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Credit Reports and Credit Scores

A credit report is a record of your current and past debts, including your payment history. It is used by banks, other financial institutions, and businesses to make decisions about your loan, rent, and even employment applications.

What is in your credit report?

Your credit report states what loans you have, how long you have had them, and the balances. It includes information on what you owe on credit cards and how well you are repaying those debts. The report also contains information about loans you may have defaulted on and any debt collections and judgment activities. Banks, courts, and other businesses report information to credit reporting agencies. Credit reporting agencies compile the information from these different sources to create your credit report.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number based on information available in your credit report. You have more than one credit score, because different credit reporting agencies calculate your score differently. Generally, your scores are similar, but typically not identical. Credit scores also change over time as information is reported. The good news is that you can improve your credit score.

What factors go into a credit score?

  • Your bill-paying history, current unpaid debt, and the number and type of loans and accounts you have.
  • How long you have had your loan accounts open and how much of your available credit you are using.
  • If you have had a debt sent to collection, a foreclosure, or a bankruptcy, and how long ago.
  • Whether you recently applied for new or more credit.

Why is a good credit score important?

Good credit scores suggest to banks and other financial institutions that you have handled your finances well. A credit score predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan on time. A scoring model uses information from your credit report to create a credit score. With a good credit score you could be offered better loan terms than someone with a poor credit score, such as a lower interest rate or more time to pay back your loan. A low credit score indicates that there is a higher risk that a person will not repay a loan. You can check with your lender on their credit score requirements.

Can I influence my credit score and my credit report?

  • Make sure you pay your bills and debts on time.
  • Create a budget.
  • Pay down your debt.
  • When you pay off your credit card or loan, you might want to keep them open.
  • If you cannot make your loan or credit card payments, call your banker or creditor right away.
  • Only borrow money for things you need.
  • Shop for credit only when you need it.
  • Monitor your credit report and fix any errors you find.

How do I get credit if I don’t have a credit history?

  • Get a secured credit card. A secured credit card works like a credit card, but usually starts with a low limit.
  • You can also start by getting a traditional credit card with a low credit limit and a co-signer.

Always find out all the terms, including any fees and penalties you could incur. This will help ensure that the credit card you select, and the way you use it, enhances your credit history.