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Credit Card Basics  Chapter 2: Credit reports and scores
Here's how to order and read your credit reports and how your credit score is affected by the reports.
Credit reports and scores

Checking your credit report
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Time it, then check the details
If you are about to apply for a major loan, such as a house or car, it's important to give yourself time to correct mistakes or make good on delinquent accounts. Depending on the type of loan, you should give your self enough time. Here's a guideline:

For a home, you should check your credit at least three to six months before you apply for a mortgage.
For an auto loan, check your credit (and arrange financing with your bank or credit union) before you start shopping.
For credit cards, check your report before you apply. The last thing you need is for a credit report problem to slow down your application -- particularly if it's not your fault.

Once you get the report, you should make sure the following information is correct:

Your name, or names if you are or were married.
Social Security number.
Date of birth.
Addresses of places you've lived.
Names of places you've worked.
Pending accounts and accounts that have been closed.

Nothing has been on the report longer than is allowed by law: Bankruptcies must be taken off your credit history after 10 years. Suits and judgments, tax liens, arrest records, and most other kinds of unfavorable information must be dropped after seven years.

Records of delinquent payments or other problems (i.e., make sure they aren't mistakes).
-- Updated: Sept. 29, 2008
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