Improve your credit at UB

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The Spectrum

In 1949, Frank McNamara was eating at Major's Cabin Grill in New York City when the waiter presented him with the bill. After realizing that he had left his wallet in another suit, his wife paid for the meal. From that dinner on, McNamara promised himself that this would never happen again.

Cue the birth of the credit card.

In 1950, McNamara and his partner Ralph Schneider returned to that same restaurant. They paid using a small cardboard "Diners' Club" card, signing the bill and thus consummating his year-old idea.

The development of credit cards and credit history has created multiple advantages and disadvantages since 1950. Unfortunately, many teenagers and college students are financially irresponsible, and their lack of knowledge could affect them later in their lives.

With the assistance of UB's financial literacy program, one can become financially literate and thrive where others blundered.

"We started this program here at UB in January 2009 because there is a need for financial education," said Kellie Kostek, the financial literacy program coordinator. "Programs for financial education are not required… at the state level, yet it is just starting where high schools will require financial education for graduation."

Kostek stressed the importance of making intelligent financial decisions in today's credit card-saturated society.

"Credit is a fact of life for most Americans," Kostek said. "You can't get through life anymore by just paying cash."

Credit reports have become widely used as an identifying tool alongside interviews and resumes. Bad credit can hinder one's ability to take out a mortgage, get a car loan or even get a job.

"I really had no knowledge of the topic or how to go about establishing good credit or choosing a credit card," said Laurel Muldowney, a senior anthropology major. "College students aren't thinking about credit scores and savings accounts… [but] a lot of future plans depend on good credit so it is important to …[make] sure you don't get stuck in debt."

According to the Federal Trade Commission, information in a credit report can be sold to creditors or employers to evaluate if a person is suited to take out a loan or a mortgage.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that a person should be provided with a free copy of a credit report every 12 months. Annualcreditreport.com is the only federally authorized website to receive free annual credit reports.

Negative information on a credit report cannot be erased; the only way to improve credit is through time, conscious effort, and a personal debt repayment plan.

Identity theft has become a prominent issue. This year, Javelin Strategy & Research issued a report showing that a record 11.1 million adults were victims of identity theft in 2009. There are several national events being formed to stop identity theft from growing into an even larger problem.

To learn how to manage your credit and become financially savvy, visit cashcourse.org/buffalo for more tools, workshops and events.