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Francis Vayalumkal
Finance | Financial advice

When Was Your Last Checkup?
By Francis Vayalumkal

An annual checkup of your credit is just as important to your financial health as a checkup with your doctors is to your physical health. Checking your credit record is less expensive than a physical, but early detection of a problem is equally beneficial.

Each year, request a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There are several places where you can order a credit report. One popular place is www.myfico.com. You can't hurt your credit rating, also known as FICO score, by checking them frequently on myFICO.com.

As long as certain conditions are met, there are situations that will allow you to receive a free credit report regardless of where you live. Some of these situations are if you are denied credit, if there is suspicion of fraud, or if a recent report resulted in termination of your employment or another adverse employment action.

It is vital that you periodically review your credit report because doing so can prevent distressing surprises. In recent years, an increasing number of identity-theft cases have been reported. The holiday season is here and credit card fraud is at very high rate during this time. Discovering that your credit is in shambles is upsetting. But it can be even more devastating when the discovery is made in the middle of applying for a mortgage or buying a car.

You also don't want credit report errors to haunt you for years when you could have easily taken care of them when they first occurred. Regularly checking your credit report helps keep it free of inaccuracies.

Due to the increases in identity theft cases, some financial consultants think people should check their report every six months. But they agree that an annual review may be adequate to maintain accuracy. To request your report, contact these bureaus:

  • Equifax: (800) 685-1111 (www.equifax.com)
  • Experian: (888) 397-3742 ( www.experian.com)
  • TransUnion: (800) 888-4213 (www.tuc.com)

    The reports will include five categories, which is also the financial information used to determine your FICO score:

  • Payment history
  • Amounts owed
  • Length of credit history
  • New credit
  • Types of credit used

    An accurate credit record is important because lenders use your FICO score along with other factors when deciding whether to expand your credit. A high FICO score can improve your chances for a favorable interest rate.

    Don't worry about your own credit report requests lowering your FICO score. Your personal requests don't count toward the score. The only type of credit inquiry that affects your credit score is an authorized request from a lender for a mortgage, auto loan, or other line of credit.

    Since your credit reports and FICO score are such important factors in your financial health, it's a good idea to learn as much as you can about them. To educate yourself you may want to talk to a financial advicer, read books, or look on the Internet for topics such as credit scoring, improving a credit score, and avoiding identity theft.

    Francis Vayalumkal is a loan officer at Market Street Mortgage and can be reached at (813) 971-7555 or via e-mail at francis.vayalumkal@msmcorp.com



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