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.
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:
None of the other banks approved my applications, and my score went down from the very beginning due to the number of “hard inquiries” against my report. Hard inquiries occur when lenders check your credit report before they make lending decisions, and having too many inquiries in a short period of time can result in several dings to your credit score.
help guard against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.
Your credit score has become such a popular character-meter that there are dating services based on them. A 2015 academic study found that “quality in credit scores, measured at the time of relationship formation, are highly predictive of subsequent separations.” The research suggested “credit scores reveal an individual’s relationship skill and level of commitment.”
A: If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.
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.
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.
Alternatively, consumers wishing to obtain their credit scores can in some cases purchase them separately from the credit bureaus or can purchase their FICO score directly from FICO. Credit scores (including FICO scores) are also made available free by subscription to one of the many credit report monitoring services available from the credit bureaus or other third parties, although to actually get the scores free from most such services, one must use a credit card to sign up for a free trial subscription of the service and then cancel before the first monthly charge. Websites like WalletHub, Credit Sesame and Credit Karma provide free credit scores with no credit card required, using the TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 model. Credit.com uses the Experian VantageScore 3.0 model. Until March 2009, holders of credit cards issued by Washington Mutual were offered a free FICO score each month through the bank's Web site. (Chase, which took over Washington Mutual in 2008, discontinued this practice in March, 2009.)Chase resumed the practice of offering a free FICO score in March, 2010 of select card members to the exclusion of the majority of former WAMU card holders.
Mierzwinski says that another option to consider is a credit freeze. A freeze would allow you to restrict access to your credit report. Thanks to the recently approved federal banking deregulation law, the three major credit reporting agencies will soon allow you to freeze your credit for free. This law pre-empts states from passing stronger credit freeze laws on their own, though, he says.
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.
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.
Tip: Be cautious of websites that claim to offer free credit reports. Some of these websites will only give you a free report if you buy other products or services. Other websites give you a free report and then bill you for services you have to cancel. To get the free credit report authorized by law, go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228.
Also, be sure your employers are listed correctly, but don’t be surprised if you see out-of-date employment information. Lenders don’t usually rely on that data, but do investigate if you see addresses that are completely wrong (e.g., you never lived there) or variations of your name you don’t recognize. They could mean your credit information is getting mixed up with that of someone else, or they could be a sign of identity theft.
Make sure that you are paying all of your debt on time if possible. Doing so will not only improve your credit rating it will ensure that it doesn’t decline. Paying your debts on time will eventually open up more doors to better interest rate credit cards and other more attractive credit offers. You can set up alerts as reminders to pay your bills so it won’t slip your mind.
Credit scoring is not limited to banks. Other organizations, such as mobile phone companies, insurance companies, landlords, and government departments employ the same techniques. Digital finance companies such as online lenders also use alternative data sources to calculate the creditworthiness of borrowers. Credit scoring also has much overlap with data mining, which uses many similar techniques. These techniques combine thousands of factors but are similar or identical.
FICO, myFICO, Score Watch, The score lenders use, and The Score That Matters are trademarks or registered trademarks of Fair Isaac Corporation. Equifax Credit Report is a trademark of Equifax, Inc. and its affiliated companies. Many factors affect your FICO Scores and the interest rates you may receive. Fair Isaac is not a credit repair organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Fair Isaac does not provide "credit repair" services or advice or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit record, credit history or credit rating. FTC's website on credit.
A: A credit reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.