If you’ve recently gone through a bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even a civil judgment, it probably isn’t a surprise to you that your credit has been impacted. Any abrupt changes to your credit can seriously affect the number that shows on your credit report. Unfortunately, unlike the scenarios listed in previous points, these derogatory marks are the result of what lenders consider major delinquencies –– in other words, significant implications about your ability to manage your finances.
Simply put, paying the minimum each month could cost you a lot of money and take forever to pay off. Say you have a credit card with a $1,000 balance and a 14.95 percent interest rate. According to Credit Karma’s debt repayment calculator, if you only paid $25 a month, it could cost you an estimated $393 in interest and take you an astonishing 56 months to pay off.
An award-winning writer, editor and content strategist, Bob Musinski focuses on trends and issues related to credit cards and loans for U.S. News. He also has written dozens of stories for publications such as AAP News, Naperville Magazine and Natural Products Insider. He worked as an editor and reporter for three daily newspapers and an international wire service, where he covered events such as the World Series and Super Bowl and earned a national writing award from the Associated Press. His experience also includes planning and writing annual reports; strategizing, editing and writing for blogs; speechwriting; and strategic messaging development.
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.
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A: If you request your report online at annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately. If you order your report by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228, your report will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days. If you order your report by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form, your request will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days of receipt.
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.
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.
Some of these reasons are relevant all the time; others matter most when you’re planning to apply for a loan. A mistake on your credit report could cost you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a mortgage, for instance. So try to review your report as regularly as possible, but be extra thorough in the months leading up to a loan or credit card application.
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.
Strategies for requesting your free reportsIf you order all of your reports at once, you’ll be able to compare them easily. You will be able to verify information common to all three reports, as well as distinguish the minor differences, such as creditors that report to TransUnion but not Equifax. The downside to this strategy is that you won’t be able to order your free reports again for a full calendar year. If this doesn’t appeal to your sensibilities, you can opt for staggering your requests. One of the advantages to this strategy is that you will be able to track and verify new information being added to your reports, such as new accounts or loans.
2. Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a credit reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.
Carrying a balance on your credit cards because you can’t afford to pay off the entire amount is understandable. Carrying a balance in hopes that it will improve your credit score is a huge mistake and one of the biggest credit myths out there. You don’t need to carry a balance to build credit – the balance reported to the credit bureaus is from your last statement, not what is carried over to the next statement.
There are, however, some key differences. One is that, unlike in the United States, where a consumer is allowed only one free copy of their credit report a year, in Canada, the consumer may order a free copy of their credit report any number of times in a year, as long as the request is made in writing, and as long as the consumer asks for a printed copy to be delivered by mail. This request by the consumer is noted in the credit report as a 'soft inquiry', so it has no effect on their credit score. According to Equifax's ScorePower Report, Equifax Beacon scores range from 300 to 900. Trans Union Emperica scores also range from 300 and 900.
Trying to get approved for that new car you’ve been eyeing? What about a home loan? Or even just a credit card? Every time you apply for new credit this shows up as an inquiry, which makes up 10% of your score, and can cause it to go down. Applying for credit too frequently is a red flag to creditors. If you want to keep track of how often you’re applying for credit, or want to make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft, we can help. See it now »
Website: Visit AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the instructions. Once you fill out the necessary personal information, including your Social Security number and date of birth, you can select whether you want one, two or all three of the credit companies' reports right away. After answering some questions about your past addresses and accounts, you'll have a chance to download the report and view it on your screen.
TransUnion, Experian and Equifax aren’t the only credit reporting agencies that track your financial performance. Tens of other companies across the country maintain data on your rent payments, check-writing history and insurance claims. Along with traditional credit data, this alternative information is then factored into the decisions made by financial institutions, landlords, employers and insurers.
Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.
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Because MidSouth Community is a federal credit union, you need to be a member to qualify for this card. Membership is limited to people who work, live, worship, or attend school in the following Middle Georgia counties: Bibb, Baldwin, Crawford, Hancock, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach, Pulaski, Putnam, Twiggs, Washington, and Wilkinson. If you qualify, you may be able to get a secured card with an APR as low as 10.90% Variable.
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.