Correct your reportPeople should check their credit reports for errors because although the credit reporting agencies compile the information, they are not responsible for its accuracy. The individual consumer is.
According to FICO, mistakes are made when:
- Someone applies for credit under different names.
- Someone taking the information made a spelling error on a name or address when writing down the information.
- A person gave the wrong Social Security number or it was misread by the lender.
- Payments were made to the wrong account number.
Bankrate's article "Disputing and correcting a mistake on a credit report" contains step-by-step instructions for correcting a report and a sample letter to send to the credit bureaus.
Knowing what's in your credit report and what your score is can also help you better prepare for everyday life. "Students should find out what their credit score is," says Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and programs at Demos, a public policy research and advocacy group, and author of "Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-somethings Can't Get Ahead."
"The worst thing is to find the job or apartment you want, and then find out you can't get it because of your credit report. Everyone is entitled to a free credit report annually, so take advantage of it. And there are good steps you can take over six months that will help improve your standing."
What about credit cards?These days most college students may already have a credit card before they start freshmen orientation, but if not, they'll be bombarded with credit card offers when they arrive on campus.
"College students should get a credit card to build payment history," Sweet says. "Get education so you understand how important credit management is. Use credit cards and pay them down every month."
That will get young people off to a good start with their credit reports and consequently their scores. It is important because this will follow them through their whole financial life.
"You graduate with a degree. And those are your references for knowledge and expertise. And on a resume you'll also give employment references," says Sweet. "Similarly, you also need credit references. They can be used when you want to get a credit card, employment, an apartment. In the same way you build up a resume, you need to build up a strong credit risk profile."