Strategies for requesting your free reportsIf you order all of your reports at once, you’ll be able to compare them easily. You will be able to verify information common to all three reports, as well as distinguish the minor differences, such as creditors that report to TransUnion but not Equifax. The downside to this strategy is that you won’t be able to order your free reports again for a full calendar year. If this doesn’t appeal to your sensibilities, you can opt for staggering your requests. One of the advantages to this strategy is that you will be able to track and verify new information being added to your reports, such as new accounts or loans.
Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.
Here, you’ll want to investigate addresses you see that are clearly wrong — in another state, for example — 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, which can drag down your scores and cause financial trouble. (You can learn more about the dangers of identity theft and how it can hurt your credit scores here.)
Many people mistaken a credit report for a credit score, but they’re not the same thing. Credit scores are calculated based on your credit history. Lenders use credit scores to make a decision about extending credit and interest rates to the borrower. Your credit report is a detailed report based on your credit history based on the information lenders report to credit bureaus.
In the life of a grown-up, there are few feelings as anxiety-inducing as the moment when you get your credit report back, only to find that it’s not nearly as high as you anticipated. But fear not: there are a variety of perfectly good reasons why your credit score has taken a hit, and in this case, knowledge is power. The more you know about how your credit score operates and what can affect in, the easier it will be to get it back up to scratch.
The most popular credit scoring system in the United States is based on the FICO (Fair Isaac Corp.) range. This scoring range starts at 300 as the poorest score and goes up to 850 as the highest range possible, or excellent credit. Specifically, bad credit ranges from 300 to 629, fair credit ranges from 630 to 689, good credit ranges from 690 to 719, and finally, excellent credit which ranges from 720 and to 850. Other popular credit score range formulas exist, such as the VantageScore, which is what TransUnion, our credit score provider uses. It too ranges from 300 to 850. Checking your credit score with Credit Sesame is easy and can be done every month to see how your credit is performing.
You are not entitled to a free credit score annually, but it’s easy to get a free credit score. For example, you can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com, along with a personalized action plan for improving your credit. Every credit score is a little different, and even the same credit scoring model may produce a different result if it’s based on a different credit report.
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.
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.
Lenders use these reports to help them decide if they will loan you money, what interest rates they will offer you. Lenders also use your credit report to determine whether you continue to meet the terms of an existing credit account. Other businesses might use your credit reports to determine whether to offer you insurance; rent a house or apartment to you; provide you with cable TV, internet, utility, or cell phone service. If you agree to let an employer look at your credit report, it may also be used to make employment decisions about you.
Members of the 850 Club can be broken into two groups. There are the super-knowledgeable tacticians trying to crack scoring algorithms, and the naturally prudent. Some are prepping for a loan. Others are just credit-score hobbyists. Paul Chua, 40, who works at San Carlos, Calif.-based Helix, a startup focused on personal genomics, is one of the tacticians.
Risks: Overall, a student card can be a great asset for your teen to have in college, but there are a few risks to beware of. If your teen overspends so much that they max out their credit limit, they risk harming their utilization rate — which is the amount of credit they use divided by their total credit limit. For example, if your teen has a $500 credit limit and uses $400, their utilization rate would be 80% ($400/$500). That’s very high, and we recommend keeping utilization below 30%.
Risks: While a secured card can be a great way for your teen to build credit, there are a few potential risks. If your teen misses a payment or pays late, they will incur a late payment fee. Plus, they will also be charged interest on any balances that remain after their statement due date. That’s why it’s key to inform your teen of good credit practices, such as paying on time and in full each billing cycle. Autopay is a great feature that can help your teen avoid missed payments and interest charges.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three credit reporting bureaus to supply consumers with a free credit report once per year. Federal law also entitles consumers to receive free credit reports if any company has taken adverse action against them. This includes denial of credit, insurance or employment as well as reports from collection agencies or judgments, but consumers must request the report within 60 days from the date the adverse action occurred. In addition, consumers who are on welfare, people who are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, and victims of identity theft are also entitled to a free credit report from each of the reporting agencies.
Credit Bureaus Make Mistakes: Roughly one in four of us has a mistake on one of our major credit reports that is significant enough to result in rejection by a lender, landlord, insurer, employer or other type of creditor, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission. And if you do manage to get approved for a loan or line of credit despite this disadvantage, you’ll wind up needlessly wasting money on a worse offer than you truly deserve.In other words, taking a few minutes to make sure your credit report is accurate – especially if your credit score isn’t excellent – is an investment that could save you big in terms of both time and money in the long run.
An award-winning writer, editor and content strategist, Bob Musinski focuses on trends and issues related to credit cards and loans for U.S. News. He also has written dozens of stories for publications such as AAP News, Naperville Magazine and Natural Products Insider. He worked as an editor and reporter for three daily newspapers and an international wire service, where he covered events such as the World Series and Super Bowl and earned a national writing award from the Associated Press. His experience also includes planning and writing annual reports; strategizing, editing and writing for blogs; speechwriting; and strategic messaging development.
Anyone else may have to pay if they want their actual FICO score by visiting myFICO.com. The site offers single-time and monthly packages. The recurring ones run between $19.95 and $39.95 per month and include identity theft monitoring. The single-time package ranges from $19.95 to $59.85. Of course, the more you pay, the more features you receive. Instead of a credit report from one bureau, for example, you get all three with the middle- and top-tier products. You will also see scores specifically tailored for auto, mortgage and credit card lenders.
ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian® Company ("CIC"), which operates websites such as FreeCreditReport.com, ProtectMyId.com, and other websites we may add from time to time, may share information about you and other customers collectively, but not specifically identifiable to you with our parent company, our affiliated companies, and with third parties. This information includes:
To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.