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What Is Your Credit Rating Now?


If you have any charge accounts now, or have ever borrowed from

the bank to buy a car, or if you are paying on a mortgage, there

is credit information on you.  Up until a few years ago, you

could only guess at what your credit rating was, because the

credit bureaus who keep track of borrowers wouldn't tell the

borrowers anything!  But that's been changed through several

laws, and now the bureaus have to send you your credit file when

you request it.  If you've been denied credit on the basis of

their record, they will send you a copy of that record without

charge, if you request it within 30 days of the credit denial.

If you haven't been denied credit but just want to know what

your file says, you must pay a small fee to find out.


Why You Really Must Get Your Credit Report


It is well worth your trouble to obtain your report.  You may

well find (because thousands do) that there is a piece of

misinformation that is injuring you without your knowing it,

which you can straighten out by submitting copies of documentary

proof (never mail originals of anything important - it may get

lost in the mail) of bills paid, payments made, etc.


What To Do If You Are "Unlisted"


If, for one reason or another, you are not listed, or they have

insufficient information on you to "rate" your suitability for

credit, you must take steps to correct this.


What To Do If You're New in Town


If you have no record because you hold no cards and have no

charge accounts, or because you have just come  in from

out-of-town, then you'd better start assembling one.  It may

sound a little  ridiculous, but nobody will lend money to

someone's who's always paid cash!  You have to have borrowed

money or run up charges and paid them back to be able to borrow

larger sums as time goes along.


Start with the local merchants in your immediate area, the ones

that already know you.  Even if you don't need it right now, ask

them if you can set up a charge account with them.  In most

cases they'll be glad to oblige you, they already know you're

local, and that you patronize them regularly.  when you get the

credit, charge a few items each week, and pay your account

promptly when presented.  In this way, you'll build up a good

credit record with these merchants in a short time.


Get Your Bank In on the Act


Go to the bank where you keep your checking account, and ask to

borrow a nominal sum (say $500), which they are unlikely to

refuse you.  Do this even if you don't need the money, because

you do need the repayment record on their books.  Repay the loan

on a regular basis when due.  Do not accelerate, and pay it all

back the next month.  Strangely enough the banks do not like

that, because to them that indicates a "feast or famine"

situation, rather than a steady payer.  The interest cost on

this loan, even if you have no need for the money, will be well

worth paying to build up your credit record.  Besides, you can

minimize this interest cost by depositing the money you have

borrowed (assuming you do not immediately need it), in a savings

account, and collecting the interest, which will defray a good

part of the cost of the interest you are paying.


Once these charge accounts and the loan have been operating for

a while, proceed to stage two, and ask a large local department

store for a charge account.  Most likely they will be happy to

give you their charge card.  Build up your rating with them by

occasional purchases and prompt payment, and then you proceed to

stage three, and apply for the less selective national credit

cards, Master Charge and Visa, which you should a this point be

able to get without too much difficulty.


On the Road


Once you have national bank credit, it's easy to get credit from

all the oil companies, which makes traveling around a cash-free

pleasure.  Some gas stations take national cards like Master

Charge, but most only take their own credit cards, so you should

not overlook these, just because you already have others.


First Class With No Cash


Once you have all the other cards, a paid-up loan or two, and a

fine record of promptly paying your bills, you may be able to

get the most selective cards of all, the "travel and

entertainment" cards.  These are American Express, Diners' Club

and Carte Blanche.  These cards operate on a different system

than ordinary retail store cards, or the national bank cards,

both of which are revolving credit plans on which you pay a

small amount each month, until your balance is all paid up.  The

store or bank hopes you take a long time to pay, because they

make their money on the 1 1/2% monthly (which is 18% yearly!)

finance and, or interest charges.


The T&E cards, however, expect you to pay your bills at the end

of the month!  Let your account get 60 days or more delinquent,

and they'll cancel you out as fast as a flash of lightning.

Although these cards do not charge interest, they do charge you

a fee for membership.


Let Me Entertain You


So how do you get these marvelous bits of plastic that open up

the doors of exotic nightspots in Tangiers as easily as your

nearby Howard Johnson's?  Your good credit record, that you have

already established, will be the most help.  Since the T&E

people want you to pay your bills promptly each month, they want

to know that you have a steady record of paying bills promptly

to other people.


So first American Express, or Carte Blanche, or Diners' Club,

looks at your credit record.  Then at your salary or other

income.  Most of them have cut-off points below which they will

not grant their cards.  But even if you earn more than their

minimum requirements, they don't automatically okay you for

their credit.  They look at your stability!  How do they measure

stability?  How long have you worked on your present job?  If

you don't have a minimum of two years of steady work in one

place, they may not consider you at all.  How long have you

lived at your present address?  At your previous address?  And

do you rent an apartment which means you could move tomorrow, or

do you own your own house, which means you will probably still

be in the same place next year.  How stable is your livelihood?

Do people in your field of work get laid off frequently?


Now You Can Really Start to Live!


Once you have all the major national credit cards in your

wallet, you can live like the millionaires do, even though you

haven't yet become one.  You can go into a fancy store, or even

call them on the telephone,  and order those wonderful luxuries

which make life so much more exciting, like furs and diamonds,

for your loved one, or new furniture or appliances for your

living room, bedroom or kitchen.  All of this can come true in

the wonderful world of credit.  Now in today's world you can

charge almost anything on a credit card, from admission to a

nudist camp in Yugoslavia, to medical care at a hospital in

Atlanta, university courses in New York City, funerals in Los

Angeles, and even the services of legal prostitutes in Las Vegas.


Erasing the Bad Marks


But what do you do if you haven't been able to pay your bills

promptly, or you've run up more than you can handle, or you

don't have a very stable work history?  Do you have to give up

the dreams of credit-card living?  Not entirely!


Once you find out which credit conditions in your background are

the most troublesome (from the credit report you have already

sent for), you then start to create new conditions that  you can

then base your records on.  If you were out of work, perhaps you

can get a reference from someone you know who owns a business

and is willing to say that you worked for him, if the credit

card company checks your references.  If your bills are too

high, and you've missed a few payments, perhaps you should see

one of the free consumer-counseling services that are springing

up in the larger cities which will enable you to consolidate

your debts into a manageable amount.  Remember that credit card

companies don't care very much about the amount you owe, but

they care a lot about whether you pay steadily, every single

month, even if the amount each month is small, and the entire

debt will take years to pay off!


Don't overlook ways to establish good credit without buying

anything!  For example,  you have telephone service in your own

name, you have a record of paying bills to them which is then

part of your credit record.  The same for your gas and electric

supplies from you local public utilities.  These services, when

they are in your name, will show prospective merchants that you

do have a record of paying bills, even if you haven't yet

established retail store or bank credit.


Using Your Credit to Save Cash!


The world of credit has one more trick you should know about,

this one that actually saves you money right on the spot.  All

you have to do is carry your credit cards with you when you go

out shopping, even if you intend to pay by cash.  Then you have

to keep an eye open for the smaller, personal service-type

shops, where the boss himself, or one of the partners, is always

present (you'll see why in a minute).  As you walk in, check out

the decals on the door to see which credit cards they accept.

Then select your purchase in the way you normally would - taking

your usual care to be sure you're getting the right item at the

right price.  When the deal's all set, produce your credit card

(one of those you know he takes), and say "I'd like to charge

it, please!"  At this, the merchant's face will probably drop

about six feet, but he'll take your card and walk over to the

imprinting machine (or maybe to the telephone to check your

credit status). He hasn't got much choice, he has to take your

card if he uses their decal in the window.  But the point is, he

hates to, because he has to pay the credit card company a

percentage of the sale, usually somewhere between 6% and 10%.


Now, while he's vulnerable, is the time to hit him with a

casually dropped remark like "say, how about knocking 5% off the

price, and I'll pay cash instead?"  The chances are he'll accept

your offer, because it saves him the other part of the credit

card company percentage, and because it saves him bookkeeping

chores, and waiting from 3 to 7 days for his money to be

credited to him by the credit card company.


The reason why this gimmick doesn't work in big stores is that

the clerk doesn't give a damn what it costs the boss, and has no

authority to take an additional percentage off the price, so

he'll just go ahead and write up your credit card invoice.


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