Control Credit & Debt

What You Need to Know About Credit

Credit is money that you borrow and pay back over time with interest. It allows you to buy now and pay it back later. Your credit history is a record of what you have borrowed and how you have repaid it. Paying your creditors on time will help you to build a good credit record. Late or sporadic payments will result in a poor credit report. This information is collected and compiled by three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Why Good Credit is Important

  • It can determine where you live
  • It can determine the interest rate for a loan or credit card; a higher interest rate is often more difficult to pay back.
  • It can determine how much you will pay for car and homeowners/renters insurance
  • It can determine if you get a job

How to Establish or Reestablish Credit

  • Have a relationship with a bank or credit union
  • Apply for a gas or retail credit card
  • Apply for a secured credit card – check with your financial institution to see if they offer one
  • If turned down on your own, find a co-signer

Why You Might Be Denied Credit

  • Incomplete application submitted
  • No credit file or short history
  • Low income
  • Short job history
  • Overextended credit
  • Slow payment history
  • Judgment, repossession or bankruptcy

What To Do If You Are Denied

  • Review the reason for the denial
  • Get a copy of your credit report and check for accuracy
  • If the negative information is true, pay balances and wait for the negative information to drop off
  • If the negative information is false, fill out a dispute form and send it to the credit reporting agencies to remove it from your report

Credit Score

  • Is used by creditors to determine if they will give you credit and at what interest rate
  • 35% of your score is based on paying your bills on time
  • 30% is based on how much of your available credit is being used – try to keep this below 30%
  • Other factors are Length of Credit History (15%), Type of Credit (10%) and New Credit (10%)
  • Don’t close old accounts for new ones
  • Don’t apply for credit from several places in a short period of time.
  • My provides more information on the FICO credit score.

How to Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

Everyone can get a copy of their credit report from all 3 credit bureaus for FREE every 12 months. Call (877) 322-8228 or Or contact each bureau separately:

If you want your credit score, often you may need to pay extra for it or credit monitoring services. Read all terms carefully so you understand what you are paying for. CreditKarma offers a free credit score; your financial institution may also offer this service for free so check with them first!

Many homeownership counseling agencies also provide credit counseling. Scroll down for a list of local agencies that can help.