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Keeping Track of Your Credit Score It's time to give your credit report its annual checkup. If you find any bugs, kill 'em fast to help keep your business nice and healthy.

By C.J. Prince

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Spring is in the air, but before you turn to cleaning up the garage or weeding out old files from your office, it's time to do a hearty spring cleaning of your credit history. Even if you're not currently in need of working capital, forecasting business cycles is always an imperfect science, so you never know when you'll need a cash infusion--or when one of your potential business partners or vendors will decide to check up on your credit.

Since what you don't know about your credit history can hurt you, the time to assess your credit is before you need it. "We get so many calls from entrepreneurs in distress because they were denied credit and they badly need working capital," says Lathea Morris, co-founder of the Credit Alternative Group, a Montclair, New Jersey, company that helps small businesses and individuals gain access to capital. "One of the first questions I ask is, Did you check your credit report before you applied for financing? I would have to say that 80 percent do not."

Now it's easier than ever to get the facts. As of September 2005, thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, consumers in all 50 states can get their credit reports for free each year from each of the three bureaus--Equifax, Experian and Trans-Union--by visiting Since your personal credit history is inexorably tied to your business, you'll want to review all three carefully, as well as pay to get your FICO credit score, well in advance of needing capital. Fighting inaccuracies and repairing credit can take time, says Howard Dvorkin, president and founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, a nonprofit financial counseling agency based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "You're not talking a few days; you're talking a few months."

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