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All credit scores are a three-digit grade of your financial responsibility based on the data in your credit reports. The most widely used credit scores are FICO scores. There are several different FICO scoring models, with the FICO score 8 being the most common. FICO also offers a number of specialty scores that cater to specific situations. For example, there are FICO auto scores that lenders use when you apply for a car loan.
The VantageScore 3.0 model was recently introduced in 2013 and is one of the most up to date and current scoring models. Like your FICO Score, the VantageScore is also determined with the information found on your credit file and can be impacted by several factors including your on-time payment history, credit history, debt-to-income ratios, and your overall credit balances.
The two biggest factors in your score are payment history and credit utilization (how much of your available credit you're using). That’s why they come first in this list of ways to boost your credit: Pay all your bills, not just credit cards, on time. You don't want late payments or worse, a debt collection or legal judgment against you, on your credit reports. Keep the balance on each credit card at 30% of your available credit or lower. Keep accounts open and active if possible; that will help your length of payment history and credit utilization. Avoid opening too many new accounts at once; new accounts lower your average account age. Check your credit report and dispute any errors you find. It pays to monitor your score over time. Always check the same score — otherwise, it's like trying to monitor your weight on different scales — and use the methods outlined above to build whichever score you track. And like weight, your score may fluctuate. As long as you keep it in a healthy range, those variations won't have a major impact on your financial well-being.
The credit report itself is a compilation of facts about how you manage your credit, and for the most part, it is judgment free. It’s up to lenders, insurance companies or others who review your credit reports to evaluate that information and decide what they think, and they usually do that with the help of credit scores. Of course, the information used to calculate your credit score can be found in your credit report, so you don’t really want to evaluate one without checking the other.
How long does negative information stay on my credit report?Typically, the negative information on your credit report tends to fall off after seven years, or 10 if you’ve been through bankruptcy. Positive information remains on your report for an average of 10 years from the day its corresponding account is closed. This information applies to accounts like mortgages and car loans, which have fixed terms on the number of years for repayment. For revolving accounts, such as credit cards, your positive history will stay on your report for as long as the account is active.
If a derogatory mark is added to your credit report, it’s important to get assistance as soon as possible. A credit repair professional can help you filter through the overwhelming information and requirements to find a solution that works best for your unique situation. If you do see a derogatory mark on your credit score that you don’t recognize, follow up.
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The actual number of points that an inquiry is worth is a closely guarded secret. However, it’s safe to say that only those who are “excessively” shopping for credit will be seriously damaging their scores. The moral of this story is to shop and apply for credit only when you need it and, optimally, only after you have gotten your credit and scores in good order.
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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.
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