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.
You can also request your free credit report by phone or by mail. The three reporting bureaus get their information from different places, and also present and evaluate the information in different ways. If you are making a large purchase, such as a car or home, it is a good idea to get your credit report from all three agencies. Save and print your reports so that you can review them later.
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.
The system of credit reports and scores in Canada is very similar to that in the United States and India, with two of the same reporting agencies active in the country: Equifax and TransUnion. (Experian, which entered the Canadian market with the purchase of Northern Credit Bureaus in 2008, announced the closing of its Canadian operations as of April 18, 2009).
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.
The interpretation of a credit score will vary by lender, industry, and the economy as a whole. While 640 has been a divider between "prime" and "subprime", all considerations about score revolve around the strength of the economy in general and investors' appetites for risk in providing the funding for borrowers in particular when the score is evaluated. In 2010, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) tightened its guidelines regarding credit scores to a small degree, but lenders who have to service and sell the securities packaged for sale into the secondary market largely raised their minimum score to 640 in the absence of strong compensating factors in the borrower's loan profile. In another housing example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began charging extra for loans over 75% of the value that have scores below 740. Furthermore, private mortgage insurance companies will not even provide mortgage insurance for borrowers with scores below 660. Therefore, "prime" is a product of the lender's appetite for the risk profile of the borrower at the time that the borrower is asking for the loan.
Developing your credit score comes naturally as a result of building your credit history. You’ve heard the saying “if you build it they will come?” It applies to credit scoring as well. If you build your credit history then your score will come shortly after followed by more creditors that will want your business. The credit scoring models are looking for two things before they will “score” your credit files: age and activity. For some credit score models, you must have at least one account that is greater than 3 to 6 months old and at least one account that has been reported to the credit bureaus within the last 6 to 12 months. The same account can qualify you for a score. So, a credit report with one account open for 9 months that has reported to the credit bureaus within the past 30 days will qualify for a score. Once you’ve built a score, the challenge is to maximize it.
Gina, the most important thing you can do is pay your bills on time consistently – and even then, it takes time. Another important factor is your credit utilization, which is the amount of credit you are using compared to how much you have available. For example, using $10,000 of credit when you have $50,000 available is better than using $25,000 of credit when you have $50,000 available. Here are more tips: How to improve your credit score.
Understanding your credit score and how it is calculated helps you take control of your credit and may lead to lower interest rates and more money-saving opportunities. Your credit report is one of the most important documents in your life. Whether you’re taking out a mortgage, a car loan or applying for a credit card, your credit report has a huge influence on the offers that lenders will approve you for.
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.