We’re on to month three of our money plan series! By now you’ve got a budget and you’ve started tackling your debt! Now what?
Well, we need to get you updated on your credit score. If you’ve been reading the SALT™ Blog for a while, then you already know how your credit runs your financial life—so it’s important to see where you stand and what you can do about it. (PS: In case you need a refresher, check out my previous post How to Maintain a Healthy Credit Score (Without the Gimmicks) for a quick rundown.)
Now we need to talk about where to find the information we need, make sure everything is OK, and what to do if something is wrong.
Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
You should glance over your credit report at least once a year to make sure there isn’t anything sketchy going on. Unfortunately, identity theft is more prevalent than we’d all like to admit (I have been a victim of this), and it can really mess with your finances, loans, and possibly even getting a job.
With that being said, make sure to visit AnnualCreditReport.com in order to pull your credit report from all three major credit bureaus. You can pull each for free once a year, and I highly recommend taking advantage of this. Consider pulling one report every 4 months. The data on them will differ a bit, but that should help you catch anything major throughout the year.
Look Into Credit Score Services
There are a ton of credit maintenance services out there, and which you choose mostly depends on what you need and how much you want to spend.
If you like to keep a close eye on your credit or have a history of fraud or identity theft, you can try something like Credit Keeper. Credit Keeper is a monthly subscription service that keeps an eye on all three credit bureaus for you. This service (like many others) does cost money, but you can try it out with a free trial.
If you don’t need a ton of features or are just looking for something very general, you can always sign up for CreditKarma.com. It mostly just sticks to using data from one credit bureau (TransUnion), but it gets the job done.
What If There Is Something Sketchy Going On?
If you notice something strange going on with your credit—such as loans you didn’t take out—you need to take care of it ASAP. If you noticed this on your annual reports, you will need to dispute them with the bureau that printed the report.
If you notice it throughout the year, you need to start making the appropriate phone calls (to your bank, credit cards, lenders) and start sorting out the situation. Make sure to call every department that is involved (which depending on the size of your bank or lender can be a lot).
For a step-by-step guide on dealing with identity theft, check out this PDF from the Federal Trade Commission.
Check In On Your Debt Plan
We started tackling debt last month; however, seeing your credit reports may give you a better picture of what’s going on in that area. This would be the time to readjust, make a better plan, or go into more detail about how you can eradicate your debt.
You may find that you need to up your game. Or, you may be so pleasantly surprised that you can pull back on your current debt plan. Whatever the case, take this opportunity to reevaluate and make the appropriate accommodations.
Keeping your credit in check is an instrumental part of your money plan. By taking the opportunities to revise it, you can save yourself a lot of financial troubles down the road.
Find something sketchy on your credit report? Let us know your experience getting rid of it.
(Photo: i am real estate photographer)