Creating and maintaining a good credit history is essential to create a successful financial future. Your credit history can help open doors to you or keep them locked. People and businesses will use this record of how well you kept your previous payment agreements to judge whether they can risk making a similar agreement with you. Cell phone companies, landlords, lenders, insurers, even possible employers often make decisions about your future based on your credit history.
The Federal Trade Commission wants you to know the facts when it comes to your credit.
How to Build a Good Credit History
Building good credit is actually easy to do - if you pay attention to your expenses. Follow these steps to help build your credit history.
New Realities, New Directions for Credit Card Holders
The new credit card law provides valuable protections but consumers must beware to avoid new pitfalls. Learn to avoid credit limit reductions, interest rate hikes on new balances, over-the-limit fees, and more. Also includes advice for seniors about reverse mortgages.
New Rules about Credit Decisions and Notices
New rules require lenders to provide new information to consumers under certain conditions.
Credit Scores and Credit Reports
An explanation of what contributes to your credit score and what the score means to you.
Annual Credit Report
This official government site allows you to request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Anatomy of a Credit Score
Find out what goes into creating your credit score.
Building a Better Credit Report
Learn how to improve your credit score, deal with debt, and spot credit scams.
Credit Reporting 101
Understanding and managing your credit report.
FRB: Credit Reports and Credit Scores
From the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, find information about credit reports, scores, and reporting errors. For information on changes to credit score disclosures, click here.
How Credit Scores Work
Find out about FICO and the Beacon system and get tips on raising your credit score.
Karma Count: The New Free Credit Scores in 3 Quick Facts
Brief video presentation covering the new credit score disclosure rules. Plus, check out additional links about credit scores and request a free credit score.
What's Behind My Credit Score?
This site provides background information about how credit scores are computer and used.
Your Credit Score
Your credit score shows how likely you are to pay a loan on time. Learn why your credit score matters, what good and bad scores are, the elements of your FICO credit score, and how to raise your score.
Credit Cards When you apply for a credit card, a car loan, or a mortgage the lender wants to know what risk they'd take by loaning you money. Most lenders use credit scores from the information service companies Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax to determine whether or not to extend you credit.
Accident Ahead: 10 Credit Card Traps
A guide to some of the problems that can result from making bad decisions about credit cards.
Choosing a Credit Card
Here is a discussion of credit card terms and other costs and features from the Federal Trade Commission.
Compare Credit Card Rates
Bankrate.com allows you to compare credit card rates, offers calculators, and gives basic credit card advice.
Credit Card Assist
Find links to sites which will help you choose which credit card is best for you.
Credit Card Repayment Calculator
Discover approximately how long it will take to pay off your credit card balance if you only pay the minimum payment each month.
How Credit Cards Work
Learn how a credit card works, from the magnetic stripe to how you can get rid of that high interest balance.
There is no easy way to repair bad credit but there are always people who are willing to prey on people who are desperate. "Rebuilding a good credit reputation takes time," says Jodie Bernstein, director of the Federal Trade Commission's bureau of consumer protection. "And there's nothing any credit - repair company can do for you that you can't do for yourself."
Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself
No one can remove negative information from your credit report. Learn to recognize credit scams.
Credit Repair Scams
Learn how to avoid credit repair scams.
Dealing with Debt and Credit Card Problems
Brief, factual information about steps one can take to repair bad credit. Explains how to avoid scams and what laws and agencies are available to provide assistance.
The Last Resort: Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a last-ditch solution to your financial troubles, subject to strict rules and requirements before, during and after. Explore these links for information about this legal option.
Ads Promising Debt Relief May Be Offering Bankruptcy
Debt got you down? You're not alone. Consumer debt is at an all-time high. What's more, record numbers of consumers-nearly 1.5 million in 2001-are filing for bankruptcy. Whether your debt dilemma is the result of an illness, unemployment, or simply overspending, it can seem overwhelming. In your effort to get solvent, be on the alert for advertisements that offer seemingly quick fixes. While the ads pitch the promise of debt relief, they rarely say relief may be spelled b-a-n-k-r-u-p-t-c-y. And although bankruptcy is one option to deal with financial problems, it's generally considered the option of last resort.
The latest changes to the bankruptcy law make it a bit harder for some to file bankruptcy. And a few filers with higher incomes won't be allowed to use Chapter 7, but will instead have to repay some of their debt under Chapter 13. All debtors will have to get credit counseling before they can file a bankruptcy case. And, because the law imposes new requirements on lawyers, it may be tougher to find a bankruptcy attorney. This On-line encyclopedia about debt and bankruptcy from NOLO Press, noted publisher of legal guides, is a helpful place for information
Before You File for Bankruptcy
The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 launched a new era: With limited exceptions, people who plan to file for bankruptcy protection must get credit counseling from a government-approved organization within 180 days before they file. They also must complete a debtor education course to have their debts discharged.
Consumer Education Center: Bankruptcy
Millions of Americans are facing difficult financial times. Total household debt is at or near record levels. A large share of credit card and home loan accounts are delinquent, and the number of people declaring bankruptcy is rising each year. Personal bankruptcies exceeded 2 million cases in 2005. Millions more will seek the help of credit counseling. This website sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute is designed to help consumers survive money problems, rebuild their credit and recover before or after bankruptcy. The information and links from this section can help you determine when bankruptcy is the appropriate choice (and what to do then) or whether alternatives to bankruptcy (such as debt or credit counseling) are a wiser course.
How Bankruptcy Works
Filing for personal bankruptcy is a serious decision, one that should be made after careful consideration and, if possible, with the advice of a lawyer. Entering into bankruptcy can help to alleviate your debts, but it will also affect your credit rating and your ability to borrow money in the future. So while it can be a good option for those who need it, personal bankruptcy should be a last resort after other alternatives have been exhausted. Learn more from this primer on personal and business bankruptcy.