(Objective 2: Become familiar with the information on a credit report, how it is used and how to improve a credit report.)
Instructors may want to have this local info:
- Who to contact at utility companies for payment plans.
- Information on local energy-assistance programs and whom to contact to apply.
- Information from several local financial institutions on savings accounts, including required minimum balance to open an account, interest charges, additional fees, etc.
- Local financial counseling services available, including name, contact information, and cost, if any.
Provide Handout 7: Building and Improving Your Credit Report.
Suggested Introduction: Understanding credit helps you to build good credit and avoid pitfalls. You can have a good credit history when you limit your credit use to things that you can afford and when you review your credit report regularly to correct errors and make improvements.
Building good credit requires paying monthly bills and credit cards on time. Improving your credit is more complicated, but starts with checking your report for errors.
Review the handout as a group.
Depending on the participants in your group these may be important items to highlight:
- To correct mistakes, contact the credit reporting company directly by phone or on its website to initiate the dispute process. Follow up with a brief letter to both the credit reporting agency and the creditor. Except for correcting errors, a credit report cannot be improved directly. However, a number of steps can be taken to show landlords that you are working to improve your credit.
- Remind participants to get payment arrangements in writing. Often, a creditor will not provide a copy of the arrangements until a certain amount has been paid. Having a copy of the payment arrangements when looking for a rental unit may improve participant’s chances of success.
- To make a payment on a bill or judgement listed on the credit report, contact the business listed there. If the company or individual cannot be found or no longer exists, it may be possible to have the balance changed to $0 or to have the item removed from the credit report.
- Warn participants about credit repair schemes that promise miracles and often charge large fees for very little work. Ask participants to share their experiences, if any, with credit repair offers.