“Employers are checking your credit to validate their decision to hire you,” says Steve Katz, director of consumer education for TruCredit.com, a credit report service. “They’re checking to see how responsible you are at managing your finances.”
Potential hire credit checks were once limited to positions in banking and financial services, but not anymore. “This isn’t something that’s just started” says Katz. “It’s just that these checks have increased in scope.”
Are such credit checks legal? They are. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 2001, your general financial history is an open book for any organization that wants to give you credit, insurance or a job. Though employers can’t see your FICO score or account information, they can find out if you have any tax liens or judgments against you before they make the decision to hire.
Most employers only use credit information to make sure you’re on the level. However, if you’re on your way to your next job, here are five helpful hints to make sure your credit doesn’t get in the way:
Keep tabs on your credit. It doesn’t take much to put a blemish on your credit history, so make sure that you know what agencies such as Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are saying about you. You can check your credit for free at AnnualCreditReport.com, the only online free credit report service authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.
Keep to a bill payment schedule. Skipping payments is never a good thing. You could lower your credit score and pay hundreds of dollars in late fees. Pay at least the minimum amount due on your credit card each month. If you can’t manage the payments, you can contact lenders such as Citigroup (Stock Quote: C), Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) and American Express (Stock Quote: AXP) and find out if you can negotiate a payment plan and an interest rate reduction.
Stick with the cards you have. You may be tempted to sign up for every pre-approved credit offer that comes through the mail, but filing multiple credit card applications over a short period of time can suggest you’re a credit risk. (And make sure to shred those applications before you toss them.)
Get a savings account. Living on credit is no fun. Worse yet, you’ll have to pay interest on all of the things you bought. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to rely on credit. Keep a savings account instead. If you get into trouble, you can tap into what you’ve put aside rather than adding to your debt.
Live within your means. Credit cards can make life convenient, but you may want to ask yourself if you really need that new Samsung 72-inch rear projection flatscreen television before you whip out your credit card. If not, you may want to limit your purchases to things that you need.
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