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, after carefully reviewing your credit report, you still don’t understand all the information it contains, your first step should be to contact the credit reporting agency that supplied it. You should find a report number listed at the top of your credit report. You will want to use that when you contact the CRA as it will make things easier and faster. Contact the CRA using the phone number or address supplied on your report. In addition, you should find an address and toll-free number for the agency on your report. By law, they must provide trained personnel who can help you understand the information in your report.
When you apply for any new line of credit - for example, a new credit card - the creditor requests a copy of credit report from one or more of the credit bureaus. The creditor will evaluate your credit report, a credit score, or other information you provide (such as income or debt information) to determine your credit worthiness, as well as your interest rate. If you're approved, that new card - called a tradeline, will be included in your credit report and updated about every 30 days.
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.
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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.
FICO® Scores are developed by Fair Isaac Corporation. The FICO® Score provided by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., also referred to as Experian Consumer Services ("ECS"), in Experian CreditWorksSM, Credit TrackerSM and/or your free Experian membership (as applicable) is based on FICO® Score 8, unless otherwise noted. Many but not all lenders use FICO® Score 8. In addition to the FICO® Score 8, ECS may offer and provide other base or industry-specific FICO® Scores (such as FICO® Auto Scores and FICO® Bankcard Scores). The other FICO® Scores made available are calculated from versions of the base and industry-specific FICO® Score models. There are many different credit scoring models that can give a different assessment of your credit rating and relative risk (risk of default) for the same credit report. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO® Score than FICO® Score 8 or such other base or industry-specific FICO® Score, or another type of credit score altogether. Just remember that your credit rating is often the same even if the number is not. For some consumers, however, the credit rating of FICO® Score 8 (or other FICO® Score) could vary from the score used by your lender. The statements that "90% of top lenders use FICO® Scores" and "FICO® Scores are used in 90% of credit decisions" are based on a third-party study of all versions of FICO® Scores sold to lenders, including but not limited to scores based on FICO® Score 8. Base FICO® Scores (including the FICO® Score 8) range from 300 to 850. Industry-specific FICO® Scores range from 250-900. Higher scores represent a greater likelihood that you'll pay back your debts so you are viewed as being a lower credit risk to lenders. A lower FICO® Score indicates to lenders that you may be a higher credit risk. There are three different major credit reporting agencies — the Experian credit bureau, TransUnion® and Equifax® — that maintain a record of your credit history known as your credit report. Your FICO® Score is based on the information in your credit report at the time it is requested. Your credit report information can vary from agency to agency because some lenders report your credit history to only one or two of the agencies. So your FICO® Score can vary if the information they have on file for you is different. Since the information in your report can change over time, your FICO® Score may also change.
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Want to understand how to get approved for a mortgage or auto loan? Or how you can qualify for a credit card and get a lower interest rate? Do you have good payment history already but want to know what else you can do to raise your score? Our credit experts can help. We also offer you personalized product matches based off your credit scores, and give you lots of different options to choose from, so you’re in control!
Shortly before graduate school started, I visited friends in Iowa. When we were about to split the bill after dinner at a Japanese restaurant, I noticed that all my friends had a Discover card with a shimmering pink or blue cover. The Discover it® Student Cash Back was known for its high approval rate for student applicants, and had been popular among international students.
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It’s a good idea to look into inquiries from companies whose names you don’t recognize. While it’s possible they could be from companies you’ve done business with (if they report under a different company name, for example), they could also indicate fraud like identity theft, which we mentioned can bring down your credit scores. You’ll want to dispute any errors you discover as soon as you can to avoid further damage. Not sure where to start? You can learn more about disputing an error on your credit report by reading this primer.
Annualcreditreport.com and the nationwide credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email, see a pop-up ad, or get a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. It’s probably a scam. Forward any such email to the FTC at email@example.com.