CREDIT SCORES, CREDIT REPORTS & RELATED LAWS
Your Credit Score
Your credit score is the numeric summary or“ grade” for the information in your credit report. Credit scores range from300 to 850 (the higher the better)and aren’t automatically included with your credit report, but you can order them separately. Your credit report directly influences your credit score with positive reporting from your creditors helping your score and negative information hurting your score.
Your Credit Report
You may have an idea about what your credit report contains but you’d be surprised to find that there can be errors on your report. You should order copies of all three of your credit histories from the major reporting bureaus Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Every individual has the right to receive one free copy of each annually from annualcreditreport.com. You can also get a free report for up to 60 days if you have been denied credit.
Obtaining reports and scores
Credit reports and credit scores can cost money. If you’re ordering them frequently throughout the credit repair process, you can easily spend over a hundred dollars. Good thing there are places that you can get your credit report and credit score for free or inexpensively.
This is a website through which you can order the free credit reports that you’re entitled to by federal law. To make sure you’re taking advantage of this right, you must order through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Your credit score through FreeCreditScore.com can be acquired for free which is based on your Experian credit report. But to do so you must be enrolled in a trial subscription to a credit monitoring service. Failing to cancel within seven days will result in a monthly credit card charge.
The only place you can get a free FICO score, the score most commonly used by lenders, is throughmyFICO.com.There’sacatch, though. To get your free FICO score, you must signup for a trial subscription to Score Watch, a credit score monitoring service. If you don’t cancel – you guessed it – your credit card will be charged.
Here, you can get a free credit score without having to enter any credit card number. You don’t have to enroll in a trial Subscription and you don’t have to cancel anything to avoid being charged. The score is your TransUnion credit score which is based on data from that credit report. An advantage this site offers is you can order an updated credit score through Credit Karma as often as you’d like, for free.
Quizzle gives you access to both your credit report and credit score – for free. There’s no credit card required and you don’t have to cancel a subscription to anything. They don’t even need your social security number. Both the credit report and score are based on your data at Experian. You can get a free credit score and report from Quizzle twice a year.
Understanding Your Credit Report
Your credit report contains all the information that determines whether you have a good or bad credit score. When you receive each report, go over every single line of information and check for accuracy. Any information that is not correct should be reported back to the credit bureau using the online or printed forms provided. The bureaus are required to investigate all reported inaccuracies and if the creditor does not cooperate, the information may be dropped from your report. Unfortunately, credit reports aren’t the most intuitive documents. When you’re checking your credit report for the first time, you may be confused about the layout and the
information that’s being reported.
Some credit reports are easier to understand than others. The simplest ones use different fonts and colors to separate the sections. Those that are harder to understand usually use a typewriter-looking font, include codes, and use little spacing.
Most credit reports sections are laid out in the same order.
Personal information lists your name, name variations (e.g. if you’ve been married or
sometimes use a middle initial), current and previous addresses, phone number, date of birth, entire or last four digits of your social security number, and employer.
The summary section varies by credit report but typically gives a highlight of the negative information on your credit report, like the number of negative accounts and the total amount past due. The summary section may also provide information about your total credit age and the sum amount of credit card and loan balances.
The largest section of your credit report lists details about all your credit accounts individually. For each credit card, loan, collection account, etc. the same basic information is reported:
• Information about the creditor
• Status of the account, e.g. whether you’re current or past due
• Date the account was opened
• Last time the account was updated
• Type of account, e.g. installment, revolving, collection, etc.
• Monthly payment
• Type of account responsibility, e.g. joint, individual, or authorized user
• Credit limit or original loan amount
• High balance (this is the highest balance charged on the account)
• Current balance
• Last payment
• Account history for the past seven years
• Your personal statement for the account
Public records include things like bankruptcy, repossession, foreclosure, and judgments that are on file with a court system.
Inquiries are added to your credit report whenever a business requests to see your credit report. Some inquiries are added because of your applications for credit. These “hard” inquiries are on all your credit reports and are used to calculate your credit scores. Other inquiries are done by you, employers, existing creditors, and businesses that want to pre-approve you. These “soft” inquiries only show up on your credit report and are not used to calculate your score.
Reading about what’s in your credit report doesn’t fully help you understand your credit
report. Fortunately, there are a few tutorials out there provided by the same people who put your credit report together. Here are a few sample credit reports: Experian, myFICO,
These samples are especially helpful when you order your credit report from one of those three providers.
What to Do With Your Credit Report
Analyze every bit of information listed on the credit report, including your name, address, Social Security number, and all account information. Any information that is inaccurate should be jotted down for later reference. Each credit bureau will have an online or printed form where you can list incorrect information. All consumer requests must be investigated by the credit bureau once they have been received. Investigations can change the status of the report information if found to be false. In some cases, the creditor will not comply with the request for information and subsequently, the incorrect data will be dropped from the report. By updating and correcting information, your report will reflect a more accurate picture of your financial health and be an asset for you when applying for new credit, looking for a new job, renting a home, and even getting insurance quotes.
