If you are trying to take a loan, whether to buy a house, a car, pay some bills, or anything else, the lender is likely to look at your credit. Everyone has a credit score or rating, and this is used to help lenders make decisions about whether you are eligible for a loan.
Explained simply, credit is how good you are at paying back debts on time. The better your credit, the more willing companies will be to lend you money, rent you a house, hire you, and so on. A scoring system is used to assign people a credit rating. A variety of factors go into the scores, which are explained in more detail below, and this score then forms part of your credit report.
As mentioned many different factors go into your credit score, each of which is given a different weight. These factors include:
- Payment History – Your history of paying back debt, if you have a record of late payments it will lower your score.
- Public Records – If you have bankruptcies, judgments, or collection items on record it may lower your score.
- Amount Owed – If you owe a large amount of money, it will likely lower your score.
- Length of Credit History – In general, the longer your credit history the better.
- New Accounts – If you have opened numerous accounts in a short period, it may lower your score.
- Inquiries – Each time your record is requested it is recorded, if you have a large number of recent inquires it may lower your score.
- Accounts in Use – If you have numerous open accounts it can lower your score.
You actually have a number of different credit scores. However, your FICO® Score is the one used by the vast majority of lenders to make decisions, and you should be most aware of this one.
Your credit report will contain your credit history. When you borrow money on credit it is reported by the lenders to credit reporting agencies, and this all factors into your credit rating and FICO® Score.
In a credit report, you will find lists of the different types of credit that you use, such as loans or credit cards, the length of time that your accounts have been open, and whether you have paid your bills on time. It contains information on how much credit you have used and whether you are currently seeking new sources of credit. In short, it provides a broad overview of your credit history.
The report will also contain basic information on you, including where you live, your telephone numbers, whether you have a criminal record or any ongoing court cases, and whether you have filed for bankruptcy.
A credit report will reveal a great deal about a person’s borrowing activities and all of the information needs to be considered together. That is why the information is collated to create a credit score. By looking at the score, a lender can make a quick assessment on your suitability for further credit.
Credit Reporting Agencies
In the U.S., there are three credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. They collect information on millions of people from across the country and compile it into reports. That is why a lender making a decision will buy credit reports on applications from these agencies. The lenders then use these reports to evaluate your application and make a decision. However, not all reporting agencies receive the same information and that is why there may be some differences between your three credit reports.
A huge number of credit grantors, such as retailers, credit card issuers, banks, finance companies, credit unions, and more, submit information to the credit reporting bureaus, normally with monthly updates. The updates will include information about how customers use and pay for their credit, and it all goes into your credit report.
Viewing Your Credit Report
Your credit report is put together each time that you, or a lender, request it. In order to obtain your report you will need to provide information such as your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. You may also be asked a series of security questions to verify your identity.
There are various ways to request your report; you can do it directly from the bureaus, or by using third party services. When you get your report, it is essential to review it carefully. You may find that there are unpaid bills on it that you had simply forgotten about, or you may find mistakes. A credit report is also a good way to check for fraud as you may spot accounts that you did not open or charges that you did not make.
If you do find mistakes then they are usually very simple to rectify. You should first contact the bureau to query the item; it may be as simple as a case of mistaken identity. You may also need to contact the creditor, they could have a mistake on their files and if you have proof that a mistake has been made it can usually be fixed very quickly. If you have spotted a mistake in one credit report then be sure to check your reports from the other two bureaus as they may contain the same mistakes.
Of course, in the instance of fraud you will also need to contact the police. A fraud alert will be placed on your file and you will need to also contact your other creditors and the other bureaus.
Credit reports are an essential part of modern life. There will likely be numerous instances in your adult life where your credit will be checked, and it is important that you maintain a healthy credit score. Whether you are looking to rent an apartment, take a loan, a mortgage or anything else involving credit, it is more than likely that your credit report will be requested and to that end, it is well worth being aware of it and ensuring that it is always accurate.