Understanding Your Credit Report and Scores
What's in a credit report?
- Identifying information – name, social security number, date of birth, address
- Creditors and payment history – positive and negative
- Bankruptcies, judgments, liens, lawsuits
- Inquiries you initiated, such as loan and credit card applications
Where does this information come from?
Lenders voluntarily supply information to credit bureaus on an ongoing basis. Having access to this information makes is easier for lenders to make informed decisions and offer your products and services more quickly.
What is a credit score?
It's a number calculated by a credit bureau for use in making a decision on loans or other products or services. Credit scoring is a point system based on your credit history to predict how likely you are to repay a loan or make payments on time.
The primary factors in determining your credit score are your timely payment history and how much debt you owe. Late payments on loans, a past bankruptcy, debt collections and judgments will negatively impact your credit score. Other factors that can influence your score are how long you've used credit, how often you've applied for new credit, and whether you've recently taken on new debt.
Why is my credit score important?
Lenders, landlords, insurance companies and potential employers all may want to look at your credit report. Lenders want to be sure the debt you owe is manageable. They get concerned if you have a significant amount of debt compared to your income. In general, the better your credit score, the better chance you have of getting a loan with an attractive interest rate, getting the apartment you want, getting insurance and getting a good job. As you can see, it's important to make sure the information on your credit report is accurate – and in the best shape possible!
How can I get a free copy of my report?
There are three major credit bureaus, and you can obtain a free report from each of them once per year. You can get your free report by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 877-322-8228.
You can also get a free report at any time if you're:
- Denied credit within the past 60 days
- A victim of identity theft
- A welfare recipient
- Unemployed and job-hunting
It's a good idea to get a copy of your report at least once a year.
What to look for on your report:
- Make sure it accurately reflects how you have paid your bills
- Verify that all accounts listed are yours (especially if you have a common name or are a Jr)
- Look for accounts you don't use and may have forgotten about (you may want to close them)
What if there is incorrect information on my report?
Write a letter to the credit bureau explaining why you think information is inaccurate. The credit bureau has 30 days to investigate, notify you of results, and delete inaccurate or unverifiable information. If you disagree with investigation results, write a dispute statement to appear in your file.
Where else can I go for help?
Through our partnership with BALANCE, you can receive a FREE Credit Report Review and assistance obtaining a free or low cost credit report. For more info call 888-456-2227 or visit their website.
Contacting the Credit Bureaus
Need to correct information on your report? You will need to contact EACH credit reporting agency that is reporting the incorrect information.
- Equifax - 800-685-1111
- Experian - 888-397-3742
- TransUnion - 800-888-4213
ChexSystems is not a credit bureau, but they are a consumer-reporting agency governed by the FCRA (Fair Credit reporting Act). ChexSystems is a network comprised of member financial institutions that regularly contribute information on mishandled checking and savings accounts to a central location. ChexSystems shares this information among member institutions to help them assess the risk of opening new accounts. Like credit bureaus, ChexSystems can provide you with a consumer report if you have been denied an account at a bank or credit union. Learn more.