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7 steps to clean up your credit report

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What not to sweat
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What not to sweat

There are a couple of items pertaining to your credit report that might seem alarming but really aren't a big deal. Closed accounts in good standing don't need to be taken off your report, contrary to what many think. In fact, leaving them on your report can help.

Credit inquiries also aren't as damaging as many people believe, says Sweet. "Honestly, a hard inquiry is very small impact on your credit score, and it's short term. It stays on for two years but it has the most impact only within six months." A "hard" inquiry will appear if you applied for a loan or credit card. It can also crop up if you enter into a service contract such as a cellphone or cable TV plan.

Lohrenz says not to stress about the actual credit score itself, the three-digit number lenders use as a baseline to gauge your level of risk. It's what the report contains that dictates your score, so concentrate on making sure it's accurate and up to date.

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