The Center For Debt Management
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Using Plastic: A Young Adult's
Guide to Credit Cards

... Continued From Previous Page

I've paid some of my credit card
bills late. How can I find out if my
credit record is still good?

You have the right to know every piece of information in your credit file under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If you want to find out what your credit record looks like, take the following steps:

  • Call credit bureaus to find which one has your file. Look in your local Yellow Pages under "Credit" or "Credit Rating and Reporting." Call every credit bureau listed in your area and tell each one that you want to see your file.

  • Although the credit bureau is not required to give you a copy of the report, more and more are doing so -- often for a small fee. You'll be required to identify yourself—by phone, in-person, or by mail—before any information is disclosed.

  • If you were turned down for a credit card and you request your file within 30 days of the denial, you will not be charged for a copy of your file.

There seems to be a mistake
on my credit file. How can I fix it?

If you find any inaccurate information in your credit file, you have the right to correct it. The following information may be useful:

  • Tell the credit bureau, in writing, why you think the information is incorrect. Supply copies of any documents supporting your position.

  • If the credit bureau cannot confirm the information you challenge, it must delete or change it.

  • If you disagree with the credit bureau's findings, you may write a brief statement stating your side. This becomes a part of your credit bureau report.

  • If negative information in your credit report is accurate, only time may erase it. Credit bureaus are permitted to report negative information for 7 years and bankruptcies for 10 years. In some cases, though, negative information may be reported indefinitely. Don't be misled by credit repair companies that promise to "repair" or "clean up" your credit history. They can correct errors—but not change the past.

I spent too much shopping and now
I'm having trouble paying back my
credit card bills. What can I do?

Sometimes, because of overspending, illness, or other difficulties, you may find it impossible to pay your bills on time. If you ever find yourself in that situation, consider the following information:

  • Try to work out a modified payment plan as soon as possible with those you owe money to.

  • If you're having trouble making car payments, know that financing contracts often let the financing company repossess your car with no advance notice. Try hard to work out car payment problems.

  • Be cautious about turning to a debt counseling company to solve your debt problems. Avoid paying in advance until you find out what the company can really do. Before you sign any contract, check out the organization with the Better Business Bureau or your local consumer protection agency.

  • You may want to contact a non-profit counseling service, such as the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), for help. You can find CCCS listed in your telephone white pages. In addition, non-profit financial counseling programs are sometimes offered by universities, military bases, and credit unions.

This information is great but
where can I get more help?

Different federal agencies regulate different kinds of cards, so check to see which company issued the card. For cards issued by:

  • Department stores, oil companies, or other non-bank creditors, write: Credit Cards, Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580.

  • National banks: Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Consumer Activities Division, Washington, D.C. 20219.

  • Savings and loan institutions or federal savings banks, write: Office of Thrift Supervision, Consumer Affairs Program, Washington, D.C. 20552.

  • Federally-insured, state-chartered banks, write: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, D.C. 20429.

  • All other banks, write: Federal Reserve Board, Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, Washington, D.C. 20551.

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