Understanding Your Credit Report
Few people understand the impact a credit score can have in an individual’s life. A high score can mean a lower rate for a bank loan while a low credit score can result in more expensive insurance premiums. Not only is it important to understand your credit score, but it is also important to understand how to improve your credit score and reap the advantages of good credit.
First, the basics. Creditors have been using credit scoring systems to determine if people are a good credit risk for some time. Today, many businesses, including insurance companies, phone companies and employers use a person’s credit score to determine if a product, service or employment offer should be provided.
Credit scoring systems are complex and vary among creditors and businesses. Essentially, information collected from an individual’s credit report is put through a statistical program that compares that specific information against consumers with similar profiles. The program identifies all characteristics that relate to risk and generates a number which represents a credit score.
The higher your credit score, the less of a risk you are considered to be. So, the higher the score, the better. The scores generally range from 300 to 850. A score of 620 or higher should mean that you are eligible for very good rates.
You can obtain your credit score from any one of the three national consumer reporting companies. They are allowed to charge a reasonable fee for the score. Since your score is comprised of information from your credit report, you need to ensure that your credit report is accurate.
How to obtain a copy of your credit report:
Under Federal Law, you have the right to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies once a year.
To order your free annual credit report:
- By telephone: Call toll-free: 1-877-322-8228
- On the web: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com
- By mail: Mail your completed Annual Credit Report Request Form (which you can obtain from the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/include/requestformfinal.pdf) to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If your credit score is low, or you just want to make sure it stays high, follow these steps to improve or maintain your score:
- Pay your bills on time.
- Do not max out your credit limits.
- Do not apply for too many new credit accounts in a short period of time.
- Do not have too many credit card accounts.
- Develop a credit history as early as possible to demonstrate a long record of responsibility.
What if there are mistakes in your credit report?
- You have a right to dispute the inaccurate information directly with the consumer reporting agency and maybe even with the provider of the information.
- Tell them in writing what you believe is inaccurate and provide as much proof, including copies of documents, as you can to support your position.
The agency generally has 30 days to investigate your complaint. For more information about your credit score and credit report: