Silicon Valley. In 2010, he decided to default on four credit cards, plotting out a high-stakes strategy: He would stop paying his cards and then try to negotiate with issuers just before hitting 180 days of non-payment. Accounting rules require credit-card companies to write off bad debts at that point, and he figured they don’t like doing that.

Your debts and collections will remain on your credit report. Most items ranging from bankruptcies to collections will remain on your credit report for 7 years. It impacts different credit scores differently as well. For example, if you are looking at your FICO score, then the age of the bad debt or collections account will have less impact the older it is, compared to other credit scores who do not take that into account. Bankruptcies can vary as well, where Chapter 10 remains for 7 years, Chapter 7 will remain on your credit report for 10 years.

Several years ago, it was common for companies to advertise “free credit reports” on TV and radio spots. Most of the offers were a bait and switch. Sign up, get a free credit report and score, then see your credit card charged $10-$20 every month after that if you didn’t cancel on time. Thankfully, the Credit Card Act of 2009 changed the way companies are allowed to advertise free credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission now requires credit bureaus and credit monitoring services to market credit reports differently than previously.

Having fair credit means that you have some work to do in order to get yourself back into good financial shape. It is imperative to take steps now to prevent any additional damage to your credit report, and get back on the road to good financial health. By reducing credit card debt, ensuring that you get your bills paid on time every month, and paying off any open collections, your credit score will move enough during the next three to six months to get you back into the realm of a good credit rating.

Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to credit reporting companies.
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