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Some 200 million U.S. consumers have FICO credit scores, while just under 3 million, or about 1.4 percent, have perfect 850s. That’s according to Fair Isaac Corp., the company behind the 28-year-old scoring model used by lenders to predict whether you will pay back a loan. But over the years the number has become much more than that—it’s now an American totem of success or failure, hope or despair, security or risk. While there are competing models, almost anyone with a credit card knows that a number typically ranging between 300 and 850 holds huge sway over their financial life.
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Credit scores are calculated from your credit report, which is a record of your credit activity that includes the status of your credit accounts and your history of loan payments. Many financial institutions use credit scores to determine whether an applicant can get a mortgage, auto loan, credit card or other type of credit as well as the interest rate and terms of the credit. Applicants with higher credit scores, which indicate a better credit history, typically qualify for larger loans with lower interest rates and better terms.
Gerri Detweiler, education director for Nav, which helps business owners manage credit, says, "In this day and age, with so many reports of data breaches and identity thefts, if you aren't checking your credit, you're neglecting one of the key parts of your financial profile. You're almost opening yourself up for potential problems if you don't check, such as identity theft or mistakes that can end up being very expensive."
Your credit score is not part of your annual credit report, regardless of whether the report was free or paid, so you'll have to order your credit score separately. You can check it for free through CreditKarma.com, Credit Sesame.com, or Quizzle.com. You can also order your credit score for a fee from myFICO.com or from one of the three credit bureaus.

When you sign up for your free credit.com account, you’ll receive your Experian and Vantage credit scores-updated every 14 days. These scores are frequently used, so it’s useful information to have, especially if you’re trying to get a home loan or a new credit card. It’s also a great way to monitor your credit health, and track your progress against financial goals. Plus, you’ll receive personalized offers for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and more no matter what your goal is.
Under the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, every American has the right to a free copy of their credit report from each of the nationwide agencies. AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site to help consumers to obtain their free credit report from the nationwide agencies. This central site allows you to request free reports once every 12 months.
Be punished for missed payments: Not all late payments are created equally. If you are fewer than 30 days late, your missed payment will likely not be reported to the bureau (although you still will be subject to late fees and potential risk-based re-pricing, which can be very expensive). Once you are 30 days late, you will be reported to the credit bureau. The longer you go without paying, the bigger the impact on your score, ie: 60 days late is worse than 30 days late. A single missed payment (of 30 days or more) can still have a big impact on your score. It can take anywhere from 60 to 110 points off your score.

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 spam@uce.gov.

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