Americans are entitled to one free credit report in every 12-month period from each of the three credit bureaus, but are not entitled to receive a free credit score. The three credit bureaus run Annualcreditreport.com, where users can get their free credit reports. Credit scores are available as an add-on feature of the report for a fee. If the consumer disputes an item on a credit report obtained using the free system, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit bureaus have 45 days to investigate, rather than 30 days for reports obtained otherwise.
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.)
The interpretation of a credit score will vary by lender, industry, and the economy as a whole. While 640 has been a divider between "prime" and "subprime", all considerations about score revolve around the strength of the economy in general and investors' appetites for risk in providing the funding for borrowers in particular when the score is evaluated. In 2010, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) tightened its guidelines regarding credit scores to a small degree, but lenders who have to service and sell the securities packaged for sale into the secondary market largely raised their minimum score to 640 in the absence of strong compensating factors in the borrower's loan profile. In another housing example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began charging extra for loans over 75% of the value that have scores below 740. Furthermore, private mortgage insurance companies will not even provide mortgage insurance for borrowers with scores below 660. Therefore, "prime" is a product of the lender's appetite for the risk profile of the borrower at the time that the borrower is asking for the loan.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to credit reporting companies.