Today we have grown into a nation looking for instant gratification, the buy now pay later syndrome. So, without a good credit rating it will be very difficult to get the things you want at the time you want them. Consumer credit has become widely accepted as a substitute for ready cash, so having good credit is the key to your future of getting all you deserve, and the key to opening doors that make your life more comfortable and worry free.
As a consumer it is to your benefit to fully understand how credit works and every aspect of what is involved when you apply for any type of credit, including the major credit reporting agencies that hold your credit report file. When you understand what the banks and other creditors are looking for, and you know what is in your credit report, you will be able to control your financial future and make the best choices for yourself and not accept anything less than what you deserve.
When you apply for credit, lenders want to know about you, your employment history, your income, your assets, and most importantly they want to know about your credit history. A lender will get lots of information directly from you through a credit application, then, they will pull your credit bureau reports to confirm this information and review your credit references and credit report scores. Then upon evaluation of your credit application combined with your credit report, the lender will determine your credit risk and make a final decision on whether or not to grant you credit and at what rate of interest they will charge you.
So, now that you know the process of getting credit, let us take a deeper look into the factors that can either be an asset or liability to you when applying for credit - your credit report.
What is a credit report
Your credit report is your financial resume, a summary of your financial reliability, containing both personal and credit information. Your credit report is maintained by credit reporting agencies, also known as credit bureaus, and provided to lenders, employers, insurance companies, landlords and other companies who have a legitimate need for this information, based on the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Your credit and personal information is reported to the credit reporting agencies from various creditors, in most cases electronically, instantly updating your file.
What is in my credit report
Your credit report is divided up into five main areas: personal profile/identifying information, inquiries, credit history, public record information and your credit score.
PERSONAL PROFILE / IDENTIFYING INFORMATION - this is where all your personal information is recorded - your name including any alias and possibly your spouses name, current and previous addresses, Social Security number, date of birth and current and previous employment. You might find some of this information is incorrect or incorrectly spelled, this can occur when creditors pull your credit bureau as they usually enter in the information though the computer where data entry errors can occur, and these mistakes will update your credit bureau report. However, if there is information that is not even close, such as an address, this should alert you to investigate this further as it is a possibility that you may be a victim of identity theft.
INQUIRIES - in this section you will find listed all the parties that have requested a copy of your credit report and the date it was done over the past two years. There are two types of inquires, soft and hard. A hard inquire is when you have applied for something and is initiated by you, for example, you have applied for a loan or mortgage or completed a credit application for a credit card or even applied for insurance. These hard inquiries are the ones that appear on your credit report and are visible to creditors when they access your credit report. A soft inquiry only shows on your credit report when requested by yourself and do not show to the creditors. A soft inquiry can come from your existing creditors that are monitoring your account, companies that are looking to offer you promotional applications for credit and each time you request a copy of your credit report.
CREDIT HISTORY - in this section you will find an itemized list of your credit cards, loans and mortgages, both currently active accounts and past closed ones. The information reported includes, type of account, when it was open, the high balance or limit, monthly payments, date of last payment, how the account is paid including any late payments, date of last activity and a rating of how the account was paid.
PUBLIC RECORDS - this information is obtained from local, state and federal courthouses and includes bankruptcy records, foreclosures, tax liens, monetary judgments, court-ordered payments, and over due child support payments. Public records are a negative credit reference and will lower your credit score. They also stay on your credit report anywhere from six to ten years.
CREDIT SCORE - your credit report scores are a rating determining you credit risk and the likelihood of defaulting on a loan. Lenders will use this score as a tool to assist them in deciding whether or not they will lend you money. Your credit score is a snap shot of your credit at that point in time, and can change on a daily basis. The score is a three digit number ranging between 300 and 850. Statistics show that the higher the number the less likely you will default on a loan, therefore you are a good credit risk; and the lower the number the greater chance there is for you to default on your payments, making you a greater credit risk.
When your credit score is low, you still may be able to borrow money but, you will most likely have to pay a higher rate of interest and you may not get all the money you request and possibly have to pay additional fees, basically you are at the mercy of the lender. However, the higher your credit score is the more you are in-charge, you can get any loan at the best possible rates with no restriction.
Your credit score is a complicated calculation, where the credit reporting agency takes into consideration many factors, including but not limited to, your payment history - late payments, both current and previous will bring down your score; your credit balance in relation to you limit - if you are at your maximum credit limit or if you are over it will bring down you score; the number of inquires - if you have to many in a short period of time it will bring down your score; the length of time you have had credit, the total number of outstanding debts and any derogatory information or public records, such as bankruptcies, collection, judgments and written off accounts - will bring down your score.
Where does the information on my credit report come from?
Your credit history information is gathered at companies called credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies. There are three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. They receive information voluntarily from creditors and the credit reporting agency updates and maintains your credit report file with this information. Creditors report, loans, credit cards, mortgages, on a regular basis electronically. Your file is also updated when you apply for credit, as the information from your credit application is submitted to the credit reporting agencies when they pull your credit report.
Who are the major credit reporting agencies
There are three major credit reporting agencies. Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. These are independent companies from one another, and it is important for you to know that they do not exchange information. This means that it is quite possible that you not only have a separate credit report with each of them, but that they may contain different information. There are hundreds of smaller credit bureau companies across the country however these major credit companies are the largest and the main bureaus that the banks and financial institutions use. You will find that creditors may use one of the three credit reporting companies, however it is not unusual for them to use all three.
Who has access to my credit report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) contains rules regarding who can access your credit report. Generally speaking, a credit reporting agency may only provide information from your credit file when the requested relates to the extension of credit, collection of a debt, a tenancy applications, an application for employment or insurance, the issuance of special licenses or potential financial dealings that involve you. The law also gives these companies access to your report as part of an ongoing business relationship. An example of this would be you have a loan at a bank and you miss your payment, this gives that bank a right to obtain an updated copy of your credit reports. Credit card companies use this option a lot. They consider it part of the maintenance of your account. As credit cards are revolving (not a closed end loan), a customers circumstances can change, so credit card companies will obtain updated credit reports on their customers to review them and look for warning signs of a customer getting over extended in credit which could result in problems fulfilling their obligations. This is how credit card companies can either raise or lower your credit limit or interest rate automatically. However, in the case of an employer, this law does not apply and they need the employee's permission each time they wish to request a copy of your credit report.
You are also entitled to copies of your credit reports, and today with the internet there are many fast and easy ways to obtain credit reports online. You can purchase a copy from each of the major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian or Tran Union, the cost may vary however, under the latest Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules they are restricted to the maximum amount they can charge you. Check with your state laws, as some states require the credit bureau companies to provide you with a copy of your credit report periodically for free. The FCRA gives you the opportunity to receive a copy of your credit reports if you have been denied for credit or other benefits based on your credit report, you are entitled to receive a free credit report from the credit bureau that provided the report. The FCRA also allows you obtain
totally free credit reports. If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft or fraud, if you are unemployed or if you receive welfare assistance.