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Cents and Sensibility

Fix Your Credit History Now

African American woman holding credit card.
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A strong credit history isn’t just nice to have–it’s a must-have in today’s world.

Many consumers only consider their credit when they are applying for a new credit card, or a home or auto loan. But lenders aren’t the only people who look at a person’s credit: landlords, cell phone companies and utility providers often do as well.

Check out these five tips on how to create a strong credit history.

1. Know what’s currently on your credit report. According to Beverly Anderson, executive vice president, consumer financial services at Wells Fargo, you should check your credit report regularly so you know the provided information is accurate. Make sure to report any errors to the credit bureau. You can request your free reports (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at annualcreditreport.com.

2. Apply for a credit card. Retail and gas cards may help you build your credit history. But, your credit score is partly determined based on the variety of credit you have, so adding a major credit card can help improve it. If you can’t get an unsecured card yet, you might consider shopping fo a secured card. Some things to consider when choosing a secured card: Are there application fees or an annual fee? Does the issuer provide an opportunity for the secured card to become an unsecured card after a period of making on-time monthly payments? Does the issuer report your payment history to major credit bureaus?

3. Consider an installment loan. As you establish your credit history, you may want to include an installment loan. This might start with an auto or personal loan, but may eventually include a mortgage or home equity loan. If you limit the amount you borrow and keep the term of the loan short, you may strengthen your credit without paying a lot of interest.

4. Get help. Credit counselors can help you analyze your finances and help find ways to improve your situation. Credit counseling organizations, such as members of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling offer free or low-cost services for people who are struggling financially.

5. Be patient. You want a credit history that helps you get to where you want to go in life. Yes, establishing and maintaining good credit is like losing weight-there is no quick fix. It takes time, effort and guidance.

About Dr. Karen Ratliff

Karen Ratliff
Credit: Dr. Karen Ratliff

Dr. Ratliff is a certified life coach and professional educator, assisting many people in accomplishing financial, career, and educational goals.  She is also the author of “Tightening Your Bootstraps: 104 Tips to Kick Your Debt to the Curb Now.” Keep up with her budgetary advice via Twitter @drkarenratliff and her website at www.drkarenratliff.com