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.
Nothing in the scoring models suggest that carrying credit card debt month to month is beneficial. It is totally possible to establish a good credit score by paying off your credit card on time and in full every month. Don’t plan to pay interest — in other words, don’t pay just the minimum payment — to build your credit score. It won’t help with your score, and it will cost you a staggering interest payment.
Accordingly, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion created the joint venture company Central Source LLC to oversee their compliance with FACTA. Central Source then set up a toll free telephone number, a mailing address and a central website, AnnualCreditReport.com, to process consumer requests. Access to the free report was initially rolled out in stages, based on the consumer’s state of residence. By the end of 2005 all U.S. consumers could use these services to obtain a credit report.
Yet credit tracking companies have deftly maneuvered around those notifications. Freecreditreport.com, perhaps the most well-known of these firms, began offering credit scores for $1 (which it gives to charity) in order to avoid the FTC rule. Consumers who request their score receive a trial subscription to the Experian Credit Tracker service. If they don’t cancel it within seven days, they’re charged $21.95 a month.
If your debt feels overwhelming, it may be valuable to seek out the services of a reputable credit counseling service. Many are non-profit and charge small or no fees for their services. You can review more information on selecting the right reputable credit counselor for you from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Credit counselors can help you develop a Debt Management Plan (or DMP) and can negotiate to reduce your monthly payments. In many cases, you'll be responsible for only one monthly payment to the credit counseling service, which will then disburse funds to all of the accounts you owe on.
Credit reports include personal information such as current and previous addresses, Social Security numbers and employment history. These reports also include a credit history summary such as the number and type of accounts that are past due or in good standing, and detailed account information related to high balances, credit limits and the date accounts were opened. Credit reports list credit inquiries and details of accounts turned over to credit agencies such as information about liens and wage garnishments. Generally, credit reports retain negative information for seven years, while bankruptcy filings typically stay on credit reports for about 10 years.
Some 200 million U.S. consumers have FICO credit scores, while just under 3 million, or about 1.4 percent, have perfect 850s. That’s according to Fair Isaac Corp., the company behind the 28-year-old scoring model used by lenders to predict whether you will pay back a loan. But over the years the number has become much more than that—it’s now an American totem of success or failure, hope or despair, security or risk. While there are competing models, almost anyone with a credit card knows that a number typically ranging between 300 and 850 holds huge sway over their financial life.
Chua had an 850 score for about two months, he says, but it dropped to the 800s because he applied for a few rewards cards. Trying to get multiple cards in a fairly short period is interpreted as a sign of potential financial trouble, but if you’re looking for a big-ticket item like a mortgage, scoring algorithms will assume you’re only trying to buy one house when several lenders check you out.
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Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.