What Hurts Your Report?
Recent delinquencies, especially 90+ day payments, can adversely affect your score. Payment history is 35% of your credit score, so late payments can take their toll on your credit score. Charge-offs, debt collections, bankruptcies, repossession, foreclosure, lawsuit judgments, and tax liens also fall under the payment history portion of your credit score.
Any unpaid bill
Any unpaid bill can become serious delinquency, even if it’s not a credit card or loan. Many businesses now send even the smallest debts to a collection agency if that debt goes unpaid. Since collection agencies almost always add debts to your credit report, a $5.00 library fine or a $35 phone bill can end up on your credit report and hurt your scores.
Maxed-out credit card balances
The second-most important part of your credit score includes your credit card and balances. The closer your credit card balances are to your credit limit, the worse it is for your credit score. The same thing goes for any loan balances. If you have loan balances that are over or close to the loan amount, your credit score will be hurt. Many experts recommend using no more than30% of your allotted credit extension to improve and maintain your credit score.
Closed accounts that still have balances
It’s common for people to close their credit cards simply because they’re upset with the credit card company or because they don’t want the temptation of the credit card anymore. Unfortunately, this doesn’t hurt the credit card company, but it does hurt your credit score. Once your credit card is closed, your credit limit is usually reported as $0. If your credit card has a balance, it looks like you’ve maxed-out when all you’ve really done is closed the account.
Too many recent credit applications
Inquiries count for 10% of your credit score. Your score takes a hit whenever you put in several credit card or loan applications. Each time you apply for credit, an inquiry is placed on your credit report. Ten percent doesn’t sound like much, but that means too many inquiries can cost you 65 points on a 650 credit score.
Newly opened credit accounts
Fifteen percent (15%) of your credit score is based your credit age. This includes the amount of time since you opened your first account and the average age of all your credit accounts. Opening a new account lowers your average credit age and can hurt your credit score.
How Long Does Bad Credit Stay on Your Record?
You may have had a few bad months or even a few bad years when debt got out of hand and financial obligations became uncontrollable. After missing three or four payments on your credit card accounts or other bills, your credit report will begin to reflect negative payment information and your credit score will begin its descent. As a general rule, 7 years is the length of time a credit report will show an accurate negative mark but it is more complex than that. Here are the exceptions to the 7-year rule of credit reports:
If you have filed for bankruptcy, the information will be reported on your credit history for the following 10 years.
If you had a lien filed against you for taxes owed to the government, the information will
remain on your credit history report for 7 years from the date you paid the debt.
If you default on a loan with the U.S. government or a guaranteed student loan the information can be reported for 7 years after the guarantor takes action.
Judgments against you in a lawsuit can be reported to your credit history for seven years or for the period specified in the statute of limitations, whichever is longer.
Laws to Know During Credit Repair and Beyond
Did you know there are laws that protect your rights before, during, and even after credit
repair? Repairing your credit requires you to work with giant companies who have a lot more money than you. These companies would have complete power over the credit repair process if the government hadn’t put a few rules in place to keep these companies in check. The law isn’t perfect and some companies find loopholes, but knowing the law can help you get results.
Fair Credit Reporting Act
The FCRA is a law that generally dictates what can and can’t appear on your credit report. The FCRAsaysthatinaccurate, incomplete, unverifiable, or outdated information can’t be listed on your credit report. You have the right to dispute credit report errors either with the credit bureau or the company that listed the information on your credit report. It was an amendment to the FCRA in 2003 that entitles you to your annual credit reports through the federally mandated AnnualCreditReport.com.
Fair Credit Billing Act
The FCBA was created to help consumers correct billing errors from credit card companies. Billing errors include unauthorized charges to your credit card, unposted payments, or charges for merchandise that weren’t received as promised. You have 60 days from the date of the billing error to make a dispute directly to the credit card company and the credit card company must investigate the dispute. In the meantime, you don’t have to pay for the disputed charges and you can’t receive any penalty when you don’t pay.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The FDCPAis a law that dictates what debt collectors can and cannot do when they recollecting a debt from you. There’s a long list of things they can’t do. For example, they can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., they can’t call if you’ve already told them it’s an inconvenient time and they can’t call you at work if you’ve told them your employer doesn’t approve those calls. They can’t tell certain people about your debt but can get location information from your friends, neighbors, and relatives.
Credit Repair Organizations Act
The CROA was created to protect consumers from unscrupulous credit repair agencies. Scams still happen, but many dishonest credit repair companies are caught and charged by the Federal Trade Commission. Credit repair companies can’t lie about the services they provide you, they’re not supposed to charge you upfront, and they can’t ask you to do anything illegal to “repair” your credit. If a credit repair company violates your rights, you can sue them for penalties and damages.
If you have a complaint against any business you’ve dealt with during the credit repair process, you can report them to the FTC by visiting www.FTCcomplaintassistant.gov or you can call 1- 877-FTCHELP. You can also report these businesses to your state Attorney General or local Better Business Bureau. You can always call 1-800-783-5799 for a FREE credit consultation!