Being a Co-signer on a Personal Loan

Being a co-signer on a personal loan for a friend or family member is a very generous offer as it will likely mean the difference between them being able to qualify for such a loan and not being eligible. However, the decision of being a co-signer for a personal loan should not be made lightly. It is the responsibility of potential co-signers to educate themselves about how this situation affects them, especially with regard to their responsibility to the loan should the borrower default.

Most co-signers don’t realize that this loan is going to show up on their credit report. Keep in mind that this might affect your ability to get your own loan down the road as the personal loan you co-signed on will be used to calculate your debt to income ratio. It can also affect the interest rate you get on your own loans. If you feel it is a good idea to co-sign a personal loan for a friend or family member, do so with the understanding that after a set amount of making on time payments the borrower will attempt to redo the loan under their own name only. The more money you co-sign for, the longer you can expect to be a part of that loan.

Since the loan can both positively and negatively impact the credit rating of the co-signer it is important to set the loan up so that the co-signer can access the account information. This will allow you to find out what has been paid on the loan and what is still owed. Make sure the lender will inform you of any late payments or non-payment issues with the borrower as soon as they happen. Too often co-signers aren’t aware there was an issue with the loan until it has already impacted their credit.

While co-signing a loan for a friend or family member can be a big help to them, be aware of how it will affect not only your credit but your relationship as well. Nothing can sour relationships faster than money issues. It is important for a co-signer to look at the circumstances that lead to the individual needing a co-signer for a personal loan in the first place. If it comes down to simple money mismanagement, then you aren’t doing them or yourself any favors. However, if it is the result of circumstances they had no control over you may want to consider it.

To minimize your risk as a co-signer, don’t make it a habit of offering to do so for friends and family. The word will spread like wildfire with more requests heading your direction. If you don’t feel your own credit and finances can hold up if the borrower doesn’t repay the loan, then do not co-sign for a personal loan. It can be difficult to say no, but it is important to maintain your own credit rating as well.

You might consider having the borrower provide you with verification that payments are being made, including regular statements or cancelled checks. To further reduce your risk as a co-signer insist the borrower purchases personal loan insurance that can cover loan payments for a particular amount of time due to unemployment, illness, or death.

Co-signing a personal loan for someone is more than giving your signature. You are putting your financial history and worthiness on the line for that person. It is important that you carefully review the borrowers need for the money as well as their spending patterns. If they owe other people money or continually live beyond their means, walk away with a clear conscious. There are times that being a co-signer on a personal loan is the right thing to do. Only you can make that decision. If you decide to go forward with it make sure you can afford the cost of any missed payments, and that the lender is going to keep you informed on the payment status on the personal loan.

Disputing Credit Report Information

The information in your credit report can affect many areas of your life, so it’s important to keep track of what’s in it. If you find information that is incorrect for any reason, it’s your job to dispute that information in order to have it removed from the report. Only you are looking out for your own credit rating, so it’s to your advantage to pay attention to your report.

There are actually three credit reports: from Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. Monitoring all three of these credit reports is essential because the information can differ from report to report.

Follow this process to ensure your credit reports are accurate:

  1. Request your credit report. The fastest way to get a copy of your credit report is to visit AnnualCreditReport.com, where you’re entitled to receive a copy of each of your three reports for free once per year.
    • If you haven’t been following what’s in your credit reports, start out by requesting all three reports at once, because the information they contain can actually vary quite significantly, depending on who has reported what to them. The differences from one report to the next can amount to a significant credit score difference.
    • Once you’ve obtained and corrected past information in your reports, you can stay updated by spreading out your credit report requests to every 4 months. Simply request your report from one of the credit reporting agencies every 4 months, and over the course of a year, you’ll have received all three.
    • Of course, correct important mistakes in all 3 of them if you find an error.
  2. Verifying information accuracy. Comb over all three credit reports carefully in search of incorrect or inaccurate information. Any detail that isn’t right should be changed, even if it’s just a wrong address, because these pieces of information can have an impact on how lenders view you.
  3. Contact the credit reporting agency. If you find information that needs to be changed in your credit report, the next step is to contact the agency in charge of that specific report. It can take some time to dispute incorrect information, so the sooner you begin, the better.
  4. Writing a dispute letter. You can find sample dispute letters online that will give you a good starting point for writing this letter. Be professional and include all of the necessary proof that the information is incorrect so the credit agency can make the change.
    • Include copies of any documents that support your position. Do not include the originals.
  5. Disputing an item. Typically, the credit agency (Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union) will contact the company that reported the false information, and an investigation will follow to determine whether or not the information is inaccurate.
  6. Add accounts to your file. If not all of your credit accounts are being reflected on your credit file, then you may want to ensure that missing information is added. You can achieve this by contacting the companies that aren’t reporting your credit history and asking them to begin reporting for you.
    • Not every company is going to want to report this information for you, so it can take some time for you to have this information added to your account. However, if you’re diligent, you should be able to have the information added.
  7. Following up. Follow up on your requests if you don’t hear anything from the credit reporting company within 30 days, as this is the normal length of time for an investigation.

The power is in your hands to keep your credit report in good standing. If there is inaccurate information in your credit report, or if important information is missing, then take the steps to get the information corrected. Your next job, home, or loan may depend on it.