When a consumer applies for credit - whether for a credit card, an auto loan, or a mortgage - lenders want to know what risk they'd take by loaning money. When lenders order a credit report, they can also buy a credit score that's based on the information in the report. A credit score helps lenders evaluate a credit report because it is a number that summarizes credit risk, based on a snapshot of a credit report at a particular point in time.
When you open a new line of credit, a few immediate changes are usually made to your credit report. Most instantly, a new hard inquiry will probably be added to your report, and your average age of credit history could drop. Due to these factors, opening a new account is likely to drop your credit score in the short term. However, as you begin to diligently pay off your bills, the additional on-time payments, the higher number of total accounts and your now-growing age of credit history will likely outweigh the initial downsides, and your score can benefit in the long term.
The amount of credit you owe also affects your credit score in a big way. If your credit-to- debt ratio (how much you owe compared to your available credit) is low, your credit score will benefit, since it illustrates that you don’t rely too much on credit. You can figure out your utilization rate by dividing your total credit balances by your total credit limits.
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Just want to read your credit report without seeing your score? You can do that once a year, completely free, at www.annualcreditreport.com. The nice thing about this government-sanctioned site is that you can request reports from all three bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Because some banks use only one or two of the reports to make lending decisions, it’s always a good idea to make sure all three contain accurate information about your borrowing history.
A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.