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What's Your Score? A Third of Americans Apparently don't Know Theirs
Thursday, March 27, 2014 7:00 AM

With the challenging economic conditions of the recent years, there is no better time than now for consumers to brush up on their personal finance ABCs, evaluate their own financial situation and identify areas that need improvement. Unfortunately, not all Americans are taking the time to assess their financial health. According to a recent Google Consumer Survey commissioned by TransUnion, one third (32.7 percent) of Americans surveyed said they have never checked their credit report or score. An additional quarter (24.2 percent) said they had not checked their report or score in over a year.

A survey conducted by the Cornerstone credit union League yielded similar results. The survey of credit union members in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas was conducted from Dec. 1, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014, and revealed that 30 percent of respondents had not checked their credit report for inaccuracies in the last year.

“Knowing your credit score is an important part of managing and maintaining your financial health,” notes Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Courtney Moran. “Lenders, insurers, employers, landlords and others all use credit scores to determine your credit worthiness.”

With April being National Financial Literacy Month, Moran is encouraging credit unions to take this opportunity to educate and inform their members about why it’s important to know, monitor and maintain a healthy credit score.

Following are some tips from TransUnion:

  • Step 1: Get the facts. The first step towards better credit management is to see a clear picture of your credit profile. Order your credit report, credit score and debt analysis online to get a comprehensive current status. Look for incorrect mailing addresses, inaccurate Social Security Numbers, errors in your credit accounts and inquiries that you don't recognize.
  • Step 2: Right the wrongs. Contact your creditors or dispute via the credit reporting companies asking them to correct credit report inaccuracies. The credit companies generally have 30 days to investigate your claim and make appropriate corrections.
  • Step 3: Identify problem areas. Look for troublesome areas on your credit report and plan how you can better manage those accounts and behaviors for credit improvement. If it's tough for you to pay your bills on time, sign up for an automated payment service. If you carry balances of more than 35 percent of your available limit on any credit cards, create a payment plan to reduce those amounts. Set goals for credit management and celebrate reaching milestones.
  • Step 4: Follow up. Check your credit again 30-60 days after you pay off debts to see if your reports reflect credit improvement. If you feel you need to explain anything, add a consumer statement to your credit report.
  • Step 5: Monitor your credit. To minimize your exposure to identity theft and keep your credit healthy, enroll in a credit monitoring program that will notify you of critical changes in your report. Save copies of your credit reports and letters of dispute in a safe place. Evaluate your progress.