How many times have we all heard that you can look at your credit report (not look at your credit score, sadly) for free, once a year? How many of us actually do this? Certainly not me. No way.
To be honest, I think I was a bit afraid to see what was there. What I knew was that I had student loans that I should have started paying on sometime in late 2009. I also knew I had some creditors trying to get a hold of me, but goodness only knew what they were trying to find me for. If I ignored their calls for long enough, would they go away? (Answer: No. Bummer.)
All that said, I sucked it up, last week, and went to www.annualcreditreport.com. All in one place, you get to view your reports from the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Enter your personal info (name, address, social security number) and correctly answer some slightly bizarre verification questions (they tried to trip us up by asking about the mortgage on our reports — even though neither Gabe nor I have ever had one), and you get to look at your reportable debts. Remember to print to PDF or hard copy before you close out, though, because once you exit each agency’s page, it’s gone for a year, unless you choose to buy your full report.
I was kind of amazed when I looked at what I’d found. Yep, student loans. Also a couple of old, long-forgotten credit card debts, and one somewhat recent tiny leftover amount on an AT&T bill I forgot even existed when I closed down my account with them.
In short, I got a hold of the student loan collections folks and worked out a deal where I make monthly payments to them for nine months and the negative mark falls off of my credit report. The debt then goes back to the company I owe the money to, so as long as payments continue, all is well. I made my first payment last week (yayyyyy!).
The AT&T debt I paid off immediately via the agency’s website.
I found some mail I’d been avoiding from the smaller of the two credit card debts and discovered they were offering to write off my debt for about half what the credit report said, given I make six months of payments. Win! I made the first one earlier this month. The rest, I plan on paying off with my tax refund.
The larger credit card debt will get attention as soon as the smaller one is taken care of (hopefully next week, after the first is paid off), and hopefully they’ll also settle for a smaller amount, with a planned payment schedule.
We ran Gabe’s this week, while we were both home and feeling otherwise crummy. Short of a couple of small bills left from the end of his prior relationship (which will be paid off with his tax refund), his credit was nowhere near what he was afraid it would be.
After all of this, we may even *purchase* copies of our credit reports in a month or so, so we can bask in the glory of making so much headway with such minimal effort! Then, it’s off to apply for a bit of credit from our bank, which we’ll pay bills and buy groceries with and pay off each month. (And oh, man, how nice it’ll be to have an actual credit card when we need to rent a car, again! Renting a car with a debit card, no matter how much money is in your checking account, is a huge pain in the butt.)
Home ownership, you are more and more within reach, each day!