The key to determining your eligibility for credit is assessing how you’ve handled past credit obligations. Your credit report provides potential lenders, service providers, employers, and other authorized parties with information about your credit history. A deep understanding of your credit report can help you to use credit responsibly and be able to identify errors that may impact your creditworthiness.
What’s on Your Credit Report?
It is important to understand the information contained on your credit report so that you can be a responsible user of consumer credit. Your credit report contains the following information:
Personal information. Your name, date of birth, places of employment, and address history may all be included on your credit report. These pieces of information serve to identify you and to keep your credit information separate from that of other consumers.
Accounts. Your credit report provides a detailed list of your open and closed credit accounts. These include your credit cards, mortgages, car loans, personal loans, and lines of credit – sometimes even including “overdraft protection” on checking accounts. The following details are included under each of these accounts:
- The date the account was opened and the account status or standing provides an indication to creditors of your responsibility with debt obligations. More experienced consumers of credit are considered less risky to creditors.
- Limits and balances information details the amount of credit that has been extended to you, and how much of it you are currently using. Many creditors consider consumers who have used too much or too little of their available balances to be a higher risk.
- Minimum payment amount shows the minimum amount due each month on the account.
- Your payment history is the record of your monthly payments, usually marked with a symbol indicating on-time or missed payments. Late or missed payments – even one or two of them – are considered by creditors to be very risky behaviors.
Collection accounts. These entries on your credit report represent accounts in your name that your creditors have turned over to debt collectors. They are considered to be very negative factors for creditworthiness. Collection accounts signify debt you have failed to pay back, and therefore they damage your credit rating.
Public record information. Like collection accounts, a public record on your credit report is negative and hurts your credit rating. Public records can include a bankruptcy, foreclosure, tax lien, civil suit, or court judgment.
Credit inquiries. A list of everyone who has pulled your credit report in the last two years will appear on your report. This list can include companies with which you currently have accounts (such as utilities), companies with which you’ve applied for new loans and credit cards, property management and leasing organizations, and employers with which you’ve applied for a job.
Consumer statement. You can contact the credit reporting agencies (also known as credit bureaus) to include a statement on your report. For instance, if there are special circumstances surrounding your credit history, you can write an explanatory note to include on your report. Potential lenders may factor this statement into their lending decisions.
Your Credit Score is Based on Your Credit Report
A credit score is determined by a formula based on the information on your credit report. There are many different formulas available, and lenders have the right to use any formula available. So it is possible that the credit scores you see at ScoreSense® will not be the same as the ones that creditors use, even if your credit report is pulled at the exact same moment. Most of the time, the scores will be similar enough to come to the same general conclusions about your creditworthiness.
Your credit scores are based on the information that appears in your credit report. Specifically, your credit score is calculated using the following factors:
- Payment history is the most important element of the credit scoring formula. If you make your payments on time each month, you are likely to have a good credit score. But if you have delinquencies, or worse, a charged-off account or bankruptcy listed on your report, your credit score will suffer.
- Amount of debt you have in your name is another important factor in the credit score calculation. Your total amount of debt as well as how much debt you have compared to your credit limits are taken into account.
- Length of credit history is important. The longer you’ve proven yourself as a responsible credit user, the higher your credit score is going to be. Those with little or no credit history are likely to have lower credit scores than those with long histories of paying their debts back on time.
Each month, ScoreSense provides you with three of your credit scores. Each score is based on the information found in your Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion credit report, respectively. Note that the information found in each of your credit reports may vary; this is because some creditors don’t report your account activity to all three reporting agencies. This is the reason why your credit scores may differ slightly from one another.
When is Negative Information Cleared from Your Report?
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), negative credit information like delinquencies, charge-offs, collection accounts, and public records (such as tax liens and court judgments) must not remain on your credit reports for longer than seven years. One exception to the seven-year rule is Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The FCRA specifies that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. Note that once negative information falls off your credit report, it can no longer influence your credit score.
How a Good Credit Score Saves You Money
So why should you care about your credit? A good credit score can save you money by helping you qualify for low-interest mortgages, car loans, and credit cards. Lenders are more likely to offer lower interest rates to people with high credit scores. Low interest rates mean you pay less in interest each month on your credit cards, cars, home, and personal loans. These savings can mean you pay hundreds or even thousands less to your creditors each year.
Having good credit saves you money even if you aren’t applying for a new loan. It can help you get that great deal on an apartment, that high-paying job you interviewed for, and lower car insurance and life insurance premiums. It can also keep you in the good graces of your existing creditors, making it less likely that they’ll ratchet up your current interest rate.
Monitor Your Credit Regularly
You’ve already taken that important first step of signing up with ScoreSense. Make sure you take full advantage of your membership by checking your credit reports and scores from all three reporting agencies regularly.
We designed our tools and services to make it easy for you to stay in control of your credit. You’re not doing all you can if you only pull your credit report occasionally from one reporting agency. Some creditors don’t report to all three reporting agencies, so you won’t get a comprehensive view of your credit unless you see what all three are reporting about you. We provide a 3-in-1 credit report that clearly shows you what information Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian have on file for you. Check this comprehensive report once a month to make sure nothing unexpected has popped up on your credit history.