When you sign up for your free Credit.com account, you get your credit report card that tells you how you’re doing in the major areas of your credit score. Your Vantage score, like your FICO score, is a joint venture of the big three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The Vantage and FICO scoring models are the scores that most lenders use to evaluate you when you apply for a new credit card, a mortgage, and other types of accounts.
Get a free copy of your credit report every four months. You can receive a free copy of your credit report from each bureau every 12 months. Since there are three bureaus, you can stagger your requests to receive a report every four months so you have better access to recent information. It’s easy to keep track of which bureau you use and when you need to request another free report – just set up calendar reminders on Google Calendar, MS Outlook, or another calendar system.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT COLLECTIONS: Collection agencies will often report debts to the credit bureaus in an attempt to collect from the consumer. This is perfectly legal as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The issue here is that, intentionally or not, collection agencies sometimes report to the credit bureaus using a newer “purge from” date despite the fact that this is not allowed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The result of this misreporting is that the collection item will remain on the credit file longer than they should. If that happens, you can dispute the old account.
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.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report.) If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.
Your credit score and credit report are separate from one another. Your report is your entire credit history of all your installment (loan) and revolving (credit card) accounts. Your credit score on the other hand, is a number calculated from your credit history that shows where you stand in terms of credit health. Even though the two are related, you do have to request them separately.
Most mortgage lenders use a specific version of the FICO score that may be different than the ones consumers obtain through other sources. However that’s less a function of the fact that a reseller is involved (which is common in the mortgage industry which needs tri-merge reports) and more due to the version of the FICO score that meets Freddie/Fannie guidelines. We wrote about different credit scores in this article: Why Do I Have So Many Credit Scores?
It’s possible all this transparency has fueled our pursuit of creditworthiness. What has definitely helped is a steady decline in payment delinquencies of more than 90 days, especially in real estate loans. All those negative credit entries earned in the recession have also started to disappear from reports thanks to the seven-year rule that helped Kelman. Meanwhile, automated bill payments are removing human error from the equation. A lull in the growth of new subprime accounts from early 2012 to early 2014, and a lingering reluctance on the part of consumers to seek new credit hasn’t hurt, either. (Applying for more credit temporarily dings your score.)
Having bad credit means it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get real about your current financial situation. Though your current position may be of no fault of your own – thanks to a job loss, illness, or other unforeseen circumstance – it’s your responsibility to take the necessary steps to reverse the course you are on. Take a good hard look at where you are in your life and take the necessary steps to reverse the trends that led to your bad score.
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.
A number of years ago, before I knew better, I got myself enrolled in a credit monitoring service to get my free credit report and score. I stayed enrolled for well over a year and received nothing for my monthly fee. No updated credit reports and no more scores. Cancelling was very difficult. I had to navitage a internet and phone maze to finally reach someone who would cancel my membership. In my personal opinion, it’s a lot less hassle to get your credit reports at Annual Credit Report and just pay for your score if you really need it.
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.
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.)
Regardless of the reason for the less-than-stellar score, you’ll have a harder time finding a lender willing to service a loan, especially if the low credit score is a result of slow payments. You’ll represent a higher risk of default to a lender and may therefore be required to secure the loan with a down payment or with tangible personal property (otherwise known as “collateral”) before a loan offer will be extended.
A: It’s up to you. Because nationwide credit reporting companies get their information from different sources, the information in your report from one company may not reflect all, or the same, information in your reports from the other two companies. That’s not to say that the information in any of your reports is necessarily inaccurate; it just may be different.