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African American woman using a laptop in her living room - BlackReviewing your credit report periodically is an important part of effectively managing your finances. It provides an important opportunity to check for errors and inaccurate information as well as make sure you aren’t a victim of identity theft. Your credit report has vital information about your payment history that forms the basis of your credit score. That’s the ever-important three-digit number used by lenders and other businesses to evaluate requests to borrow money, obtain insurance coverage or rent an apartment or home. It’s also a critical part of buying a home.

Through April, it’s easier than ever to check your credit report more often. That’s because all consumers are temporarily eligible to get free weekly online credit reports from the three nationwide credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. (Normally, each credit reporting agency is required under federal law to provide consumers with one free credit report annually.) The weekly reports, available at no cost on AnnualCreditReport.com, are being made available to all Americans in a time when many face financial challenges due to the coronavirus and identity theft is on the rise.

Generally, the stronger your credit history, the less you’ll have to pay to borrow money and to obtain insurance. Thinking about buying a home? The higher your credit score, the lower your mortgage rate. In other words, improving the quality of your credit can result in saving a substantial amount of money in financing costs over time.

The best way to improve your credit is to pay your bills as agreed every month. Paying late or settling an account for less than what you originally agreed to pay makes you less credit-worthy. Another important factor: your credit utilization ratio. You can figure this ratio by adding up all of your credit card balances and dividing that amount by your total credit limit among all your cards. You’ll want to aim for a credit utilization ratio of 30% or less. The lower, the better.

Don’t let errors affect the quality of your credit. See any incorrect information when you review your credit report? Check your report for errors and dispute any inaccurate information.