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TheStreet Open House

4 Steps to a Solid Credit Score

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- You really can't blame U.S. consumers for being at sixes and sevens over their credit scores.

Even credit reporting agencies don't have a great handle on the data they provide to consumers and creditors.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 25% of consumers had mistakes and errors on their credit reports, at least from one of the three primary credit crating companies -- Experian, Transunion and Equifax (EFX) -- and only 60% of Americans who filed a dispute against a credit reporting agency had their credit scores accurately modified.

That alone shows the value of keeping tabs on your credit score. As the FTC study demonstrates, it pays big dividends to manage your credit score properly. Consumers who do that have higher scores, lower interest rates and more cash in their pocket, the agency says.

To get a good grip on managing your score, use the following tips provided by Polina Polishchuk, an analyst and content manager at NextAdvisor.com, a consumer research firm.

Start by knowing your score. Job one is to find out your actual credit score. AnnualCreditScore.com offers each American adult one free credit report each year. Get it here.

Review your credit report. Take a good look at your credit report, and focus on your credit history, Polishchuk says. Review open credit accounts and note any closed credit lines, credit inquiries, late payments and collection items. "Though you may be surprised with what you find, it'll help you understand why your credit score is lower or higher than you expected," she says.

Correct any mistakes in your report -- right away. The mistakes 52 million Americans have in their credit reports are usually accounting errors or, more rarely, linked to identity theft, Polishchuk says, but you've got to address them all. Fix the errors by contacting the credit reporting bureau where the mistake originated. Each of the three major credit rating agencies have forms on their websites. Find the Transunion error correction page here, the Equifax page here and the Experian page here.

Create a credit score tracking plan. Polishchuk advises taking a long-term view and tracking your credit score regularly. A good credit monitoring services can help you do that on a daily, weekly or monthly basis (usually at a cost of $10 or more per month.) For a good review of the top 10 credit monitoring services, try this site out for size.

These are all simple, yet highly necessary steps to take to protect the integrity and accuracy of your credit score. Follow them, and relax knowing your credit score is error free, and in good standing.

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