Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Improve, and Protect the 3-Digit Number that Controls Your Financial Future
Product Author Bios
Your Credit ScoreAuthor Bio
Liz Pulliam Weston is a personal finance columnist whose twice-weekly columns for MSN Money reach more than six million people each month. She's also the author of the question-and-answer column Money Talk, which appears in the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers throughout the country. Weston is a weekly guest on CNBC's Power Lunch and has appeared on NBC, Fine Living, PAX TV, and other networks.
Formerly a personal finance writer for the Times, Weston has won numerous reporting awards. She was part of a three-member writing team that won a Gerald Loeb Award for coverage of the Comparator Systems penny stock scandal in 1997. She also was a member of the Anchorage Daily News team that won a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service in 1989 for coverage of the alcoholism epidemic among native Alaskans.
Weston is a graduate of the certified financial planner training program at University of California, Irvine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.
© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.
"Excellent book! Insightful, well written, and surprisingly interesting! Liz Pulliam Weston has done an outstanding job demystifying an often intimidating and frustrating topic for the benefit of all consumers."
–Eric Tyson, syndicated columnist and best-selling author of Personal Finance for Dummies
"In a country where consumers increasingly pay more when they have bad credit, Liz Pulliam Weston's book provides excellent tips and advice on ways to improve your credit history and raise your credit score. If you just apply one or two of her insightful suggestions, you'll save many times the cost of this book."
–Ilyce R. Glink, financial reporter, talk show host, and best-selling author of 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask
"Your credit score can save you money or cost you money–sometimes a lot of money. Yet, most people don't even know their scores, much less know how to make them better. Liz Pulliam Weston can help you fix that. In this easy-to-understand guide you'll learn how to make sure your score helps you get the best deal on loans and insurance. You can't afford not to read it."
–Gerri Detweiler, consumer advocate and founder of UltimateCredit.com
A complete action plan for improving your credit score–starting today!
Information that could save you thousands on credit and insurance... even help you get your next job!
Explains the rules, explodes the myths!
Up-to-the-minute information on today's radically new credit scoring system from MSN/L.A. Times personal finance journalist Liz Pulliam Weston.
© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
1. Why Your Credit Score Matters.
How Your Credit Score Affects You.
What It Costs Long Term to Have a Poor or Mediocre Credit Score.
How Credit Scoring Came into Being.
How Credit Use Has Changed Over the Years.
Consumer’s Fight for Truth about Credit Scores.
Credit Scoring’s Vulnerability to Errors.
Credit Scoring’s Complexity.
Credit Scoring’s Use for Noncredit Decisions.
Credit Scoring’s Potential Unfairness.
2. How Credit Scoring Works.
What Is a Good Score?
Your Credit Report: The Building Blocks for Your Score.
How Your Score Is Calculated.
The Five Most Important Factors.
Your Payment History.
How Much You Owe.
How Long You’ve Had Credit.
Your Last Application for Credit.
The Types of Credit You Use.
Your Credit Scorecard.
Your Results Might Differ.
How Do I Get My Score?
3. Improving Your Score–The Right Way.
Step 1: Start with Your Credit Report.
Check the Identifying Information.
Carefully Review the Credit Accounts.
Parse Through Your Inquiries.
Examine Your Collections and Public Records.
Dispute the Errors.
Step 2: Pay Your Bills on Time.
How to Make Sure Your Bills Get Paid on Time, All the Time.
Recurring Credit Card Charges.
Online Bill Payment.
Just Pay Your Bills As They Come In.
Step 3: Pay Down Your Debt.
You Need to Reduce What You Owe, Rather Than Just Moving Your Balances Around.
You Might Need to Change Your Approach to Paying Off Debt.
You Need to Pay Attention to How Much You Charge–Even If You Pay Your Balances Off in Full Every Month.
How to Find Money to Pay Down Your Debt.
Step 4: Don’t Close Credit Cards or Other Revolving Accounts.
Step 5: Apply for Credit Sparingly.
How to Get a Credit Score If You Don’t Have Credit.
Check Your Credit Report, If You Have One.
Set Up Checking and Savings Accounts.
Use Someone Else’s Good Name.
Apply for Credit While You’re a College Student.
Apply for an Alternate Card.
Get an Installment Loan.
Credit Scores Without Credit.
4. Credit Scoring Myths.
Myth 1: Closing Credit Accounts Will Help Your Your Score.
Myth 2: You Can Boost Your Score By Asking Your Credit Card Company to Lower Your Limits.
Myth 3: You Can Hurt Your Score By Checking Your Own Credit Report.
Myth 4: You Can Hurt Your Score By Shopping Around for the Best Rates.
Myth 5: You Don’t Have to Use Credit to Get a Good Credit Score.
Myth 6: You Have to Pay Interest to Have a Good Credit Score.
Myth 7: Adding a 100-Word Statement to Your File Can Help Your Score If You Have an Unresolved Dispute with a Lender.
Myth 8: Your Closed Accounts Should Read “Closed By Consumer,” Or They Will Hurt Your Score.
Myth 9: Credit Counseling Is Worse Than Bankruptcy.
