Q: With a nasty divorce, credit issues and a 2000 Chapter 7 bankruptcy, I had to take a 21 percent interest rate on a new car. I’d like to refinance but I am wondering how long I have to wait to show that I’ve fixed my poor credit ways?

I don’t want to have a lot of hits on my credit report.

A: Ouch! Twenty-one percent interest on a car loan? That’s gotta hurt.

Your first move is to go online to www.annualcreditreport.com and pull a free copy of your credit history to see what’s being reported. You can get one free copy of your credit history from each of the three credit reporting bureaus each year. (East Coast readers have to wait until September 1, 2005 in order to start pulling a free copy of your credit history.)

When you do this, you’ll be asked if you want to pay $6.95 for a copy of your credit score. I think you should do this, because it’s the cheapest way to get the information.

Otherwise, go to www.myfico.com and for $14.95 you can get a copy of your credit history and your FICO credit score. In addition, if you go to myfico.com you’ll get helpful tips on how you can improve your particular credit score. For about $40, you can get an aggregated credit history from the three credit reporting bureaus plus your score.

The nice thing about pulling a copy of your own credit history and credit score is that it doesn’t count against you the way it would if a prospective creditor pulled your information.

Depending on where your credit score is at the moment, you will be able to make some calls to reputable car lenders to see if there is anything that can be done to lower your rate if you refinance your car loan.

One final thought: I don’t know if you have a house and if you have any equity built up. If you do, you might consider getting a home equity loan and using the proceeds to pay off your car loan. Since you’re already used to a large payment each month, you should continue to make the same payment, which should help you pay down your new loan in record time.

To do the calculations, either go to my website (thinkglink.com), or try the calculators at BankRate.com (which, by the way, is a pretty good place to start shopping around for new loans).

July 8, 2005.