Credit card debt has a way of causing problems

Your Credit Score May Get a Free Boost Soon

Yesterday, reported about the “biggest change to credit reports in years.” But it’s not exactly breaking news, and it’s not happening yet.

We know, because we reported it last year. And so did they. Basically, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is forcing the big credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to fix credit errors more quickly and make them less damaging. It’s going to make it easier for a lot of Americans to get loans, and at better rates.

When the attorney general announced the plan in March 2015, it included sweeping changes to consumer credit reports, including ditching the automated dispute process (where consumers complained their problems were often ignored) and proactively promoting free credit reports for consumers.

What’s new is a potential date (July 2017) and a few more details. We can now expect to see most if not all civil judgment records (think lawsuits) and tax lien data removed from credit reports.

Research from VantageScore, one of the well-known credit scoring models, suggests these two new steps could help the credit of 11 percent of Americans. Because these changes are being made at the level of the credit bureaus, they will also affect the other big score lenders use, FICO. In some cases, it could be enough to help people get a mortgage.

Changes that are already in the works

Here are the big changes the attorney general announced were coming last year, as part of what’s being called the National Consumer Assistance Plan…

  • Humans. Mistakes consumers note on their credit reports are automatically checked by computers, and a lot of people think the computers suck at it. The AG says real, live people have to handle these disputes from now on.
  • A medical debt waiting period. As slow as insurance companies are with paying medical expenses, you will get a 180-day waiting period before the medical debt shows up on your credit report. This means more time for doctors, insurers, and you to sort out any disagreements on who owes what.
  • More free credit reports. You already get a free credit report from every credit bureau at but the AG says that isn’t enough. Not only should that link be more visible on the websites of all top three credit bureaus, you’ll now get another free credit report if you find something wrong on yours.

Managing your credit now

If your credit situation is completely out of whack and you can’t wait for these changes to kick in, there are many steps you can take to get back on track now.

  • Count everything. Go over every single piece of debt you have — credit cards, medical bills, and loans — to determine how much you owe. Do not leave anything out! Go over your highest interest rates and collections accounts, too.
  • Credit score, too. Free services like Credit Karma are a good way to keep tabs on your score often, but you should look into a credit monitoring service like this one.
  • Cut your losses. If you really want to pay down debt, consider ditching your the most expensive parts of your lifestyle, like trading in your car for one with a lower monthly payment or going carless. If you can swing carpooling or alternative commutes to work, this could be a major turning point in getting out of debt. Downsizing your home or finding a more affordable apartment, and getting your student loan payment reduced, can also give you more income and flexibility to take control again.
  • Finalize your best option. Whether it’s simply getting a credit card balance transfer, or enrolling in a debt management program, find the best option that fits your needs. Exhaust all options before considering bankruptcy. And remember, you can talk to one of our counselors for free.
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