LEARN About Credit Reports and Credit Scores
People may not judge a book by its cover, but you sure can be judged by your credit report and credit score. Both can affect your ability to obtain a loan or even rent an apartment. So be sure that you understand how to read your credit report and review it annually.
What is a Credit Report?
A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies, or bureaus, — 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 bureaus. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to credit reporting companies.
Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.
What is a Credit Score?
FICO® Scores are the credit scores used by 90% of top lenders to determine your credit risk. Your FICO Scores (you have FICO Scores for each of the three major companies) can affect how much money a lender will lend you and at what terms (interest rate). Higher FICO Scores can often help you qualify for better rates from lenders – which can save you money!
FICO scores range from 300 to 850. Your FICO Scores are calculated using the following information in your credit reports:
35% Payment History - Making your payments on time is the most important factor in determining your score. A good track record on most of your credit accounts will increase your score.
30% Amounts Owed - How much you owe on installments loans, how much available credit you have on revolving credit accounts, and the overall amount you owe on all accounts are all factors in your score. Higher available credit (capacity) and a lower credit utilization ratio can help improve your score.
15% Length of Credit History - The length of time your credit accounts have been established, and how long it has been since you used those accounts, are both considered.
10% New Credit - Opening several new accounts in a short period of time will hurt your score. Accounts opened and some inquiries in the last 12 months will be considered.
10% Credit Mix - Showing you can responsibly manage different types of credit can help improve your score. However, too many accounts or opening accounts and not using them can negatively affect your score.
While federal law gives you the right to ask for a copy of your credit report from each nationwide credit bureau every year for free, it does not require them to give you your credit score for free. You can purchase your score directly from the credit bureau, however, you should check your reports first to make sure your information is accurate. Also, if you are trying to obtain credit, you should inquire with your lender to see which bureau they use to make their lending decisions as each bureau may have different information and may report a different credit score.
Click here to download our Your FICO® Credit Score brochure.
How To Obtain Your Credit Report
Under the FACT Act, you are entitled to one free credit report per year. AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source to obtain your free annual credit report under federal law. To obtain your report do one of the following:
Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to complete an online request form
Call 1.877.322.8228 and complete a simple verification process over the phone to request your report
Download a request form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Beware of any other company or website that claims to offer free credit reports! Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program, and in some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached, like hidden fees or subsriptions to unwanted services.
What if I find errors on my report?
If you find that errors on your report, contact the nationwide consumer credit reporting company that provided the report or the company that provided the information to them (the store, bank, or other source of the credit information). They will tell you how to correct information in your files.
Click on the links below to learn more about credit reports and credit scores: