Back when times were dark and things were at their bleakest, that’s when she discovered the error.
Salome Buitureria’s credit was ruined. It was so bad that her application for a credit card got rejected. Wondering what horrible things were lurking on her record, she requested a copy of her own credit report just to see what was on it.
A mistake, that’s what was on it.
The same thing happens to 20% of us, you may be surprised to learn. One out of every five credit reports has an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.
In Salome’s case, she was being unfairly penalized for an old, unpaid medical bill she mistakenly got charged with due to confusion over her daughter’s coverage.
She got this eye-opening report from Credit Sesame, a free credit monitoring tool. Credit Sesame also helped her dispute this old phantom bill that was hurting her credit.
“It has a little link where you can dispute the charge,” she said.
With Credit Sesame’s help, she has learned to manage her credit better. She’s raised her credit score by about 175 points in two years, getting her closer to fulfilling her dream of buying a house with her husband.
Fixing the Credit-Report Mistake: The First Step
Naturally, a 175-point jump took more than fixing one mistake. In addition to disputing the costly error on her report, Credit Sesame also:
- Spelled out all her debts for her in plain English.
- Helped her make a plan to pay them off.
- Recommended the right credit card to help rebuild her credit.
That’s crucial for Salome and her husband, Alfredo, a U.S. Marine veteran, as they work toward buying a house. Unfortunately, bad credit has been blocking their path.
After they both got laid off from jobs a couple of years ago, their credit card debt spiraled out of control. Salome ended up with a credit score of 524, which is considered very poor. It’s virtually impossible to get a decent mortgage rate or even a car loan with that kind of credit.
“We couldn’t find work,” says Salome, 40. “All of our credit card payments just started backing up, backing up, until we couldn’t pay them anymore.”
Two things happened to turn their lives around. For one, they got new jobs. They’re both insulation workers at an oil refinery near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The other turning point came when Salome discovered Credit Sesame. It gives her a monthly credit score update, credit monitoring alerts, and — most importantly — personalized tips for how to improve her credit.
Salome was able to form a plan to pay down her credit card debts. “They’re less than half of what they were before,” she said. “Now that we work at the refinery, I make payments every Friday.”
It recommended a new credit card she could qualify for that would help her rebuild her credit. Her husband got one, too — it’s a Capital One Quicksilver rewards card that gives the couple 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
“I’ve had mine since last year,” she said. “We just use it for gas and small things, and pay it off every month.”
What it Means to Have a Better Credit Score
Over about two years, Salome has seen the results for herself. Her credit score used to be 524. Her husband’s score was similar.
“Now he’s at 701,” she says. “I’m at 690-something.”
They’re not alone — 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.
No matter your goals, it’s important to make sure you have a handle on your credit. Know where you stand — and check to see if there are any errors dragging you down. It could be the first step to a major credit overhaul.
As for the Buiturerias, they’re going to start house-hunting. They want a home base for their family. Both previously married, they have nine children between them, although only two of them still live with the Buiturerias.
“We want a place where the kids can come home,” Salome says, “where they don’t have to worry, a year or two down the road, ‘Oh, Mom’s got a new house.’”
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at Codetic.
Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.