Credit reports are confusing at best, especially if you've had credit trouble in the last few years. Suzanne Klenk from Washington State Employees Credit Union is here to help us boost our financial health, by starting at square one.

For more information about services provided by Washington State Employees Credit Union, please click here.

Here are Suzanne's tips:

Credit reports are confusing at best, especially if you have had credit trouble in the last few years, so maybe we could start at square one and shine some light on it.What is a Credit Report and what is it actually used for?

A.I like to describe Credit Reports as an adult financial report card.It is a collection of information about how much money you have borrowed and from whom.It also scores you on how well you pay back money that you have borrowed.

...and how is this information used?

A.The information is used in many ways, some evident, others are a surprise.

1.The most common use is to determine the risk of lending you money and to determine the cost of that interest rate.

2.In addition, some employers are now checking credit prior to offering employment.The thought process is that if you are unable to manage your finances, that you may be a risk factor for some jobs.

3.Also,insurance companies check your credit when determining your premium.This seems like a stretch to most, but the justification is that money issues cause stress and stress may lead to distracted driving. Also, being careless in finances may also translate to careless driving.

So it stands to reason that if you have had some difficulty with your finances over the last few years, it could be affecting your life in many areas?What can be done?

A.That is the beauty of it!A credit report is a living, breathing document that changes every thirty days.With some attention and corrective action, you can get things back on track in no time.

So, you say the first step is to obtain a copy of your credit report.What is the best way to do that? is the best and most secure way to obtain a free report from all three credit reporting agencies.Obtaining your credit score is not free.If you want that you will need to pay for it...about $15. But you can get an average of your three scores at It is a great way to get an idea of where you are at without it costing you any money.I personally have used it several times!

So, we ve pulled our credit and our score and things are not perfect and our score it not what we would like it to be...How is that score calculated anyway?

A.300 is the lowest score; 850 is the highest.Your individual score is based on 5 components:

1.Payment history (35% of the rating)

2.Debt (30%)

3.Length of credit history (15%)

4.New credit (10%)

5.Types of credit used (10%)

You say there are 5 simple steps to get your score up off the floor...What are they?

A.1.Make your payments on time.30 or more days past due gets reported to the credit Reporting Agency.

2.Payoff and close department store credit cards.

3.Refrain from applying for new credit for at least one year

4.Pay down credit card balances and keep them under half your limit

5.Check your credit report on an annual basis to check for and correct errors.
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