Credit reports, remember, are a detailed account of your credit history. The key word there is “detailed” — expect to find more than just the names of your credit accounts, including credit cards, home, auto and other loans. You’ll also see the payment history, account balance, limit, open date and status (paid in full, not paid in full, closed or open). Plus, there will be information about new credit inquiries, collection records and public records, such as bankruptcy filings and tax liens. For a comprehensive look at what’s on your credit file, be sure to visit our credit report learning center.
When a consumer applies for credit - whether for a credit card, an auto loan, or a mortgage - lenders want to know what risk they'd take by loaning money. When lenders order a credit report, they can also buy a credit score that's based on the information in the report. A credit score helps lenders evaluate a credit report because it is a number that summarizes credit risk, based on a snapshot of a credit report at a particular point in time.
You are also eligible for reports from specialty consumer reporting companies. We put together a list of several of these companies so you can see which ones might be important to you. You have to request the reports individually from each of these companies. Many of the companies in this list will provide a report for free every 12 months. Other companies may charge you a fee for your report.
Inquiries note when someone has obtained your credit information. There is nothing that indicates whether you were approved or rejected for credit at that time. Some inquiries can affect your credit scores, but not all of them do. Soft inquiries generally aren’t seen by anyone except the consumer and usually won’t affect your credit scores. Here are some examples.
Chua learned about credit the hard way. He ruined his score by running up debt in college. He read up on how to fix it, went on internet forums, and eventually got his credit into good shape—then he landed a job at consumer credit firm Credit Karma. Even with all that effort, though, the big reason for his success was simple: He didn’t miss a payment for seven years. He also used at most 5 percent of his credit limit, since scores can be hurt by high “utilization rates.”
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However, there is a big myth that you have to borrow money and pay interest to get a good score. That is completely false! So long as you use your credit card (it can even be a small $1 charge) and then pay that statement balance in full, your score will benefit. You do not need to pay interest on a credit card to improve your score. Remember: your goal is to have as much positive information as possible, with very little negative information. That means you should be as focused on adding positive information to your credit report as you are at avoiding negative information.
Accordingly, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion created the joint venture company Central Source LLC to oversee their compliance with FACTA. Central Source then set up a toll free telephone number, a mailing address and a central website, AnnualCreditReport.com, to process consumer requests. Access to the free report was initially rolled out in stages, based on the consumer’s state of residence. By the end of 2005 all U.S. consumers could use these services to obtain a credit report.
All those credit cards from college that initially hurt Chua, for example, helped him down the line. That’s because he never cut them up, creating a longer credit history and a higher average age across his accounts. Both of those numbers feed into the 15 percent or so of a FICO score based on the length of your credit history. A virtuous cycle develops when you have good credit, says Chua. More companies offer you credit, which raises your total credit limit, which means you can make bigger transactions but still use the same percentage of your total credit.
Following are questions we frequently hear about credit reports and credit scores. In order to find out which of these problems may affect your credit, we recommend you get your free credit reports at least once a year, as well as monitor your credit score for free at Credit.com. You will get a complete explanation of the factors affecting your score, as well as an action plan for better credit.
Filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is common among those who cannot handle their debt and need a way out. The way this impacts your credit score really depends on how your score was when you applied for bankruptcy, it will affect different ranges differently. If you had a good standing, your score will dip quite a bit, while on the other hand if you already had fair or bad credit, the dip won’t be as significant.
If you are impacted, Equifax offers you a free credit monitoring service, TrustedIDPremier. However, you won’t be able to enroll in it immediately. You will be given a date when you can return to the site to enroll. Equifax will not send you a reminder to enroll. Mark that date on your calendar, so you can start monitoring your credit as soon as possible.
While the Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card from State Department Federal CU has a slightly higher security deposit at $250, it does have one of the lowest APRs of a secured card at 13.99% Variable. This may come in handy if you find yourself carrying a balance month to month — but we strongly encourage you to pay each bill on time and in full to avoid interest charges. This card is available to everyone regardless of residence by joining the American Consumer Council for free during the application process.
When you order by phone or mail, you will receive your annual credit report via mail within two to three weeks. When you order online, you should be able to access it immediately. You must order your real annual credit report using one of the methods listed above, not directly from the credit bureaus or through any other websites. Note that all the credit bureaus have some type of credit card deal, but all require a credit card and will enroll you in a subscription service that you must remember to cancel in order to avoid monthly charges.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only federally mandated and authorized source for obtaining a free credit report. The Federal Trade Commission cautions consumers to be aware of "impostor" websites that have similar names or are deliberate misspellings of the real name. Such impostor websites include websites with titles like FreeCreditScore.com.
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.
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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 FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, visit ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.