Building Your Economic Legacy

As part of Alpha Kappa Alpha's international program Target 3, Building Your Economic Legacy, chapters will emphasize financial planning, asset accumulation, and wealth building including savings and investments, managing debt, and improving credit.  This information is a resource for ways to repair credit and improve credit scores, including how to check for inaccurate or outdated information in credit reports, and how to protect against both identity theft and unauthorized credit history use. 

Accessing Credit Reports

The three major national credit agencies.

  • Equifax
  • Experian
  • Trans Union

Check your credit report at least once a year.

You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major agencies every 12 months.  

You can request a copy from AnnualCreditReport.com.  Request and review the reports in one of the following ways:

Online:  Visit AnnualCreditReport.com

Mail:  Download and complete the Annual Credit Report Form from the above website.  Mail the form to Annual Credit Report Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348.

Telephone:  Call 1-877-322-8228

Be sure the information on your report is accurate.

  • Identify errors: incorrect reporting of account status, data management errors and balance errors

Learn the difference between credit scores and credit reports.

  • A credit report is a statement that has information about your credit activity and current credit situation (i.e., your payment history and the status of all of your accounts).
  • Your credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit report.

Understand your situation.  Some common issues are outlined below.

  • Your application was denied because of your credit report or score.
  • You don't have enough credit history and want to build your credit record.
  • You think you have been a victim of identity theft or fraud.

Know your rights.

  • Requesting your credit report will not hurt your credit score.
  • You have the right to dispute the information contained in your report for free.
  • You can request your report from specialty consumer reporting companies.

Take action.

  • How-to guides are available at Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prepare you to dispute an error on your credit report.  Further, it helps you understand how to build and keep a good credit score and how to identify a reputable credit counselor from bogus credit repair companies.

Submit a complaint.

Repairing Your Credit Report

If there are errors on your report, it is important to get them repaired. Inaccuracies on your report can result in lower credit scores and they can also indicate fraudulent activities.  It is recommended to dispute any errors or inaccuracies as soon as you spot them.

All three credit bureaus accept filing of disputes online; however, Equifax and Experian only accept online filings. To initiate a dispute online, follow the links below.

Equifax

Experian

Trans Union

Tell the credit bureau in writing what information you believe is incorrect.  Include copies, not the originals, of documents that support your position.

Enclose a copy of your credit report with the disputed items circled.  Send it via certified mail, return-receipt requested.  This will enable you to document that the credit bureau received your correspondence.  Keep copies of the dispute letter and enclosures.  Click here for a sample letter.

Maintain a good credit report and score.

  • Always pay your bills on time
  • Keep your balances as low as possible
Every credit report is different and there are many different credit scoring models.  There is no one size fits all.


Improve your credit score.

  • Bring your past due accounts current
  • Pay off any collections, charge-offs, or public record items (i.e., tax liens or judgements)
  • Reduce balances on revolving accounts
  • Apply for credit only when necessary
  • Request a free copy of your credit report and review it carefully
  • Order your credit report at least 3-6 months prior to making a major purchase to address any issues


Review the factors impacting your credit score.

  • Order your credit report and credit score.  These reports provide detailed explanations of what is positively and negatively impacting your credit score and credit worthiness.
  • Focus on these factors to help you understand what changes you can make to improve your overall credit score and rating.
  • Experian offers a credit education service that provides your credit report, credit score, risk factors, and the opportunity to speak with a trained Experian representative who will go through your report in detail and answer any questions.
  • The information will empower you to create a plan to improve your creditworthiness over time so you can get the credit and rates you want.

Conclusion

Your credit reports and scores have a major impact on your financial opportunities.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has resources that can help you understand your credit reports and scores, learn how to correct inaccuracies, and improve your credit report over time.  The three credit bureaus also offer assistance in credit repair.

Source: Financial Education & Empowerment Initiative organized by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, IncorporatedĀ® and Regions Bank

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