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.
There are different methods of calculating credit scores. FICO scores, the most widely used type of credit score, is a credit score developed by FICO, previously known as Fair Isaac Corporation. As of 2018, there are currently 29 different versions of FICO scores in use in the United States. Some of these versions are "industry specific" scores, that is, scores produced for particular market segments, including automotive lending and bankcard (credit card) lending. Industry-specific FICO scores produced for automotive lending are formulated differently than FICO scores produced for bankcard lending. Nearly every consumer will have different FICO scores depending upon which type of FICO score is ordered by a lender; for example, a consumer with several paid-in-full car loans but no reported credit card payment history will generally score better on a FICO automotive-enhanced score than on a FICO bankcard-enhanced score. FICO also produces several "general purpose" scores which are not tailored to any particular industry. Industry-specific FICO scores range from 250 to 900, whereas general purpose scores range from 300 to 850.
Keep the first secured credit card you received, even if you don’t use it later. This card will establish the length of your credit history. Most people choose a no-fee rewards card or a bank credit card as their first credit account, so it doesn’t cost anything to keep the card for the length of your history. You can see a list of good no-fee rewards cards here.
Understanding your credit score and how it is calculated helps you take control of your credit and may lead to lower interest rates and more money-saving opportunities. Your credit report is one of the most important documents in your life. Whether you’re taking out a mortgage, a car loan or applying for a credit card, your credit report has a huge influence on the offers that lenders will approve you for.
Each credit bureau calculates your scores differently. Experian uses the FICO Score 8, which ranges from 300 to 850. Equifax calculates your credit score on a range from 280-850 while TransUnion, rather than using a FICO model, uses the VantageScore 3.0 which also ranges from 300-850. The higher your score, the better offers and interest rates you’re eligible for.
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Another common question is whether checking your own credit report or score can hurt it. The answer is no. Checking your own credit scores doesn't lower them. Checking your own credit report creates a special kind of inquiry (known commonly as a soft inquiry) that isn't considered in credit score calculations. Without the risk of harming your scores by checking your credit report and scores frequently, don't steer away from viewing them as often as you need to.
Lenders are not required by law to report to credit bureaus but they typically do report to at least one bureau. This is why your credit reports might not be the same across all bureaus. Some lenders might report it to one bureau while others might report to all three – while others won’t report it at all. Check your credit score and credit report across all major bureaus to make sure that you have no errors being reported as that would be a much bigger issue than your credit reports in one bureau missing some information.
Internet scanning will scan for your Social Security number (if you choose to), up to 5 bank account numbers, up to 6 credit/debit card numbers that you provide, up to 3 email addresses, up to 10 medical ID numbers, and up to 5 passport numbers. Internet Scanning scans thousands of Internet sites where consumers' personal information is suspected of being bought and sold, and is constantly adding new sites to those it searches. However, the Internet addresses of these suspected Internet trading sites are not published and frequently change, so there is no guarantee that we are able to locate and search every possible Internet site where consumers' personal information is at risk of being traded.
After you’ve taken advantage of your annual freebies, use a personal finance site for frequent, ongoing credit monitoring. Monitoring your scores and reports can tip you off to problems such as an overlooked payment or identity theft. It also lets you track progress on building your credit. NerdWallet offers both a free credit report summary and a credit score, updated weekly.
You’re entitled to a free credit report if a company takes “adverse action” against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment. You have to ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice includes the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.
No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. You can ask for an investigation —at no charge to you — of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. Some people hire a company to investigate for them, but anything a credit repair company can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. By law:
As mentioned earlier, closing an account, whether done by you or your credit card provider, could negatively impact your score. Unless you dramatically reduce your spending, closing a card (and saying goodbye to that credit limit) will probably increase your credit utilization rate. It could also lower your average age of accounts when the card falls off your credit report.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report.) If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.