Keeping Your Credit Clean

Written by Posted On Thursday, 15 November 2007 16:00

Many homebuyers frequently wonder, "If I am shopping for a home loan will my credit be affected each time a credit report inquiry is made?"

It's a logical and intelligent question to ask; the answer is: not significantly, if the credit checks are done in a short period of time.

When a credit check is made by a potential lender it is called a hard inquiry. When a hard inquiry occurs it does have an impact on your credit score. However, when you're shopping for a mortgage or a car loan, credit bureaus typically cluster the hard inquiries together because the credit reporting bureaus understand that the consumer is shopping for the best loan.

"So for example, if you're shopping for a new mortgage and three potential lenders pull your credit score within three weeks, that is looked at as one inquiry for that purpose," says Steven Katz a spokesperson for TransUnion's

Keeping your credit clean is critical. Katz offers the following advice to help ensure healthy credit.

One card you should not carry: Leave your Social Security card at home. "There is basically no reason that you need to [carry] that with you," says Katz.

Most people have their Social Security card number memorized. If you're not one of those people, then only carry your card with you when you know you need the information on it. Your Social Security card number contains personal information that if it gets into the wrong hands, can cause major credit dilemmas.

Lock it up: Apartment complexes and condominiums typically have locking mailboxes, but these types of secure mailboxes aren't as common in residential, single-family neighborhoods.

"If at all possible, people should have a locking mailbox," says Katz.

Katz says mailboxes with locking devices are becoming more popular at hardware stores because identity theft is spreading. Taking precaution to protect your personal information can save you months of agony.

Shred your documents: Katz says if you don't shred your personal documents and criminals access the information, the result can be devastating to your credit. Criminals will often attempt to open new accounts using your name and information. If they're successful, they will use the new account and divert the account information to the criminals' address or post office box.

"So, you'll never even know that the account was established. They'll be receiving the bills and then just throwing them out. It's ruining your credit." explains Katz.

Keep an eye on your credit card: Katz says while it is difficult, people should not let their credit card out of their sight or else they run the risk of becoming a victim of skimming.

Skimming has become prevalent at some restaurants and gas stations where a clerk might have a small device that scans the consumer's credit card.

"It's a very small scanner that captures all the information that is on the magnetic strip, and then the card's information can be cloned," explains Katz.

Of course, keeping your credit card visible at all times is nearly impossible. Katz says, "If you're going to go to a restaurant in an area that you're a little uncertain of -- that's in a fringe area or you're in a foreign country and you're not too certain about where you're dining -- attempt to use cash."

Also, when using credit cards be sure that the receipt you leave with the merchant does not have your credit card number exposed. Most merchants have credit card systems that only print out the last four digits of a consumer's credit card; however, some still show the entire account number on the print out. If your full credit card account number appears on the receipt, scratch it out with a pen. Additionally, in rare cases where carbon copies are used, ask for the carbon.

Check your credit history

Consumers can check their credit history for free once a year at . Katz says that the free reports will not contain an actual credit score, but you can get the scores for a fee.

Another good credit-checking resource is found at . The website offers access to tools to manage a consumer's credit health by receiving credit reports, credit scores, credit monitoring, and informational materials.

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Phoebe Chongchua

Phoebe Chongchua is an award-winning journalist, an author, customer service trainer/speaker, and founder of Setting the Service Standard, a customer service training and consulting program offered by Live Fit Enterprises (LFE) based in San Diego, California. She is the publisher of Live Fit Magazine, an online publication that features information on real estate/finance, physical fitness, travel, and philanthropy. Her company, LFE, specializes in media services including marketing, PR, writing, commercials, corporate videos, customer service training, and keynotes & seminars. Visit her magazine website:

Phoebe's articles, feature stories, and columns appear in various publications including The Coast News, Del Mar Village Voice, Rancho Santa Fe Review, and Today's Local News in San Diego, as well as numerous Internet sites. She holds a California real estate license. Phoebe worked for KGTV/10News in San Diego as a Newscaster, Reporter and Community Affairs Specialist for more than a decade. Phoebe's writing is also featured in Donald Trump's book: The Best Real Estate Advice I Ever Received and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying Foreclosures. She is the author of If the Trash Stinks, TAKE IT OUT! 14 Worriless Principles for Your Success.

Contact Phoebe at (858) 259-3646 or [email protected]. Visit for more information.

Realty Times

From buying and selling advice for consumers to money-making tips for Agents, our content, updated daily, has made Realty Times® a must-read, and see, for anyone involved in Real Estate.