* Scores only reflect a consumer’s own past credit history, not any personal characteristics such as age and gender. Over time consumers have the ability to control these scores; * A low score could not only cost a consumer up to thousands of dollar a year in additional finance changes, they can also result in a consumer being denied access to credit, insurance, electric and telephone service, a rental unit, and even a job; * Consumers with scores below 600 are typically charged relatively high, subprime loan rates. Consumers with scores above 700 are usually charged relatively low rates, and those with scores above 760 are charged the lowest rates; * The most effective steps a consumer can take to improve their credit score are: pay their bills consistently and on time. If they have missed payments, get current and stay current. Don’t max-out your credit cards or other “revolving credit.” Pay off debt rather than moving it around and don’t open many new accounts rapidly. Check your credit report to make sure it’s error-free; * Consumers can purchase their credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus for $38.85 by contacting Fair Isaac (myFICO.com) or individual reports from each of the three bureaus for $9 each – TransUnion (www.transunion.com), Experian (www.experian.com), Equifax (www.equifax.com). Source: Consumer Federation of America, Providian Financial

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