Then there are "educational scores," which the credit bureaus produce for you, the individual consumer, to educate you about your creditworthiness. Most free credit scores fall into this category. These scores typically employ the same 300-to-850 scale, but they use proprietary formulas for their calculations that are not the same as the FICO or VantageScores. However, they take similar factors into consideration, so they can give you a ballpark picture of where you're at. More importantly, free scores often come with information about which factors are helping or hurting your credit score. This can give you some idea of what you can do to improve your score.
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Your credit report and score play a big role in determining your ability to receive a loan, the interest rate you will pay, your ability to rent a house/apartment, buy a cellphone plan, and possibly even get a job or security clearance. The need is there, but what many of these companies don’t want you to know is that you can get a copy of your credit report for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.
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Improvement Requires Reflection: Reviewing your credit report will give you much-needed perspective, making it easier to determine what you’re doing right (g., on-time monthly payments) as well as which areas of your financial performance need improvement (e.g., high credit utilization). Both the good and the bad will inevitably affect your credit score, but they have to hit your credit report first, and they’ll be easier to diagnose when they’re there. WalletHub makes things easy on you by grading each component of your credit, telling you exactly where you’re excelling and lacking.
It used to be that your credit score was a big mystery, or you had to pay to see it. Now credit card companies can’t wait to show you your score, for free. But those three-digit numbers you get every month aren’t necessarily the ones lenders use. In reality, you have dozens of scores, some based on previous versions of FICO scoring models and others developed by the three big credit bureaus. And your score will vary by the lender’s industry—mortgage, auto loan, credit card, and telecom services.
Your payment history comprises the bulk of what calculates your credit score (35%), so staying on time with your credit card, mortgage, auto or student loan bills is imperative to keep your credit score high. Too many late or non-payments can do the worst damage to your score, since it tells lenders that you’re an irresponsible borrower and credit risk.
In today’s banking environment, the decision to offer you a mortgage or grant you a credit card sometimes comes down to one simple thing: your credit score. Based on information in your credit report (no, they are not the same thing), this numerical rating provides an easy way to assess your risk of defaulting on a loan. No wonder, then, that consumers are eager to find out their score – and if possible, for free.
Getting negative and inaccurate information off of your credit reports is one of the fastest ways to see an improvement in your scores. Since credit bureaus have to respond and resolve a dispute within 30 days (there are a few exceptions that may extend this to 45 days), it’s a short timeline. Especially when consumers want to buy a house, get a new car, or open up a new credit card soon and don’t have the time to wait to build good credit in other ways.
All those credit cards from college that initially hurt Chua, for example, helped him down the line. That’s because he never cut them up, creating a longer credit history and a higher average age across his accounts. Both of those numbers feed into the 15 percent or so of a FICO score based on the length of your credit history. A virtuous cycle develops when you have good credit, says Chua. More companies offer you credit, which raises your total credit limit, which means you can make bigger transactions but still use the same percentage of your total credit.
By law, consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 gives consumers that right and requires the credit bureaus to provide a free credit report upon request through a centralized source, AnnualCreditReport.com.
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.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, visit ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.