The Center For Debt Management
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Your Credit Record: A Report Card
On Your Personal Finances

Your credit history can affect your daily life—from where you live and work to how much you pay for a loan or insurance. Here's a guide to protecting your financial reputation.

Think back to your school days, when grades, report cards, test scores and teacher recommendations had a lot to do with getting ahead. Now fast-forward to your life today. You may not think much about it, but you're still being evaluated and graded—in the subject of personal finance—and once again the results can be critical to your future. We're referring to credit reports, which summarize your history of paying debts and other bills, and credit scores, which predict risk. Both help banks, insurers, landlords and even potential employers make judgments about your reliability.

Why should you care? Because, in general, the better your credit history and credit score, the better your chances of obtaining a low-cost loan or insurance policy, renting an apartment, or qualifying for a job.

Important: Even a modest improvement in your credit file and credit score—which can sometimes result from simple corrections to incomplete or erroneous information in your credit report—may be enough to qualify you for a lower interest rate on a mortgage or credit card and save you hundreds of dollars each year in interest payments. On the other hand, if your credit record weakens, you may face consequences associated with becoming a higher risk, including an increase in the interest rate or a reduction in the credit limit on an existing credit card. "Whether you're an A-plus or a D-minus in handling finances, you want to have the best and most accurate report and credit score possible, because even small differences can cost you or save you a bundle of money," says Janet Kincaid, a Senior Consumer Affairs Officer with the FDIC.

Unfortunately, many consumers don't understand the significance of their credit history or the simple things they can do to build and protect a solid financial reputation. The more you know about your credit report and your credit score, the better your chances of making the smart decisions that will help you protect your finances and your financial reputation.

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