It used to be that your credit score was a big mystery, or you had to pay to see it. Now credit card companies can’t wait to show you your score, for free. But those three-digit numbers you get every month aren’t necessarily the ones lenders use. In reality, you have dozens of scores, some based on previous versions of FICO scoring models and others developed by the three big credit bureaus. And your score will vary by the lender’s industry—mortgage, auto loan, credit card, and telecom services.
Credit scores are three-digit numbers created using the information in credit reports. That information is used to try to predict how likely you are to pay your bills on time. While you have only three credit reports (at least from the major, national agencies), there are many different types of credit scores that can be calculated based on your credit information.
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.
A credit report is a detailed report of an individual's credit history prepared by a credit bureau. Credit bureaus collect information and create credit reports based on that information, and lenders use the reports along with other details to determine loan applicants' credit worthiness. In the United States, there are three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each of these reporting companies collects information about consumers' personal details and their bill-paying habits to create a unique credit report; although most of the information is similar, there are often small differences between the three reports.
While the FTC has tried to increase transparency, some websites offering “free” credit scores have found a way around those rules. If a website asks for your credit card before providing a score, expect to find a fee on your bill before too long. Of course, since there are resources to see this data for free, that's probably where you should start your search.
Here you’ll find information about any companies that have reviewed your credit reports in the past two years. It’s natural to be concerned about the fact that too many inquiries may hurt your credit scores, but for most people, the majority of inquiries won’t affect their scores. That’s because most of them will be “soft inquiries,” which are generated when the request isn’t related to a borrower’s request for financing. Soft inquiries include those generated for promotional or pre-approved credit offers, or “account review” inquiries generated when your current lenders review your credit. Pulling your own credit report is also considered a soft inquiry.
Yet credit tracking companies have deftly maneuvered around those notifications. Freecreditreport.com, perhaps the most well-known of these firms, began offering credit scores for $1 (which it gives to charity) in order to avoid the FTC rule. Consumers who request their score receive a trial subscription to the Experian Credit Tracker service. If they don’t cancel it within seven days, they’re charged $21.95 a month.
It’s going to be extremely difficult to find any lenders willing to lend to you without a significant down payment or collateral to secure the loan against default. Insurance agencies will still underwrite insurance policies for you, but the products will be limited and they are going to cost significantly more than the same products for customers with better scores. You may also have higher car insurance costs.
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.
Not all of your lenders report to all three of the credit bureaus – While some lenders do report your credit information to all three credit bureaus, this isn’t mandatory. There are almost always going to be differences in your credit history at one or more of the credit bureaus, though many will be minor and won’t affect your ability to get credit.
Annualcreditreport.com and the nationwide credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email, see a pop-up ad, or get a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. It’s probably a scam. Forward any such email to the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org.