Two companies dominate credit scoring in the U.S.: FICO® and VantageScore®. They calculate scores from information in your credit reports, which list your credit activity as compiled by the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion®. If you have a good VantageScore®, you're likely to have a good FICO® Score, because both consider the same factors: Payment history: your record of on-time payments and any "derogatory" marks, such as late payments, accounts sent to collections or judgments against you. Credit utilization: balances you owe and how much of your available credit you're using. Age of credit history: how long you've been borrowing money. Applications: whether you've applied for a lot of credit recently. Type of credit: how many and what kinds of credit accounts you have, such as credit cards, installment debt (such as mortgage and car loans) or a mix. A credit score doesn't consider your income, savings or job security. That's why lenders also may consider what you owe alongside what you earn and assets you have accumulated.
A lot of people think that checking their credit score once in a while or just a short period before they apply for credit is enough to get by, and many others don’t even think that far. The truth is that you’re bound to miss a lot if you don’t review at least one of your credit reports on a regular basis. And that’s problematic because what you don’t know about your credit can and will cost you.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) made it possible for you to get a free credit report. Through FACTA you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—each year. You should take advantage of this ability by ordering your credit report and using it to monitor your credit history.
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One of the provisions of FACTA, passed in 2003 as an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), was a requirement that each of the three credit reporting agencies provide, upon request, a free credit report every twelve months to every consumer. The goal was to allow consumers a way to ensure their credit information is correct and to guard against identity theft.
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Lenders, such as banks and credit card companies, use credit scores to evaluate the potential risk posed by lending money to consumers and to mitigate losses due to bad debt. Lenders use credit scores to determine who qualifies for a loan, at what interest rate, and what credit limits. Lenders also use credit scores to determine which customers are likely to bring in the most revenue. The use of credit or identity scoring prior to authorizing access or granting credit is an implementation of a trusted system.
A Credit Privacy Number (CPN) is a 9 digit number that is free and legal to get depending on how you use it. You will commonly find high-level business or government officials and members using this number that allows them to protect personal information for security reasons. You still need to have a social security number, as the CPN number is not a replacement for it. This number is used for business purposes that can allow a business to build credit, while not affecting in any way your current or past credit history. You will still rely on your credit score for personal use and it will determine you ability to get loans and other types of credit once you apply for it.
Credit reports are maintained by businesses known as credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies. In the United States, there are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Companies that you do business with have agreed to send your debt information to credit bureaus (at least one of them or maybe all three) who then update that information in your credit report. Most of your credit card and loan accounts are updated on your credit report monthly.
You're also entitled to a free credit report if you've been turned down for credit because of something on your credit report, if you're currently receiving government assistance, if you're unemployed and planning to look for a job soon, or if you think you've been a victim of credit card fraud or identity theft. Some states even have laws that let you get an additional free credit report each year. All these free credit reports should be ordered directly through the credit bureaus.
Mierzwinski says that another option to consider is a credit freeze. A freeze would allow you to restrict access to your credit report. Thanks to the recently approved federal banking deregulation law, the three major credit reporting agencies will soon allow you to freeze your credit for free. This law pre-empts states from passing stronger credit freeze laws on their own, though, he says.
Some of your creditors and lenders might report only to one of the credit bureaus. And, since credit bureaus don’t typically share information, it’s possible to have different information on each of your reports. Ordering all three reports will give you a complete view of your credit history and let you repair your credit at all three bureaus instead of just one.
Credit reports include a list of businesses that have recently checked your credit history either as a result of an application you made or a promotional screening. These credit checks are known as inquiries. Your version of your credit report will show inquiries from everyone who's pulled your credit report, including businesses who look at your report for promotional purposes. A lender's version of your credit report only shows the inquiries that were made when you put in some type of application.
Only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law — annualcreditreport.com. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.