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.
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.
While your credit limit might seem like the number not to exceed on your credit card, experts actually recommend that to minimize negative credit impact, you should only be using 30% of your credit allowance. That means if you have a $9,000 credit limit, you should not exceed spending more than $3,000 before making a payment. This might seem a little counterintuitive, but the reality is credit restrictions like this are put in place to protect you. By spending much lower than your credit limit, you decrease your interest payments and ultimately your debt.
You might be used to checking out at a store and being asked if you’d like to open a credit card. While these credit cards come with really high interest rates and are great tools to tempt you into buying items you don’t need, there is a big perk to store credit cards: they’re more likely to approve people with low credit scores. Just be sure to only use the card to make one small purchase a month and then pay it off on time and in full. Unsubscribe to emails about deals and don’t even carry it around everyday in your wallet if you can’t resist the desire to spend. Read more here.
There’s a misconception that your credit report is a computer file that sits at a credit reporting agency and gets periodically updated. But it doesn’t quite work that way. When someone requests your report, the credit reporting agency’s computers go to work, compiling information that matches your identifying information with a report that can be scored or provided to the lender, insurance agency or other company that purchased it.
In order to obtain your credit report, you must provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you've moved within the last two years, you should include your previous address. To protect the security of your personal information, you may be asked a series of questions that only you would know, like your monthly mortgage payment.
We provide you with a free credit report card once a month, which includes two credit scores, an analysis of your scores, and an action plan for your credit. (If you want the full report you can get it through AnnualCreditReport.com.) Security is very important to us. You can read about Credit.com’s security promise here. I hope you’ll give it a try!
Pick 3 months during the year you intend to review your report. Let’s say January, May, and September for example. One day each of those months, go to annualcreditreport.com and choose one agency to pull a report from. So in January, you could pull your TransUnion report; in May you could pull your Experian report; and in September you could pull your Equifax report.
When reviewing this section, which contains information such as your name (and variations), current and previous addresses, etc., your main goal should be to make sure your personal information is correct and up to date. Slight variations of an old address or minor misspellings shouldn’t be much of an issue. But if there is an address listed and you have never lived there, or your reports list a version of your name you have never used, you will want to ask the credit reporting agency to investigate. It could mean that your information is mixed up with someone else’s or that someone has tried to use your information fraudulently.
But what these commercials aren't telling you is that the scores you're seeing aren't the same ones lenders are looking at. This doesn't mean they're worthless, but you have to understand exactly what you're getting so you aren't misled into thinking that your score is much higher or lower than it actually is. Here are the most important things you should know.
Two companies dominate credit scoring in the U.S.: FICO® and VantageScore®. They calculate scores from information in your credit reports, which list your credit activity as compiled by the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion®. If you have a good VantageScore®, you're likely to have a good FICO® Score, because both consider the same factors: Payment history: your record of on-time payments and any "derogatory" marks, such as late payments, accounts sent to collections or judgments against you. Credit utilization: balances you owe and how much of your available credit you're using. Age of credit history: how long you've been borrowing money. Applications: whether you've applied for a lot of credit recently. Type of credit: how many and what kinds of credit accounts you have, such as credit cards, installment debt (such as mortgage and car loans) or a mix. A credit score doesn't consider your income, savings or job security. That's why lenders also may consider what you owe alongside what you earn and assets you have accumulated.
There are three major credit agencies that provide consumer credit information (including credit scores) to the majority of interested parties: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Each reporting agency collects information about your credit history from a variety of sources, including lenders, landlords, and employers, as well as other sources. These includes public records, current and past loans, your payment history, and other data. They then rate your performance using a proprietary scoring system to come up with a credit score.
We know our credit score sets interest rates on what we borrow, sure. But many may not realize that it also affects what card offers you get, what deposit utilities require, what your insurance rate will be, whether you get that rental apartment, or what your installment plan is for a mobile phone. In our society, it’s a three-digit number that can open or shut doors. Not surprisingly, many hyper-competitive consumers obsess over it. And when Americans obsess over something, they start looking for an edge.
Several years ago, it was common for companies to advertise “free credit reports” on TV and radio spots. Most of the offers were a bait and switch. Sign up, get a free credit report and score, then see your credit card charged $10-$20 every month after that if you didn’t cancel on time. Thankfully, the Credit Card Act of 2009 changed the way companies are allowed to advertise free credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission now requires credit bureaus and credit monitoring services to market credit reports differently than previously.
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.