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There are three main companies that compile credit reports: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. They typically don’t share information with each other, and the data each one collects and reports may be different as a result. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your reports with each of these agencies so you know where you stand. You can get your credit reports free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com and access two of your free credit scores with updates every month, here on Credit.com. Checking your scores will not harm them in any way, nor will looking at your reports.
But what these commercials aren't telling you is that the scores you're seeing aren't the same ones lenders are looking at. This doesn't mean they're worthless, but you have to understand exactly what you're getting so you aren't misled into thinking that your score is much higher or lower than it actually is. Here are the most important things you should know.
Remember when we said credit reports are compiled when requested? That means your credit report includes the latest information reported by your lenders. If your lender hasn’t reported you paid your balance off yet, for example, the last balance reported will show up. It may take up to 30 days for your current balance to be reported. (And by then, it may have changed again.) Also remember that some accounts, like medical bills, are only likely to show up on your credit reports if they have been turned over to collections. Because reporting accounts is voluntary, you may not see all of your loans on your reports or only appear on some reports and not others.
Even if you feel that you have good credit and are in a good position financially, you should still obtain your individual credit file annually, so you can comb through it and catch any potential problems that the reporting agencies may not have caught regarding identity theft or fraud. Looking for signs of identity theft is just as important as your actual credit report and scores.
If your credit score is between 750 and 800, you have a long and distinguished credit history that shows a responsible payment history and the ability to handle multiple types of credit responsibly. As a matter of fact, for the most part, you are regarded in the same standard as borrowers with excellent credit history, with the exception that you may have a higher debt-to-income ratio.
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.
If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.

Be patient – After reviewing your reason codes you may realize that a plan to rebuild your scores may take longer than you’d like. A low score caused by delinquencies will take time to rebuild because delinquencies stay on your credit files for years. However, as these delinquencies age, their impact on your scores will lessen and your scores will increase as long as you now manage your credit well and pay accounts on time.
Still, if you don’t recognize the name of a company listed on your credit reports, it’s worth investigating. After all, inquiries or accounts with companies you don’t recognize can be an early indication of identity theft. Full contact information for each company should be listed on your credit report so that you can contact them directly. If not, ask the CRA for that information.
What is a credit score, and what is the difference among the three credit reporting agency (CRA) credit scores? A credit score is a three digit number, typically between 300 and 850, which is designed to represent your credit risk, or the likelihood you will pay your bills on time. A credit score is calculated based on a method using the content of your consumer file.
After getting approved for refinancing, the new loan may be reported to the credit bureaus, which could lower your average age of accounts. Your other loans will be paid off, but they could stay on your credit reports for up to 10 more years. Your overall installment-loan debt will stay the same, and as long as you continue to make on-time payments, your score may improve over time.
In most cases, the easiest way to determine the health of your credit is to look at your credit score, a numerical value that reflects a mathematical analysis of your debt, your payment history, the existence of liens or other judgments, and other statistical data collected by the credit bureaus. In other words, your credit score is the compact, simplified version of your entire credit history, all rolled up into one tidy three-digit number.
If you are sitting at fair credit then you are right between bad and good credit. This usually means that you are between the low and mid 600’s. At this credit score range you will have a lot more options available than those with bad credit score ranges. At this point you can start applying for mortgages which typically begin at the score of 620. Auto loans are quite common in this range as well. When it comes to credit cards you begin to have a lot more options as well but not quite to the point where you can enjoy 0% interest rates or high rewards. At this point the most ideal option is to continue to push for a good credit score to open up even more options when it comes to mortgages, loans, credit cards, and more.
If the applicant is declined for credit, the lender is not obliged to reveal the exact reason why. However industry associations including the Finance and Leasing Association oblige their members to provide a satisfactory reason. Credit-bureau data sharing agreements also require that an applicant declined based on credit-bureau data is told that this is the reason and the address of the credit bureau must be provided.
Remember, each credit bureau uses a different credit scoring model and your reports may look different. This is because creditors are not required to furnish information to any or all three of the credit bureaus, so you may see one account show up on Equifax that isn’t being reported to either TransUnion or Experian (or any combination). That’s why it’s a good idea to get your annual credit report each year from the credit bureaus so that you can stay on top of what’s reporting.
Credit bureaus also often re-sell FICO scores directly to consumers, often a general-purpose FICO 8 score. Previously, the credit bureaus also sold their own credit scores which they developed themselves, and which did not require payment to FICO to utilize: Equifax's RISK score and Experian's PLUS score. However, as of 2018, these scores are no longer sold by the credit bureaus. Trans Union offers a Vantage 3.0 score for sale to consumers, which is a version of the VantageScore credit score. In addition, many large lenders, including the major credit card issuers, have developed their own proprietary scoring models.
Carrying a balance on your credit cards because you can’t afford to pay off the entire amount is understandable. Carrying a balance in hopes that it will improve your credit score is a huge mistake and one of the biggest credit myths out there. You don’t need to carry a balance to build credit – the balance reported to the credit bureaus is from your last statement, not what is carried over to the next statement.
An airline credit card with an insane rewards program was released recently and you just have to have it. Or, the apartment of your dreams just popped up on Padmapper and you need your name on the call box, like, yesterday. So –– naturally –– you use one of your free annual credit checks through Experian, EXPN, +0.24%   Equifax, EFX, +1.05%   or TransUnion TRU, +0.51%   to check up on things, and suddenly you find yourself in crisis mode: why is my credit score lower than it was last time I checked?
Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, which helps business owners manage credit, says, "In this day and age, with so many reports of data breaches and identity thefts, if you aren't checking your credit, you're neglecting one of the key parts of your financial profile. You're almost opening yourself up for potential problems if you don't check, such as identity theft or mistakes that can end up being very expensive."
Hi Jenny, Doing a soft credit check, such as just pulling your credit score with Credit Sesame, does not impact your credit score. On the other hand, if you are doing a hard credit inquiry, such as applying for a loan, that can slightly reduce your score. Renting an apartment for some credit bureaus would have an effect on your score, while others would not considerate it.
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.
Instead: If you keep forgetting to make payments, set up as many reminders as necessary to ensure your bills get paid. If you can’t pay on time because you don’t have enough money, try scrutinizing your budget to see where you can cut back and asking for a grace period or reduced minimum payment. Your credit card company may understand if you demonstrate that you’re working to remedy the situation.
Be patient – After reviewing your reason codes you may realize that a plan to rebuild your scores may take longer than you’d like. A low score caused by delinquencies will take time to rebuild because delinquencies stay on your credit files for years. However, as these delinquencies age, their impact on your scores will lessen and your scores will increase as long as you now manage your credit well and pay accounts on time.
Scores by VantageScore are also types of credit scores that are commonly used by lenders. The VantageScore was developed by the 3 major credit bureaus including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The latest VantageScore 3.0 model uses a range between 300 and 850. A VantageScore above 700 is generally considered to be good, while above 750 is considered to be excellent.
Have you ever wondered how using your credit affects your credit score? With so many misconceptions about carrying balances month to month, this can be confusing. Your credit utilization, or how much of your credit you use, makes up 30% of your credit score. Interested in paying down those high balances? Let us show you how by coming up with a personalized game plan. See it now »
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