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Establish Great Credit

If you do not know what is in your credit file, check with your local credit bureaus. Most cities have two or three credit bureaus, which are listed under “Credit” or “Credit Reporting Agencies” in the Yellow Pages. For a small fee, they will tell you what information is in your file and may give you a copy of your credit report.

If you have had credit before under a different name or in a different location and it is not reported in your file, ask the credit bureau to include it. If you shared accounts with a former spouse, ask the credit bureau to list these accounts under your name as well. Although credit bureaus are not required to add new accounts to your file, many will do so for a small fee. Finally, if you presently share in the use of a credit account with your spouse, ask the creditor to report it under both names.

Creditors are not required to report any account history information to credit bureaus. If a creditor does report on an account, however, and if both spouses are permitted to use the account or are contractually liable for its repayment, under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act you can require the creditor to report the information under both names. When contacting your creditor or credit bureau, do so in writing and include relevant information, such as account numbers, to help speed the process. As with all important business communications, keep a copy of what you send.

If you do not have a credit history, you should begin to build one. If you have a steady income and have lived in the same area for at least a year, try applying for credit with a local business, such as a department store. Or you might borrow a small amount from your credit union or the bank where you have checking and savings accounts.

A local bank or department store may approve your credit application even if you do not meet the standards of larger creditors. Before you apply for credit, ask whether the creditor reports credit history information to credit bureaus serving your area. Most creditors do, but some do not. If possible, you should try to get credit that will be reported. This builds your credit history.