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Your credit and you; weaning financial woes

4 Dec 2009 | Cpl. R. Logan Kyle

Many have seen the TV commercials where a man, dressed as a pirate, sings about his financial woes due to his poor credit score. For personnel who find themselves identifying with a singing pirate, there are programs available that can help them steer clear of a financial shipwreck.

Sandra Little, a personal financial management specialist with the installation’s Personal `Financial Management Program, said there are several ways Marines and sailors wreck their credit rating.

“Having too many inquiries, high balances on credit cards and loans, missed payments, new accounts and collections on your credit report lower your score,” said the Fontana, Calif., native.

Lenders, such as banks and credit card companies, use credit scores to evaluate the potential risk posed by lending money to consumers and to mitigate losses due to bad debt. Credit scores are used to determine who qualifies for a loan, at what interest rate and what credit limits.

“Creditors like to see that consumers have no more than 30 percent of a balance on items owed,” Little said.

“Focus on parting with as much as you can on a monthly basis to pay off or at least pay down debt owed,” she continued. “Whether it's the high interest item you attack first or the lowest balance, pick one option and stick to it, while asking minimum payments to the others, until the chosen one is fully paid off.”

Most banks offer secured credit cards to consumers with poor or no credit history, which, if used properly, can also help raise a score.

With a secured card, a consumer must first deposit between 100 and 200 percent of the total amount of credit desired.  The cardholder of a secured credit card is still expected to make regular payments, but the card issuer has the option of recovering the cost of the purchases out of the deposit.

Little also said consumers should regularly check and monitor their credit report.

“Do not make major purchases, or apply for credit cards or loans without knowing your credit score first,” she said.

According to the Fair and Accurate Credit Act of 2003, consumers are entitled to view a free copy of their credit report once each year from the three major reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

To view a free copy of your credit report, visit the Congressionally-mandated Web site, For more information about the Personal Financial Management Program call 830-7342.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms