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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Monitoring credit throughout the year

The rising popularity of credit cards as a primary method of payment means it is more important than ever that consumers watch their credit reports closely.

Sure, regularly tracking your credit is the kind of task that can easily slip to the bottom of the priority list, but failing to do so could lead to unpleasant consequences, said Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension assistant state specialist, family resource management.

“Eventually, someone is going to check your credit report. It could be for a job, your dream home or a car you’ve been saving for, and that’s not a good time for surprises,” Clampet said. “Identity theft also occurs frequently these days not to mention mistaken information could end up on your credit report, including in some cases errors serious enough to trigger a higher interest rate on a credit card or a loan denial.”

The three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, collect information from member businesses and organizations that provide regular reports on the payment behaviors of their clients. That information is published in credit reports.

A credit score is based on the information on the credit report. Essentially, the score measures how risky it is to offer credit to a person. The higher the score, the lower the risk.

Every consumer is legally entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three agencies. By requesting a report from a different agency every four months, people can monitor their credit year-round for free.

Victims of identity theft with a notation added to their credit histories are eligible to receive more than the three reports annually.

Copies of the reports can be ordered at www.annualcreditreport.com.

For anyone who needs help understanding their credit report, Clampet recommended making an appointment with a non-profit credit-counseling agency.

Also, www.myfico.com provides a detailed explanation of credits scores, while www.bankrate.com offers tools to estimate an individual’s FICO credit score.

“Many credit card companies also are offering free scores to account holders, but just be aware those scores provided by credit card companies may differ from the score that would be used to assess credit worthiness in some circumstances,” Clampet said.

For directions on how to report errors on a credit report, consumers can visit the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov. Instructions for disputing errors also may be found on the credit report.

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REPORTER/MEDIA CONTACT:
Leilana McKindra
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
140 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-6792
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: leilana.mckindra@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078
405.744.5000