have-you-checked-your-credit-report-latelyWe all know how important our credit score is to our financial life. It can affect your interest rate on loans, credit cards and mortgages. Your landlord even uses credit information to screen potential renters. Yet only one in five consumers checks their credit report annually. Are you included in that 20 percent?

Of those who do annually check their reports, many are often surprised by the score they see. Maybe an old bill that you forgot to pay has gone into collection and is now showing up on your report. This can quickly become a big problem and lower your otherwise clean credit score by as much as 100 points.

Delinquencies account for approximately 35 percent of your credit score, so they have the biggest negative impact. By law, old delinquencies will fall off your credit report after seven years. Make sure you pay those off in full. If you can’t for any reason, try to negotiate a payment plan with your creditor or collections agency. Then, write to your credit agencies to make sure the settled account is reflected in your report.

It takes a long time to build good credit, so it’s important that you be watchful and maintain good credit. Be sure to look over your report carefully as mistakes can occur.  Look for credit card accounts that aren’t yours and payments mistakenly recorded as late. If you find any errors, notify your creditors or financial institutions right away and report them to the credit bureaus.