Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get a free credit report these days. But we could all stand to make some improvements in terms of how often we check and what we do with the information. So WalletHub convened a panel of personal finance experts for some tips and insights. Below, you can see who they are, what we asked them and how they recommend getting more from your free credit reports.
Your credit reports are broken into several different parts, and you’ll want to review each one carefully for errors and omissions regarding all of your key identifying information. This information includes your name, current and former addresses, your employer (if it’s available), credit card and loan payments, inquiries, collection records and public records such as bankruptcy filings and tax liens.
Joint accounts are meant to help individuals who cannot qualify for a loan by themselves. With joint accounts, all of the joint account holders, guarantors, and/or cosigners are responsible for repaying the debt. The joint account, along with its credit history, appears on the credit report for all account holders. When all payments are made on time, the joint account can help build positive credit. However, if someone defaults on payments, all of the joint account holders will see the default on their own credit reports. Depending on the severity of the late payments and negative information, everyone's credit scores could be impacted significantly.
If you already have a good-to-excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. When you refinance your loans, you take out a new credit-based private student loan and use the money to pay off some or all of your current loans. (The lender will generally send the money directly to your loan servicers.)
While your credit limit might seem like the number not to exceed on your credit card, experts actually recommend that to minimize negative credit impact, you should only be using 30% of your credit allowance. That means if you have a $9,000 credit limit, you should not exceed spending more than $3,000 before making a payment. This might seem a little counterintuitive, but the reality is credit restrictions like this are put in place to protect you. By spending much lower than your credit limit, you decrease your interest payments and ultimately your debt.
A good credit score ranges from 700 to 749 according to the FICO credit range while on a Vantage Score 3.0 you would end up at a B grade. You can check your credit score for free with Credit Sesame to see whether you fall inside the ‘good’ credit range. If you find yourself below the ‘good’ range then you can do several important actions to get yourself back up. First pay your bills on time, watch your balances, don’t go overboard applying for credit, live within your means, mix up your accounts, and finally, look into the future – credit history counts. With a good credit score range you will get a lot of great perks when it comes to applying for credit such as credit cards or loans.
Each of the credit bureaus hard codes their credit reporting systems to look for the “purge from” dates. As these dates hit their 7 or 10 year anniversary they will no longer be reported. Unless you believe that an account is being reported past those time limits, there is no need to remind the credit bureaus that an item is to be removed. It is done automatically. Still, it’s a good idea to check your free credit report each year to make sure that is the case.
A credit score is a number that rates your credit risk at one point in time. It can help creditors determine whether to give you credit, decide the terms you are offered, or the rate you will pay for the loan. Having a high score can benefit you in many ways, including making it easier for you to obtain a loan, rent an apartment, and lower your insurance rate.
Consumers who visit these free credit report sites will now be greeted with a large notice at the top of the page informing them they can receive a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. The link is required to be clickable, so that customers can easily visit the site without having to type anything into their web browser. The notice should read as follows, or similar:
If you reviewed your credit information and discovered that your credit scores aren't quite where you thought they'd be, you're not alone. Since your credit scores use information drawn from your credit report, your credit activity provides a continually-updated basis of data about how responsible you are with the credit you're currently using. At Experian, we provide information that can help you see your credit in new ways and take control of your financial future. You can learn more about:
Based off your score and the information provided by Experian, we’ll analyze your reports and let you know how you’re doing with your payment history, your credit utilization, credit age, new credit (inquiries), and credit mix-the five factors that make up your credit score. Once we do this, we’ll provide you with a personalized action plan that can help you build your score and ultimately, maintain good credit.
We will endeavor to comply with your request as soon as reasonably practicable. Please note that if you opt-out as described above, we will not be able to remove personal information about you from the databases of third parties with which we have already disclosed personal information as of the date that we implement your opt-out request. If you wish to cease receiving marketing-related e-mails from third parties, please contact such third parties directly or utilize any opt-out mechanisms set forth in their respective privacy policies or marketing-related emails.
Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is common among those who cannot handle their debt and need a way out. The way this impacts your credit score really depends on how your score was when you applied for bankruptcy, it will affect different ranges differently. If you had a good standing, your score will dip quite a bit, while on the other hand if you already had fair or bad credit, the dip won’t be as significant.
New credit scores have been developed in the last decade by companies such as Scorelogix, PRBC, L2C, Innovis etc. which do not use bureau data to predict creditworthiness. Scorelogix's JSS Credit Score uses a different set of risk factors, such as the borrower's job stability, income, income sufficiency, and impact of economy, in predicting credit risk, and the use of such alternative credit scores is on the rise. These new types of credit scores are often combined with FICO or bureau scores to improve the accuracy of predictions. Most lenders today use some combination of bureau scores and alternative credit scores to develop better understanding of a borrower's ability to pay. It is widely recognized that FICO is a measure of past ability to pay. New credit scores that focus more on future ability to pay are being deployed to enhance credit risk models. L2C offers an alternative credit score that uses utility payment histories to determine creditworthiness, and many lenders use this score in addition to bureau scores to make lending decisions. Many lenders use Scorelogix's JSS score in addition to bureau scores, given that the JSS score incorporates job and income stability to determine whether the borrower will have the ability to repay debt in the future. It is thought that the FICO score will remain the dominant score, but it will likely be used in conjunction with other alternative credit scores that offer other pictures of risk.
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.
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.