Published 11/12 2007 03:47PM

Updated 05/18 2009 04:18PM

Credit Reports:

You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every year. For a copy of yours, call 1-877-322-8228 and one will be mailed to you, or log onto

Do not be mislead by catchy commericals that promise a "free" copy of your report... the only website that you should use is

If you need help understanding your credit, or managing your debt, contact the Consumer Credit Counseling of Central New York. They can be reached at: (315) 474-6026   

How to Dispute an Error

Because businesses use the information on your credit report to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment,  it's important that everything on your report is complete and accurate.  

If you find something on your report that is inaccurate you must notify the Credit Reporting agencies. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item you are disputing.  State the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request deletion or correction. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document when the CRA received it. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.   (Click here for an example of a dispute letter). 

The Credit Reporting agency must reinvestigate the items in question--usually within 30 days--unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRAs so they can correct this information in your file. Disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.

When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in it change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the CRA gives you a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.

Your Credit Score:

Your credit score is determined through a grading system that adds and subtracts points based on the information in your credit report.  Your score helps financial institutions determine how likely you are to repay a loan.  Most banks and creditors use the FICO scoring system which ranges from 300 to 850.  If your score is under a 620 you're considered a high risk to lenders and you'll likely have to pay higher interest rates if you're able to secure a car or mortgage loan.  

The exact formula that generates your credit score is considered a trade secret but the following items are taken into consideration.

  • Payment History
  • Amounts Owed
  • Length of Credit History
  • New Credit
  • Credit Used

You can obtain your credit score for a fee, normally between $10-$15, through any of the three credit reporting agencies  


888 397 3742


Credit Cards:

There are thousands of financial institutions who are willing to offer you plastic.  How do you know what the best card and features are for you? Click here for help weeding though the offers.

Know Your Rights:

Credit Card companies are in a major finanical crunch right now, so they've resorted to raising interest rates and lowering limits on even their best customers.  Banking rules will go into affect in July of 2010 that will prevent card companies from arbitrarily raising rates on customers but not until then.  So, if you find yourself with an unmangeable debt here's what you should do.

  • Call a Credit Union or an Independent Bank to see if you can transfer your balance to a card with a lower APR

  • Consider taking out a personal loan with a fixed rate

  • If all else fails, pay as much on the cards you have with the biggest balance and the higest interest rates as soon as possible.

If you can get the balance transferred or paid-off you don't necessarily want to close the account.  If you've had the account for several years and have a good history of paying on time, it could hurt your overall credit report and score to close it. 

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