Errors on your credit report are dispiritingly common. In a recent study by Consumer Reports that asked volunteers to verify their credit reports, 34% found at least one error. And these errors were most often debts incorrectly attributed to them, payments misreported as late or missed or incorrect personal information (like a wrong address).
Errors like these can seriously impact your credit score and tarnish your credit report for up to seven years. And a lower credit score can jack up the rate you pay for car insurance, the interest rate on a loan or credit card and even prevent you from buying a home. As such, it’s important to stay on top of your credit report and dispute any mistakes that could affect your credit score. Here’s how to do it.
Start by reviewing your credit report
To get started, you’ll need to review your credit reports to catch any errors. There are three main credit bureaus, each with its own report: Experian, Equifax and Transunion. You’ll need to obtain a credit report from all three, since they all collect information in their own way.
To access your reports, make sure you have your Social Security number ready and follow the steps described on the website. You’ll be able to view or download them directly from the site so you can read them over carefully for errors.
Common errors that can impact your credit score
Reviewing your credit report can help you monitor for identity theft and uncover items that could be lowering your score. However, not all errors on your report affect your credit score. Some items, such as an outdated phone number, aren’t worth the trouble of disputing.
Items that could lower your credit score and are worth disputing include:
Credit accounts you don’t recognize
Incorrect account statuses, such as a bill reported as delinquent or an account in collections when you’ve always paid on time
Derogatory marks that are older than seven years
Addresses you don’t recognize
An ex-spouse who is listed on a current account
Incorrect balances or credit limits
If you identify any of these errors, disputing them could be the next step in getting them removed from your report so you can start seeing an increase in your credit score.
Gather documentation for your dispute
If you find errors on your credit report, the more supporting evidence you have, the better your odds of getting the errors dismissed. You’ll need to submit a letter explaining why you believe the information on your report is an error and provide evidence. Besides the explanation, you may need to supply a copy of your driver’s license or your passport to verify your identity.
File your dispute
Filing a dispute is free and won’t damage your score. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, once you file a dispute with a credit reporting agency, that agency must update the account to show it’s in dispute. You may see “XB” next to the entry, which indicates the item is disputed and under investigation. A disputed item cannot hurt your credit score while it’s under investigation. If it’s cleared in your favor, you’ll see an improvement to your FICO over time. Otherwise, the score will dip down again to reflect the negative mark.
When putting together a dispute letter to the credit agency, ask it to correct or remove the inaccurate information. Include the following points:
Credit report ID number
Your full name
Date of birth
Proof of identity, such as a copy of your driver’s license
Name of company and address for the incorrect item
A copy of the incorrect item(s) on the report
Explanation of why the item is incorrect
A list of additional supporting documents attached
Copies of the supporting documents showing why the item is incorrect, such as a copy of the canceled payment check that shows the paid date
To dispute an item, follow the steps for the specific credit reporting agency:
By phone: (800) 864-2978
Mail: Equifax Information Services LLC P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374
By phone: (888) 397-3742
Mail: Experian P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
If there are errors on more than one report, repeat the same process for each credit bureau, requesting that it correct or remove the erroneous information.
Reach out to your account provider
You can also contact the account provider, such as the credit card company, lender or utility company, that initiated the negative or incorrect mark on your credit report. Notifying it of the dispute can help the process move along more quickly, especially if the item is incorrect. It’s best to put everything in writing so you can track your efforts. Refer to this sample letter as an example of what to write.
How long does the dispute process take?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit bureaus to investigate and resolve a dispute within 30 days, although some investigations could take up to 45 days. Filing a report online is the fastest way to initiate a dispute.
Reviewing your dispute resolution
Once the investigation is complete, you should receive the results in writing. If the bureau confirms there was an error on your report, it will remove or correct the information and provide an updated copy of your credit report for free.
Watch out for credit repair scams
Filing a dispute isn’t a complicated process. Disputes are free and the credit reporting agencies must follow strict federal regulations for your protection. However, there are credit repair companies that prey on people by promising to remove derogatory information and charge high fees to do so. These companies do not have any more power to make changes to your credit report than you could, for free.
That said, if you prefer to hire a credit repair company to handle disputes on your behalf, we recommend thoroughly vetting the company before paying them a dime.
What if a mark on my credit report is negative but accurate?
If a mark on your credit report is accurate, a credit bureau cannot remove it. You could try contacting the company that issued it, requesting that it remove the mark as a courtesy. For instance, if you made one late payment and have years of on-time payments, a credit card company might be willing to look past this error. However, companies aren’t obligated to delete factual information.
How long will a derogatory mark stay on my credit report?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act limits derogatory marks on your credit report to seven years. If there are marks on your credit report older than seven years, you can dispute them to have them removed.
Will disputes hurt my credit score?
Disputes will not hurt your credit score. In fact, they may temporarily improve it since the Fair Credit Reporting Act mandates that items under investigation can’t hurt your credit. However, if the disputed item is accurate, you will likely see a dip when the negative item is reflected again.
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When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.
However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.
What is Sallie Mae?
Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.
In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.
However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.
In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).
At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.
What is the difference between private and federal student loans?
With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.
On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.
Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.
As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.
Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?
In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.
However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.
If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.
With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.
The bottom line
Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.
Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.
PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have.
1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually
You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.
With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.
The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.
4. Savings and Retirement Accounts
The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.
A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies.
Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan.
Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito.