Category: Financial Education

Credit Report Monitoring Services- Are They Worth It?

If you want to keep tabs on your credit report to catch errors, improve your score or keep an eye out for fraud, you might be tempted to sign up for a credit report monitoring service.

A credit report monitoring service tracks your credit report at one or more of the three major credit bureaus and immediately sends you an alert if any change or suspicious activity occurs.

Personal finance experts are divided about whether these services are worth the cost, but many say signing up can help some consumers. But it’s important to be able to distinguish exactly what these services offer, how much they cost and what you can expect in return for your payment.

The company we highly recommend and provide to our clients as part of our service is Smart Credit. Click Smart Credit to find out more.

credit report monitoring

Here are some tips to help you navigate the pros and cons of credit monitoring services:

The Basics About Credit Report Monitoring

Basic credit monitoring services usually track your credit reports at one, two or all three of the major credit bureaus –Experian, Equifax, and Transunion — and send you an e-mail, text message or letter, depending on your preference, if there’s an inquiry or other activity. Many also offer unlimited access to your credit report from at least one of the bureaus, tracking of your credit score, telephone help with fraud resolution and even reimbursement of some out-of-pocket expenses incurred while trying to resolve identity theft or other fraud.

Credit monitoring services can be helpful for spotting certain problems, such as if somebody opens a new credit account in your name using your stolen information. But they don’t necessarily alert you to every type of identity theft you could encounter. For example, if somebody is using your stolen personal information to get a job or a cell phone, something that wouldn’t necessarily be reported to a credit reporting agency, then credit monitoring isn’t going to pick that up.

Credit Report Monitoring versus Identity Theft Protection

For that reason, more providers have begun offering broader identity monitoring services that typically include credit monitoring along with other features — such as monitoring of public records, databases and websites for use of your personal information.

Total identity monitoring will check bank accounts for unauthorized changes to personal information and informs consumers of changes to account contact information or attempts to add new account holders to existing accounts. Ii also issues alerts for new credit account applications being made against your credit file so you can act quickly to resolve fraudulent activity.
It should also give you unlimited, 24/7/365 online access to all three annual credit reports and scores so you can check to see if information is accurate and up to date to better manage your credit, and help you identify important changes and see how your credit is trending over time.

Is Credit Report Monitoring Worth the Money?

Consumer advocates don’t all agree on whether credit monitoring, which typically costs $10 to $15 or more per month — a total of$120 to $180 a year — is worth the money. Some say it’s an extra layer of protection that’s smart to have, while others say it’s unnecessary.

Here’s our take. If you want to simply monitor your credit score and activity being placed on your credit report, perhaps not. However, if you also want to protect your overall identity than it most definitely is. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. Having your identity stolen without any protection or insurance coverage can cost you thousands of dollars to recover from.

If You Want Credit Report Monitoring Only

Instead of shelling out cash for just credit monitoring, consumers could simply get their free annual credit reports from the three major bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com and closely watch activity on their bank and credit card accounts. A consumer who wants further protection could place a 90-day fraud alert on his credit files or even pay a one-time fee to enact a credit freeze which prevents creditors from accessing the credit reports until the consumer lifts the freeze.

If You Want Full Protection

There are several companies that go beyond just credit monitoring and offer full identity protection. We recommend LifeLock. If you want identity theft protection only they have LifeLock Identity Theft Protection that we can set you up with for just $9/month or $99 annually. Or, for full coverage including credit monitoring they have LifeLock Ultimate. LifeLock Ultimate provides identity theft protection and unlimited, 24/7/365 online access to all three major bureau credit reports and scores so you can check to see if information is accurate and up to date to better manage your credit. The cost for LifeLock Ultimate is just $25/month.

ERA Credit Services

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How is a Credit Score Calculated?

People often ask how their credit score is calculated and why they have a different credit score from each of the 3 credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Transunion).

Nearly everyone has heard the term FICO and believe there to be just one way a FICO score, or credit score is calculated. That’s not true. The company that came up with the FICO scoring method (Fair Isaac Corporation) has actually released several versions of the scoring model. And, other models exist such as the VantageScore model. Then of course, just to complicate it even more the 3 credit bureaus use variations of each.

credit score

On top of that you must realize that creditors do not report to all 3 credit bureaus in many cases. Why? Because it costs them money to report to the bureaus. This is not a free service offered. Make no mistake. The credit bureaus are billion dollar companies making huge profits on being a receptacle for your information and selling that information to large corporations that want to advertise to you, and need to pull your credit report to evaluate your credit worthiness in order to sell to you. Therefore, a creditor may decide to only report to one or two of the bureaus. This will create even more of a difference of your score from bureau to bureau.

Don’t let all this confuse you. Keep it simple and pay attention to what you can control, and control it well. Here is what really matters regarding your credit score and the weight applied to calculating your credit score.

Payment History- 35% of your credit score

  • Current payment record on car loans, mortgages, installment loans, retail accounts, credit cards. What you are looking for is a “paid as agreed” status listed for these accounts on your credit report
  • Public records such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, liens of any kind, judgments, wage garnishments
  • Past due amounts listed
  • Any past delinquencies even if the balance is now current or the account is closed with a zero balance

Payment History Advice

  • Pay your bills on time or even ahead of time. Recent late payments can impact your score dramatically. Paying ahead of schedule can result in lower balances being shown on your report.
  • Get any past due accounts current.
  • Closing accounts with a good history may also impact your score. Think carefully before you close accounts.

Balances Owed- 30% of your credit score

  • The ratio of the balance you owe versus your credit limit on each account and in total will dramatically affect your credit score

Advice on Balances Owed

  • Keep balances owed on credit cards and store accounts low. There is conflicting advice on this but they should never be above 30%.
  • As stated above, if you pay your credit card payments before they are due and pay them in full you’ll be able to show a zero balance each month.
  • Don’t open new accounts just because you can. This can actually lower your score.

Length of Credit History- 15% of your credit score

  • Age of existing accounts
  • Number of recently opened accounts
  • Time since the latest account activity
  • Ratio of new credit versus established credit
  • Re-establishment of new credit following adverse payment problems

Advice on Credit History

  • If you are young and do not have a credit history dating back decades be careful not too open too many accounts quickly. This can be perceived as a risk factor.
  • If you are trying to establish or re-establish a credit history, open an account and use it wisely. Pay it off each month. Then open a second account several months later and do the same. Opening 4 new accounts at once is not a good strategy.
  • Stay away from consumer finance companies if possible. Future creditors know that they lend to consumers with less than perfect credit.

Types of Credit- 10% of your credit score

  • The number and type of accounts you have opened

Advice on Types of Credit

  • Because this accounts for a small percentage of your overall score don’t open accounts just to open accounts. If you have a car loan pay it each month. However, if you have a car that is paid for do not refinance it simply to have a car loan on your credit report.
  • It is good to have a credit card. Do not shy away from opening a secured or unsecured credit card account because you had problems in the past. Open an account and use it only for items you need anyway such as groceries, gas, etc. Then pay it off every month.

New Credit and Credit Inquiries- 10% of your credit score

  • Recently opened accounts versus the number of inquiries by potential creditors
  • Recently opened accounts versus the number of inquiries by potential creditors
  • Time since the inquiries
  • Time since account was opened

Advice on Credit Inquiries

  • The only types of inquiries you need be concerned with as it relates to your credit score are “hard inquiries”. These are inquiries you authorized to be made for the purpose of evaluating you as an applicant for credit.
  • Excessive inquiries in a short time can cause your score to go lower. If you are denied credit by one company do not apply at 5 more companies to see if they will give you credit. This will show up as potentially excessive.
  • When trying to buy a car, dealers may contact several finance companies within a day or two to see if they can find one to give you a loan, or the best deal. This can cause your score to go lower in some scoring models. Others give you a period of days for these type inquiries. Before walking into a dealer to buy a car go to your bank or credit union and see about a loan from them. If you cannot qualify do buy the car. If you can walk into the dealership with financing in place.
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Repairing Credit After Bankruptcy

If you are contemplating bankruptcy, have filed bankruptcy but it has not yet been discharged by the court, or if your bankruptcy has been successfully discharged, you are not alone. According to statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts over 1.2 million people filed for bankruptcy in 2012. However, you are also going to want to know how to repair credit after bankruptcy.

credit repair after bankruptcy

However, that may not give you a comforting feeling because your credit and credit score has taken a serious hit. It’s true that you’ll soon, if you haven’t already, be receiving credit card and other offers of credit in the mail because those companies know that you cannot file another bankruptcy for a long time. But beware of the interest rates and annual fees being offered especially from companies offering you an auto loan.

Fully Recovering From Bankruptcy

If you want to fully recover after a bankruptcy you can. But you must be proactive. Sitting back and waiting for the bankruptcy and the listings on your credit report from each of your creditors to fall off your report will not help at all. To repair credit after bankruptcy you want to work in two general areas as soon as possible.

Develop Positive Credit

First, you want to develop positive credit. If you can get a credit card (possibly a secured card) with a decent interest rate, do so and use it. Do not put items on your credit card that you cannot pay off each month. Buy your groceries and gas (items you have to purchase anyway) on the card and pay the balance each and every month. You’re trying to demonstrate responsible use of credit. There are other proactive steps you can take as well. If you visit
www.eracreditservices.com and fill out the contact form we will email you a list of several steps you can take to increase your credit score.

Repair Credit After Bankruptcy

Second, you want to go through the process of after bankruptcy credit repair. You should try to remove the derogatory items on your credit report that are dragging your credit score down including the items included in the bankruptcy. You may be surprised to find out that these items do not have to remain on your credit report for 7 to 10 years. If you request it, your creditors (the ones in and outside of the bankruptcy) must verify the accuracy of the listings on your credit report. In many cases, if a creditor is not entitled to any more money from you (as in the case of a bankruptcy, foreclosure, short sale or repossession) they will choose not to respond to this request. Federal law then mandates that the item must be removed from all 3 major credit bureau reports (Experian, Equifax, Transunion).

Would You Fix Your Own Car?

You can do this yourself if you have the time to learn how to do it and the time to actually do self credit repair. But just as most people do not fix their own car, or represent themselves in court, it’s best to let an experienced company go to work for you. Is there a guarantee that your creditor will let it go and not respond? No, but if you do nothing you will be guaranteed that these listings will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Repairing credit after bankruptcy is possible and very worthwhile. To find out more about increasing your credit score and repairing credit after bankruptcy visit www.eracreditservices.com , email info@eracreditsrvices.com , or call 619-492-3040 or 727-222-0120.

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Credit Repair Scams, Learn the Facts

When searching the internet one will find a lot of misinformation about credit repair and scary warnings about credit repair scams. A lot of this is based on half truths and comes from people that seem to only want to appear as experts on the topic but haven’t done their homework on the credit repair industry. I would like to clear up some of this and give people the full truth.

credit repair scams

Can a Company Charge Fees Before They Remove Items From A Credit Report?

The quick answer is “no”. According to the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) only 501(c)3 non-profit companies, banks, credit unions and attorneys may charge fees before performing service. However, a nominal account set up fee may be charged to a client by any company. The recommendation here is to check out the company you are about to do business with. How long have they been in business? Are they accredited and rated by the Better Business Bureau? Are they certified by the National Association of Credit Services Organizations (NACSO)? Do local real estate, mortgage companies and banks use them to help their clients?

Can Accurate, Non-Obsolete Items Be Deleted Before 7 years?

Another credit repair scams warning is that items that within a 7 year time frame of the date of the last activity on the account and are accurate cannot be deleted. The credit bureau must remove accurate, negative information from your report only if it is over 7 years old. Bankruptcy information can be reported for 10 years. However, if the creditor cannot or chooses not to verify the information they previously reported on a consumer credit report federal law forces the credit bureaus to remove it.

If the creditor cannot or chooses not to verify the information contained in a consumer credit report within 30 days it must be deleted. The provision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act that says that an item may stay on a consumer credit report for 7 years or 10 years is there to protect the consumer, not punish them. This prevents a late credit card payment or even bankruptcy from hurting a person for the rest of their life. It doesn’t state that it must stay on there under any circumstances. Many creditors choose not to verify an item on a credit report for a multitude of reasons. It is the right of the consumer to ask that the creditor verify these items.

How to Avoid Credit Repair Scams

In review, companies that charge for their services in advance of delivering them are not necessarily bad companies or credit repair scams if they are, in fact, nonprofit. It is important for the consumer to look into the track record of a company (for profit or nonprofit) through the Better Business Bureau and the National Association of Credit Services Organizations (NACSO). Obviously if a company has a poor rating or no rating from the BBB, or is not certified by NACSO then they shouldn’t do business with them.

And, items on a credit report, even though they are accurate, may be deleted from the report if the creditor cannot or chooses not to verify them. A consumer should exercise the rights under federal law to inquire about all items on their credit report that are adversely affecting their credit score and ability to get credit, sometimes get a job, and force them to pay higher interest payments and fees on their purchases.

Call Us to Learn More

This is what we do. We’re dedicated to this business. We are backed by accreditation and rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau. We are backed by a certification by the National Association of Credit Services Organizations. We have been in business since 2004. We are able to conduct business in all 50 states.

Further, we provide a no obligation, no cost consultation on your specific situation. Take 20 minutes and listen to what we have to say and what we can do to help you. If it makes sense let’s work together.

San Diego Office 619-492-3040
Clearwater, FL office 727-222-0120

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Dealing with Your Credit History Can Save You Thousands

Your credit history, erroneous accounts (not yours), obsolete accounts (past the statute of limitations), or unverifiable accounts (the creditor cannot verify the accuracy of the item), are costing you hundreds and even thousands of dollars each year in higher interest rates, fees and points on your home and auto loans, and credit cards. In some cases they are preventing you from even getting credit. credit history

Most people are unaware of their credit history. Some of aware that they have negative items on their credit report but are embarrassed about it or don’t know that there’s a legal and affordable way to remove them.

Steps to Monitor Your Credit History

Monitoring your credit history by obtaining your credit report from one of the 3 main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Transunion) on a regular basis is the first step. You can do this quickly, easily and it’s free! Federal law allows consumers to receive a free credit report from each of the 3 main credit bureaus mentioned above once every 12 months. We suggest that you pull one from each bureau every 4 months instead of all 3 at the same time to be able to monitor the credit activity on your account all year long. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com. This web site is listed on the Federal Trade Commission web site as the place for consumers to go to obtain their free credit reports. And, you should know that when you pull your own credit report it does not reflect as an inquiry on your credit file.

What Can Be Removed From Your Credit Report?

Once you have your report note any items that are in error (not yours), obsolete (older than 7 years), duplicated (items listed more than once), or are simply showing up as derogatory even if you do owe the money, did file for bankruptcy, did short sale your home, or did have that foreclosure. All these items can potentially be legally and affordably removed from your credit history. Yes, all of them!

If you have even one item on your credit report that fits any of the categories above it will save you for more in the long run to remove that item and increase your credit score. An increase of just 25 points on your credit score may allow you to refinance your car, home loan, or move your credit card balances to lower interest rate credit cards.

The Benefits of Cleaning Up Your Credit History

To encourage you to do this, look at the following example. Let’s say you have a credit card with a $3,000 balance and an 18% interest rate. If you were able to move that balance over to a credit card with a 14% rate (the approximate current average rate for credit cards), you would save about $1,000 in interest by just making the minimum payment each month. You could potentially do this with all your debt by removing those negative items on your credit report and increasing your credit score.

We’re Experts at Working on Your Credit History

You just have to give us a call, text us or send us an email. We conduct a free, no obligation phone consultation. It’s simple. If you choose to work with us it’s affordable too.

Call or Text
West Coast- 619-492-3040
East Coast- 727-222-0120
Email info@eracreditservices.com 

Or, visit ERA Credit Services Credit Repair

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The Fair Credit Reporting Act-Fixing Your Credit

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is administered by the Federal Trade Commission. In the 84 page Act there are provisions to address the issue of erroneous information listed in a consumers credit report. Basically what it says is that a credit bureau must verify the information a creditor reported to them if a consumer disputes that information. This should make one realize that information in a consumers credit report, whether it be from Transunion, Equifax or Experian, is not verified before it is inputted in a consumer credit file.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

By virtue of the language in the Fair Credit Reporting Act a consumer can dispute any item on their credit report whether they know if it is erroneous or not and thus make the creditor prove the accuracy of what they originally reported.

There is a timeline involved in which the creditor has 30 days respond to a dispute. If they do not respond within that time period the item in dispute must be deleted from the consumers credit report.

A Creditor’s Timeline Outlined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act

  • Dispute from consumer to credit bureau (Transunion, Equifax, Experian)
  • Credit bureau has 5 days upon receipt to notify creditor of the dispute
  • Creditor has 30 days upon receipt to respond with findings to the credit bureau
  • Credit bureau has 5 days upon receipt to update the consumers credit report and respond to the consumer

A total 0f 40 days

Taking Advantage of The Timeline To Fix Your Credit

Whether it’s considered a loophole or not consumers can have accurate items removed as well if the creditor does not respond to a dispute by the consumer. But to do this (whether erroneous or accurate) a consumer must have knowledge of the proper procedure to follow, the language to include in the dispute and, in some cases, know what dispute code to use relating to their particular dispute.

That is where a reputable credit repair company that charges a reasonably fee can be helpful. The company should have the expertise to continue the dispute process beyond just the initial dispute, give the consumer online access to the progress of their dispute process, and offer a guarantee for their service.

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