Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.
Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, which helps business owners manage credit, says, "In this day and age, with so many reports of data breaches and identity thefts, if you aren't checking your credit, you're neglecting one of the key parts of your financial profile. You're almost opening yourself up for potential problems if you don't check, such as identity theft or mistakes that can end up being very expensive."
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a consumer is entitled to a free credit report (but not a free credit score) within 60 days of any adverse action (e.g., being denied credit, or receiving substandard credit terms from a lender) taken as a result of their credit score. Under the Wall Street reform bill passed on July 22, 2010, a consumer is entitled to receive a free credit score if they are denied a loan or insurance due to their credit score.
As mentioned earlier, closing an account, whether done by you or your credit card provider, could negatively impact your score. Unless you dramatically reduce your spending, closing a card (and saying goodbye to that credit limit) will probably increase your credit utilization rate. It could also lower your average age of accounts when the card falls off your credit report.
Placing a credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report. This is important after a data breach or identity theft when someone could use your personal information to apply for new credit accounts. Most creditors look at your credit report before opening a new account. But if you've frozen your credit report, creditors can't access it, and probably won't approve fraudulent applications.
Having good credit means that you have built a solid credit history by working hard to keep your accounts in good standing – however, there may be a late payment or two somewhere in your past. Things happen sometimes, but they are nothing you can’t handle. You might have had a collections account reported, but you’ve paid it. And you know you have some extra credit card debt, but you’ve made strides to get it under control.
Checking your credit can affect your credit score but only if it is a hard credit inquiry. This type of credit check is typically done by creditors when they want to see your entire profile in order to approve or decline you for credit when you are applying. Keep in mind that this is usually a small decline and temporary until you start paying your loan back. Be sure to check your credit score every month from Credit Sesame to see if you have anything negative on your credit report.
Keep in mind that while you're entitled to a free credit report, you will have to pay for your FICO score, which is the most common credit score. You can go to FICO's Web site, and your score will probably cost around $40. A situation in which you may want to buy your credit score is when you're shopping for loans. Your credit score can affect your rate, so knowing your score from each agency may help you decide who will give you the best rate when you borrow money.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only federally mandated and authorized source for obtaining a free credit report. The Federal Trade Commission cautions consumers to be aware of "impostor" websites that have similar names or are deliberate misspellings of the real name. Such impostor websites include websites with titles like FreeCreditScore.com.
The lesson here is that it’s hard to know exactly what your credit score will be when a potential creditor looks at it (or what score they’ll even look at). Instead of obsessing over a specific number, regularly review your credit reports for accuracy and focus on the fundamentals of good credit like paying down debt, making payments on time, waiting for negative information to age off your credit reports and sparingly applying for good credit.
help guard against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.