How can I find out what is on my credit report?
One free copy of your credit report is available from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every year. It is recommended to pull one of these credit reports every 4-5 months to examine and make sure there are no inaccuracies on your credit report. This helps to ensure you remain in good standing with your creditors as well as to protect yourself from possible identity theft.
Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to request your free copy.
Websites for the three credit reporting agencies:
Trans Union: www.transunion.com
To learn how to protect yourself from Identity theft or if you need information on how to respond to identity theft please refer to the Federal Trade Commission
What is my credit score?
A credit score is a number representing an individual's creditworthiness based on their past and current credit files. A credit score is based on information typically sourced from credit bureaus. The range of credit scores is from 300 to 850. The higher the score, the better your credit. High credit scores can help you qualify for loans at lower interest rate charges. For the best rates, your credit scores should be 720 or above.
To obtain a free copy of your credit score visit www.creditkarma.com. Credit Karma uses credit information only from the Trans Union reporting agency so please read their disclosures first.
Websites like (freecreditreport.com) are NOT free, as they require a credit card number to see your score.
You can check your credit score from creditkarma.com as much as you want, it will not affect your score.
How do I establish credit?
There are a few ways to establish credit, but it is essential to have the tools and skills in place to manage credit wisely. Loans and credit cards are NOT free money; it will have to be paid back in most cases with interest.
One option to establish credit is by obtaining a secured card from your bank or credit union. This option is best used for individuals with little to no credit. Secured cards are attached to a savings account where funds are deposited as collateral for purchases made with the card. In most cases the credit limit is based on the balance on the account; a $500 account balance equals a $500 credit limit. When payments are not made in full or on time the financial institution will withdraw funds to cover the bill. Late payments will still be reported to the credit bureaus, which damage your credit score. Be aware of fees and penalties, most secured cards have an application and annual fee.
Another option is to apply for a store or credit card. Be cautious and read the fine print; be aware of introductory rates, fees and penalties. Choose a card with a zero annual fee; don’t pay to use their money. Remember, it is vitally important to have some skills and knowledge of money management before applying for a credit card. If used properly, credit cards can provide financial benefits, but all too often they can become the beginning to long lasting financial hardships.
Student loans are also on your credit report. It is extremely important to make these payments in full and on time when the loan enters into repayment.
Personal loans and auto loans can also be a means to building credit. However, saving for expensive purchases is almost always the best choice to make.
Whenever you request credit make sure you can afford to pay it back. Remember, building a good credit report and credit score is mostly determined on whether or not you paid your creditors back and if you paid on time. Failure to follow these essential steps will result in a downgrade on your credit score and a hindrance on obtaining additional credit.
How is my credit score calculated?
#1 35% - of your credit score is calculated by your payment history and whether you pay on time
#2 30% - of your credit score is calculated by your debt-to-credit ratio.
This ratio is the amount of money you owe to your creditors and the amount of credit you have available.
Example: Your credit limit on your card is $1500 and your current balance is $300. The debt-to credit ratio is 300/1500 = 0.20 or 20%. You are utilizing 20% of your credit. The recommended credit utilization rate is no more than 30%. A lower utilization shows spending restraint which can boost your credit score; this however doesn’t mean an individual with a higher utilization rate is going to have a poor credit score.
#3 15%- of your credit score is calculated by the length of your credit history.
A long relationship with a creditor is viewed more favorably than a short one. For younger people, most times the only way to improve on this section of your credit score is to get older.
#4 10%- of your credit score is calculated by how often you shop for credit and open new accounts.
Opening and closing accounts in short time periods will cause a negative side effect to your credit score. Applying for credit can also affect your credit score. Whenever credit is applied for, for the purpose of a lender to make a lending decision, a hard inquiry is pulled. The hard inquiry can affect your credit score but should not necessarily hinder an individual from seeking credit. The main reason this could hurt your score is if multiple hard inquiries are pulled in a short period of time.
#5 10%- of your credit score is calculated by the kinds of credit you have.
A mixture of different cards and loans are the preferred option in improving this section of your credit score. A mixture of cards can include specific store cards, Visa®, MasterCard®, American Express®, and Discover® credit cards. Examples of different kinds of loans may include a home loan, a car loan, student loans, and personal loans.
Total 100% = Your Credit Score!
How can I improve my credit score?
The first step to improving your credit should always begin by checking for incorrect information on your credit report. All inaccuracies should be reported and corrected immediately; wrongful reporting can and will hurt your credit score.
- Pay your bills On Time!
- Stay under the 30% credit utilization rate as mentioned above.
- Pay off your credit card balances every month.
- Limit the number of credit cards you have.
Only open an account if you plan on keeping it open for a long period of time. The longer an account is open and maintains in good standing the better it is for your credit.
If you are having problems overspending check out www.spendster.org
Tired of receiving unsolicited credit card offers?
Visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre17.shtm to learn more about prescreening and how to stop receiving credit card offers for five years or permanently. This website also gives information about the National Do Not Call Registry which reduces telemarketing calls.