What To Look For When You Check Your Credit Report
By: Michael Redbourn
Lenders of all kinds have now raised the qualifying-bar to such a dizzying height, that many people who had what would have been considered a fair to good credit rating just a year ago, are now finding that they are unable to get a loan.
Having said that, don't even think about applying for a loan if you're not 100% sure that you'll be approved, because each and every time a company refuses you a loan or a credit card it will appear on your credit report as an inquiry, and it will more than likely cause a lowering of your credit score.
The first thing that you need to do before you apply for a loan is to check the three leading credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, and "yes", you'll have to check all three of them because they are all separate entities that will more than likely have slightly different information. I wouldn't recommend getting the free credit reports that are offered by many websites however, because the formats are often very difficult to understand, and comparing the outputs from the three companies is incredibly difficult, even for experts.
The best kind of report, and therefore the one that I'd recommend that you get, is a 'tri-merged' one, and the best place to get it from is from the website of one of the three major credit reporting agencies, but be sure that you only order a one off report and not a monthly one. It should cost you around $20 and it will be worth every cent.
After you've invested your $20 and have your report in hand, read it carefully and expect to find errors because over 50% of all credit reports contain them. Specifically check for underreported credit card limits because your credit score is heavily influenced by the relationship between your limits and your revolving balances. Additional mistakes to watch out for are debts that you already settled that are still being reported, and debts that are not even yours.
The area of collections is something that should be paid special attention to as well because the same item will often appear twice on all credit reports and could of course be very damaging. The reason this error comes about is because one collector frequently sells a debt to another collector, but fails to inform the collection agencies after having done so, thereby causing the same thing to appear twice, and often under different names.
Whatever else you do, don't imagine for even a moment, that the several small things that you might find in your reports are not worth reporting to the agency in question, since their accumulated effect may cause the reduction of up to 100 points from your rating.
Make a list of all the errors, even the ones that are not obviously negative and notify the credit company by mail in an envelope which is generally supplied for that specific purpose.
If you feel after getting the reports that the job is beyond you, then by all means hire a reputable credit repair company to do the job for you, and perhaps retain their services on a continuing basis for a small monthly fee.
Checking your reports and informing the agencies is not an extremely difficult task though, and the important thing is to get it done, regardless of who does it!