Joseph R. Lentol...
The Facts About Credit

A Guide to Credit Cards
Answering questions about credit
Compliments of
Joseph R. Lentol

Dear Friend,

Choosing the right credit card, maintaining a good credit rating and understanding your rights as a credit consumer, are all important to your overall financial well-being.

This brochure outlines steps you can take to protect your credit and maintain a healthy credit history.

It also has information that will be helpful when you’re determining which credit card is best suited to your needs.

To find out more, call the numbers listed in this brochure or contact my office.

Joseph R. Lentol

Albany Office:
Room 632 LOB, Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-4477

District Office:
619 Lorimer Street
1st Floor Storefront
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 383-7474


Credit Questions and Answers
What is a credit report?

A credit report is a snapshot of your financial history. Creditors use it to determine your ability to pay your debts. To get a copy of your report, contact your local credit bureau or the bureaus listed on the back of this brochure.

There may be a fee of $5 to $20 for your credit report. However, you are entitled to a free copy if you’ve been denied credit within the past 30 days.

. How can I correct an inaccurate report?

  • Notify the credit bureau about errors on your report.
  • Provide as much information as you can about the mistakes in your report.
  • The bureau must reinvestigate your claims at no charge.
  • The credit bureau must correct any information it cannot confirm.
  • Contact the creditor directly to ensure that their records are accurate.
  • The credit bureau must send corrected copies to anyone who received an incorrect version in the past year.
How can I repair bad credit?

First, ignore claims like these:

  • "Credit problems? No problem!"
  • "Erase bad credit fast!"
  • "100% guarantee you’ll get credit!"
  • In fact, you can do everything so-called "credit repair" companies can do — without paying $50 to $1,000.

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for a poor credit history, because:

  • Credit bureaus can legally report accurate negative information for seven years (10 years if you’ve claimed bankruptcy).
  • Accurate items within the reporting period cannot be erased by credit repair companies.
  • Only time can mend a poor credit history — even if credit problems were related to an illness or unemployment.
  • Information can only be changed on your credit report if items are wrong or beyond the reporting period.
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act ensures all consumers are given an equal chance to receive credit. It is illegal for creditors to discriminate against applicants on the basis of sex, marital status, race, national origin, religion, age or because they receive public assistance.

Under the law, a creditor may not ask for information about your spouse unless the information is directly involved in the credit check. Nor can they ask about plans to have or raise children or if you receive alimony, child support or separate maintenance payments.

When making a decision about granting credit, a creditor cannot consider whether you have a telephone listing. Creditors are not allowed to consider the race of people who live in the neighborhood where you want to buy or improve a house with the borrowed money. Creditors can consider your age if you’re under 18 or nearing retirement, when your income may be reduced.

Did you know?
  • Merchants are prohibited from writing credit card numbers on checks.
  • Merchants cannot require personal information, such as your address and telephone number, on your credit card receipts.
  • Credit card applications must state their terms.
  • Your liability is limited to $50 when your card is stolen or used without your permission and you report it.
  • State law protects consumers from unknown or unauthorized credit card use.
  • You have 60 days to send written notification of a credit card error to the issuer.

Shopping for a credit card

  • Determine your needs.
  • Compare interest rates.
  • Avoid credit card cash advances, which usually carry much higher interest rates.
  • Check out grace periods.
  • Determine how the balance is figured.
  • Avoid gimmicks, such as purchase protection insurance and hotel discounts.
  • Be wary of credit card "Protection Plans" -- federal law already limits consumer liability for unauthorized use of your card.
  • Shop around for a credit card.

The State Banking Department publishes the NYS Banking Dept. Credit Card Survey which lists the interest rates and fees of credit cards. You can request a copy by calling 800-522-3330.

Protection for credit buyers

In order to prevent credit card fraud, you should always:

  • Sign your new card.
  • Keep your credit cards separate from your wallet.
  • Draw a line through blank spaces on your credit card receipts.
  • Destroy all carbons or incorrect receipts.
  • Report any questionable charges promptly and in writing to the card issuer.
  • Never give your card number over the phone unless you know the company or initiated the call.
Additional protection for New York consumers

The Omnibus Consumer Protection and Bank Deregulation Act of 1994 provides additional protection to New York State consumers who select credit cards issued by banks here.

The law requires banks to offer the choice of variable and fixed-rate products. Pre-approved solicitations and "teaser rates" must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.

To Learn More...
***Click here for printable view.***

  • To find out more information about a credit card:

    NYS Banking Department

  • If you are having trouble managing your credit:

    National Foundation for Credit Counseling

  • To order a copy of your credit report, contact either of the following credit bureaus:


    Equifax Services