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WATCHING THE TROPICS

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Checking your credit scores

When is the last time you looked at your credit report?
Your credit scores might be more important than you think.
   
One in every four of us have a mistake on our credit report.
That's from a new report by the Federal Trade Commission and that mistake could cost you.
   
Your credit score says a lot about you, so you have to keep on top of it.
Companies use it for everything from deciding how big a deposit you pay for a cell phone contract to whether or not to hire you.
   
They say how you've handled your credit in the past indicates how reliable of a borrower -- or employee, for that matter -- you'll be in the future.
   
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has five things you should do to keep your personal score in shape.
   
Always pay your bills on time.
Late payments drag your credit score down.
Don't max out your credit cards - your score goes down when your debt goes up.
   
 Experts recommend you try to stay between ten to thirty-percent of your available credit.

Don't open new lines of credit too often - try to resist the urge to open too many individual store accounts, or apply for a new card just to transfer balances at a low interest rate.
   
But don't stop using your credit cards altogether. They'll help you build a credit history - just try not to carry a balance or miss a payment.

Finally, check your report for those mistakes - annualcreditreport.com offers you one free copy of your credit report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus.
   
If you find something that doesn't seem right, file a dispute with the credit reporting company.