Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get a free credit report these days. But we could all stand to make some improvements in terms of how often we check and what we do with the information. So WalletHub convened a panel of personal finance experts for some tips and insights. Below, you can see who they are, what we asked them and how they recommend getting more from your free credit reports.
Members of the 850 Club can be broken into two groups. There are the super-knowledgeable tacticians trying to crack scoring algorithms, and the naturally prudent. Some are prepping for a loan. Others are just credit-score hobbyists. Paul Chua, 40, who works at San Carlos, Calif.-based Helix, a startup focused on personal genomics, is one of the tacticians.
No, credit reports list your credit history without interpretation. Credit scores, on the other hand, apply a formula to the data in your report to create a three-digit number predicting how likely you are to repay money as agreed. Two companies dominate credit scoring in the U.S.: FICO® and VantageScore®. NerdWallet partners with TransUnion® to provide your VantageScore® 3.0, based on information in your TransUnion® credit report. Credit score is only one factor lenders consider and they may not use the TransUnion VantageScore.
Checking your own credit score will not impact it in anyway positively or negatively. There is a difference between doing a soft credit check, which is what utility companies, landlords, or cell phone companies may do to see if you qualify for perks such as not having to pay a downpayment, and other types of credit checks that lenders usually do, which are called hard credit inquiries. Hard credit inquiries will typically reduce your score by a slight amount, but only temporarily until you start paying your loan.
Credit reports, remember, are a detailed account of your credit history. The key word there is “detailed” — expect to find more than just the names of your credit accounts, including credit cards, home, auto and other loans. You’ll also see the payment history, account balance, limit, open date and status (paid in full, not paid in full, closed or open). Plus, there will be information about new credit inquiries, collection records and public records, such as bankruptcy filings and tax liens. For a comprehensive look at what’s on your credit file, be sure to visit our credit report learning center.
Also known as an educational credit report, consumers are urged to take advantage of this offer every twelve months to find instances of fraud or other inaccuracies on their credit file. Monitoring accounts like this can help reduce your risk of falling victim to identity theft and will ensure you have the highest score possible according to your individual credit account.
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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."
A: It’s up to you. Because nationwide credit reporting companies get their information from different sources, the information in your report from one company may not reflect all, or the same, information in your reports from the other two companies. That’s not to say that the information in any of your reports is necessarily inaccurate; it just may be different.