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Site to See: Federal Reserve's 'Credit Reports and Credit Scores'

(11/15/2010) There's a new source of current credit score and credit report information in town and it doesn't try to sell you related services or provide content to generate ad revenues.

While the federal government would like to sell you on the idea that it's on your side -- and convincing you your government is working for you often does take a bit of a hard sell these days -- the Federal Reserve's new credit score and credit report web site is worth the taxpayer dollars that finance it.

The Federal Reserve's new "Consumer's Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores" is a compendium of advertisement-free credit report and credit score reporting that earns the Feds a high score.

Among independent sources of like information, perhaps only Consumer Reports and AARP offer similarly robust, independent information without a sales pitch.

Along with practical answers to questions about credit reports, credit scores, and the importance of protecting your credit history, the Fed's free online guide explains the contents of your credit report, tells you how and when a credit score is used, and discusses the role of credit bureaus in collecting and sharing your credit history.

You need this information because it can make or break you when it comes time to get a mortgage, personal loan, insurance, a job, or whenever some entity needs to determine if you are worthy, based on your credit standing,

If you are approved, your report and score also determine home much it's going to cost you to obtain credit and other financial services.

The Fed's web site reveals how you can improve your credit score (and lower credit costs) and it offers step-by-step instructions to help you correct an error on your credit report -- not an uncommon job for credit-active consumers.

What's more, the site couldn't have gone live at a better time.

Lenders are squeezing consumers for the best credit and credit scores ever and the Feds are rolling out two related landmark regulatory overhauls designed to provide the greatest consumer protections ever and to institute long overdue finance industry scrutiny.

Your credit standing is at stake.

One is the "Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010" (known as "Wall Street Reform"), which is heavy in mortgage lending rules.

Good credit scores are crucial to landing a mortgage, getting your mortgage refinance and getting a home equity line of credit or second mortgage.

The other regulatory newbie is the "Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009" and the site is embedded with related information: "New Credit Card Rules Effective Aug. 22, 2010" and "New Credit Card Rules Effective Feb. 22, 2011" to keep you apprised.

The new credit card rules heap on new and extensive disclosures credit card issuers must reveal to you and they limit the fees, interest rates and other charges credit card issuers can levy.

But it's still up to you to do the right credit thing and the site offers some pointers.

For example, to improve your credit score:

• Get copies of your credit report -- then make sure information is correct. The site tells you how.

• Pay your bills on time.

• Understand how your credit score is determined. The new site tells you.

• Learn the legal steps to take to improve your credit report. Again, the information is online.

• Beware of credit-repair scams. The web site keeps you up to date.

Also to get the most out of your credit card, the site advises:

• Again, pay on time. Don't be a deadbeat.

• Stay below your credit limit. How much below? Visit the site.

• Avoid unnecessary fees. You'll learn online which ones to avoid and how to avoid them.

• Pay more than the minimum payment. The more the better.

• Keep tabs and watch for changes in your credit card terms. Credit card companies continue to look for loopholes so they can take you to the cleaners -- for a fee.

The site is new and fresh with the latest government regulations dovetailing into your responsibilities, indicating it's not just up to the law to make sure creditors do the right thing.

You pay taxes for this kinda information. Pay attention.

 

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