A Complete Review Of The Major Credit Reporting Agencies And Credit Reports

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.

Credit Scores – How Do They Work?

Credit scoring is a complicated process and each of the 3 major credit
repositories have their own credit scoring models in place to determine a
borrower’s credit score. The 3 main credit repositories are Equifax, Experian,
and TransUnion. Equifax has credit scores that range from a lowest possible
score of 300 and a highest possible score of 850. Experian has a range of
340-820 and TransUnion 150-934. Just like computers have upgraded operating
systems over the years such as, Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows XP, the
credit scoring system versions update periodically also. Not all lenders use the
same version or the most updated version when obtaining a credit report and
credit score for a borrower. Therefore, this is one reason why you may have
varying credit scores between one lender and another.

There are five major components or factors that help to determine your credit
score. Roughly 35 percent of your credit score is derived from your payment
history, 30 percent from how much you owe compared to how much you have
available, 15 percent comes from length of credit history, 10 percent from new
credit and recent inquiries, and the final 10 percent comes from various other
items such as the mixture of credit you currently have. Next we will discuss
each of the five components in further detail and explain the basic principals
as to how credit scoring works. This information is to be used only to help
educate and as a guide to assist with the basic ideas involved in credit
scoring.

Payment History (35%)

Your payment history is the most important factor of credit scoring.
Bankruptcies, collection accounts, slow pays and late payments, foreclosures,
judgments, and liens can negatively affect your credit score. However, an
established history of on-time payments and a clean credit history will
positively impact your credit scores and help to increase them over time. The
older any negative credit history or adverse credit factors are, the less they
will negatively affect your credit score. Therefore, recent late payments or
other derogatory credit will negatively affect your credit much greater than
aged bad credit.

Revolving Credit Balances to Maximum Limits (30%)

The second biggest factor in credit scoring comes from how you utilize your
revolving credit. The credit scoring models are going to look heavily upon how
much revolving credit you have available compared to how much you have used. For
credit scoring purposes, having all revolving credit or credit card accounts
maxed out to their limits is not a good thing, nor is it going to help better
your credit scores. You don’t want to pay off all of your revolving credit
accounts because that will not show the credit bureaus how well you manage your
credit. Your ideal credit ratios should be roughly 20-40 percent usage. What
this means is that if you have a credit card with a $1000 limit you do not want
to max. out the credit card balance, but you would want to maintain a balance
between 200 and 400 dollars. If you do realize that you have borrowed more than
50% of your available credit limit on your card or your balance is getting close
to your limit, you should either try to pay your balance down to the 40% mark or
call your credit card company and see if they are able to raise your limit. The
biggest mistake you can make is to let your balance exceed your maximum credit
limit. This will negatively affect your credit score a great amount.

Length of Credit History (15%)

The longer and more established your credit history is, the better and more
positive of an impact it can make. Someone who pays their bills on time for a 10
year period of time is a much better risk than someone who only has a 1 year
history of paying their bills on time, even if they both carry the same credit
score. When you pay off credit card accounts do not close them, keep them open
and use them periodically in order to continue to build an established length of
credit. Closing your accounts can actually have more of a negative affect on
your credit score due to limiting the length of time that particular account was
open for. The longer you have established credit accounts, the better it is for
you. It is possible to still have a good credit score with a short credit
history; however lenders may not approve you for optimal financing options due
to the lack of history still.

New Credit and Inquiries (10%)

The amount of new credit you have opened, will have somewhat of a minor impact
on your credit scores. If you have numerous inquiries resulting from applying
for a lot of new credit and add many new trade-lines in your credit report, this
can have a damaging effect on your credit score. First, it may negatively affect
your scores because you have a lot of new, un-established accounts. Second, it
can negatively impact your score because you have a lot of inquiries with
various lenders for various types of financing over a short period of time.
Credit inquiries can affect your credit score, not a ton, but enough to lower
your score. This is not to say don’t shop around or don’t have more than one
firm pull your credit when looking to buy a car or a home. You definitely should
use due diligence and shop between a couple of lenders to make sure you are
getting a good deal. When you are comparing quotes however, you should try to do
all of your shopping within a 30 day max. period of time. All inquiries that are
made when applying for an auto loan or a mortgage loan are treated as only one
inquiry when they are done within a 14 day period of time. Therefore if you are
ever told to not have anyone else pull your credit or else your scores will
lower, this has little truth to it. There is only one type of credit inquiry
that counts toward your credit score. That one type of inquiry is when you are
making an application for credit: such as a home loan, auto loan, credit card,
etc… When you pull your own credit, a creditor you already have an account with
pulls your credit, and/or a prospective employer pulls your credit, these do not
have any impact on your scores. Understanding this can help you make sure that
you do not fall victim to all of the urban myths regarding credit inquiries.

Types & Mixture of Credit (10%)

Having a mixture of the various types of credit will have a small impact on your
credit scores. For a person who has a good mixture of credit such as a home
loan, auto loan, 2-4 credit cards and maybe a personal loan this could be deemed
a good mixture of credit versus a different person who has 15 credit cards and
no other credit. The ideal number of credit cards to maintain is 2-4. Also,
other types of liabilities are important to have, such as installment loans and
a mortgage loan.

“Knowledge is power” and the most important step to applying for a loan is to
understand your credit report, your credit scores and how credit scoring works.
It is highly recommended that every person checks their credit report at least
once per year to help protect themselves from inaccurate information and from
identity theft. A new law was recently passed that permits a borrower to have
access to their credit report one time each year for no charge to allow them the
opportunity to review their credit history and verify the accuracy of all items
listed. You are permitted to obtain a credit report from each of the three
credit repositories, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You can obtain your
free report by logging into the annual credit report and following
the directions. When you obtain your free report it will not contain your credit
score, but you can pay a small fee if you would like to find out what your score
is when you are ordering your free report. It is also highly recommended that
you pull a report from each repository individually as opposed to all of them
together so that you can dispute any erroneous information to each bureau
separately. If you report a problem to only one of the bureaus it will not be
fixed among all three of the bureaus. Remember the bureaus are separate of each
other and have no communication amongst each other either. Some creditors report
to only 1 bureau, some report to 2 bureaus, some report to all three bureaus and
some don’t report to any. This is why you must make sure that you check all
three credit repositories when you are utilizing your free annual credit report.
In conclusion, your credit is very important and understanding the basics of how
your credit scores are obtained is equally as important.

Credit scoring is a complicated process and each of the 3 major credit
repositories have their own credit scoring models in place to determine a
borrower’s credit score. The 3 main credit repositories are Equifax, Experian,
and TransUnion. Equifax has credit scores that range from a lowest possible
score of 300 and a

Here is a quick contact list for the 3 main credit repositories:

Equifax Credit Bureau P.O. Box 740241 Atlanta GA 30374-0241 * (800) 685-1111

http://www.equifax.com

Experian (Formerly TRW Credit Bureau) P.O. Box 949 Allen TX 75013-0949 * (888)
397-3742

http://www.experian.com

Trans Union Corporation (Credit Bureau) Consumer Disclosure Center P.O. Box 390
Springfield PA 19064-0390 * (800) 916-8800 * (800) 682-7654 * (714) 680-7292

http://www.transunion.com