THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Denied credit?

What you can do to help get the loan you need.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

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For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- You're not alone. Credit card companies are tightening their underwriting standards as they try to pare down their debt. Here is some advice on how to cope if you've been denied credit.

1. Get the letter

If you apply for a credit card and you're denied, you will typically receive a letter that lists the reasons why you've been denied. And if you're denied because of your credit score, you will automatically qualify to get a free copy of your credit report.

But don't delay. You must ask for your report within 60 days of receiving this notice. Keep in mind that even if you didn't get denied, you can get a free copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

If you don't understand the reason why you've been denied, or the reason is just flat out wrong -- say, for example, your credit report lists a delinquent credit account that you never had -- make sure you contact the issuer and get an explanation.

2. Get it fixed

Write a letter to the credit bureau and include copies of any documents that support your position.

The credit bureau must investigate your claim within a month. Once a mistake on your credit report has been corrected, you can request the revised version be sent to anyone who's recently pulled your report. But make sure you ask, because this doesn't happen automatically.

3. Improve your score

Paying down your debt is job number one.

If you've recently been laid off or are going through a hardship, call your creditors and ask if you can work out a payment agreement. Maybe you can get your APR lowered so it will be easier to pay off that credit card debt.

If you have bad credit, think about opening up a secured credit card. Its works like a regular credit card except you put down a deposit that acts as your credit limit.

You may also consider getting added as an authorized user on someone else's credit ... but make sure that account holder pays their bills on time.

And finally -- be very wary about your credit card statements. Now that credit card reform is headed our way, credit card companies may be implementing new fees, shorter grace periods and higher late fees.

Got a financial dilemma? Go to cnnmoney.com/helpdesk to submit questions, read the Help Desk articles and check out new Help Desk videos. And tune in to CNN's Newsroom Tuesdays and Fridays, when Gerri Willis and other experts answer your questions. To top of page

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