Myth 10: Bankruptcy Hurts Your Score So Much That It’s Impossible to Get Credit.
5. Coping with a Credit Crisis.
Step 1: Figure Out How to Free Up Some Cash.
Step 2: Evaluating Your Options.
Task 1: Prioritize Your Bills.
Task 2: Match Your Resources to Your Bills and Debts.
Task 3: Figuring Out a Repayment Plan.
The Real Scoop on Credit Counseling.
Should You File for Bankruptcy?
The Type of Bankruptcy You File Matters.
Step 3: Choose Your Path and Take Action.
Option 1: The Pay-Off Plan.
Option 2: Credit Counseling.
Option 3: Bankruptcy.
6. Rebuilding Your Score After a Credit Disaster.
Part I: Credit Report Repair.
Scrutinize Your Report For Serious Errors.
Know Your Rights.
Organize Your Attack.
What You Need to Know About Unpaid Debts and Collections.
What You Need to Know About Statutes of Limitations.
Should You Pay Old Debts?
Paying Old Debts Can Actually Hurt Your Credit Score.
Just Contacting an Old Creditor Can Leave You Vulnerable to a Lawsuit.
You’re Often Not Dealing with the Original Creditor.
You Might Be Exposing Yourself to Some Pretty Nasty Characters.
“But You’ve Got the Wrong Guy!”.
Part II: Adding Positive Information to Your File.
Try to Get Positive Accounts Reported.
Borrow Someone Else’s History.
Get Some Credit or Charge Cards If You Don’t - Have Any.
Apply for a Secured Card.
Get Department Store and Gas Cards.
Get an Installment Loan.
Consider a Cosigner.
Make Sure Your Credit Limits Are Correct.
Part III: Use Your Credit Well.
Pay Bills on Time.
Use the Credit You Have.
Keep Your Balances Low.
Don’t Commit the Biggest Credit Repair Mistakes.
Hiring a Fly-by-Night Firm.
Failing to Get It All in Writing.
Reviving the Statute of Limitations.
7. Identify Theft and Your Credit.
How to Reduce Your Exposure to Identity Theft.
Buy a Shredder.
Get a Locking Mailbox.
Protect Your Outgoing Mail.
Keep Track of Your Receipts.
Keep Your Financial Documents Under Lock and Key.
Get Stingy with Your Social Security Number.
Know What’s in Your Wallet.
Ask About Shredding Policies.
Don’t Let Your Debit Card Out of Your Sight.
Opt Out of Credit Card Solicitations, Junk Mail, and Telemarketing.
Don’t Use a Cell or Cordless Phone to Discuss Financial Matters.
Be Wary of Telephone Solicitors and Emails.
Purporting to Be from Financial Institutions.
Monitor Your Social Security Statements.
Monitor Your Credit Reports.
Does Credit Monitoring Work?
What to Do If You’re Already a Victim.
Keep Good Notes of Every Conversation You Have Regarding the ID Theft.
Contact the Credit Bureaus By Phone and then with a Follow-up in Writing.
Contact the Creditors By Phone and Then with a Follow-up in Writing.
Contact the Police or Local Sheriff.
Contact Bank and Checking Verification Companies.
Contact the Collection Agencies.
Get Legal Help.
Don’t Give Up.
When Parents Steal.
What to Do If the Credit Bureau Won’t Budge.
8. Emergency! Fixing Your Credit Score Fast.
Repairing Your Credit in a Matter of Hours: Rapid Rescoring.
Boosting Your Score in 30—60 Days.
Pay Off Your Credit Cards and Lines of Credit.
Use Your Credit Cards Extremely Lightly.
Focus on Correcting the Big Mistakes on Your Credit Reports.
Use the Bureaus’ Online Dispute Process.
See If You Can Get Your Creditors to Report or Update Positive Accounts.
What Typically Doesn’t Work.
Disputing Everything in Sight.
Creating a “New” Credit Identity.
Closing Troublesome Accounts.
Paying Off Collection Accounts.
9. Insurance and Your Credit Score.
History of Using Credit Scores to Price Insurance Premiums.
But What’s the Connection?
What Goes into an Insurance Score.
Keeping a Lid on Your Insurance Costs.
Start Thinking Differently About Insurance.
Raise Your Deductibles.
Don’t Make Certain Kinds Of Claims.
Be a Defensive Driver.
Use the Right Liability Limits.
Drop Collision and Comprehensive on Older Cars.
Protect Your Score.
10. Keeping Your Score Healthy.
The Do’s of Credit Health.
Pay Off Your Credit Card Balances.
Have an Emergency Fund.
Have Adequate Insurance.
The Don’ts of Credit Health.
Don’t Buy More House Than You Can Afford.
Don’t Overdose on Student Loan Debt.
Don’t Raid Your Retirement or Your Home Equity to Pay Off Credit Cards.
Credit and Divorce: How Your Ex Can Kill Your Score.
Get Your Credit Reports.
Don’t Be Late.
Dealing with Mortgages, Car Loans, and Other Secured Debt.
Consider a Fraud Alert.
Look for Lenders Who Aren’t FICO-driven.
In Conclusion: The Three-year Solution.
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