Understanding Credit Reports Family Economics & Financial Education
Credit Reports • Credit report - a record of a consumer’s credit history • Credit history - a record of transactions involving credit use • Individuals do not have a credit report if they have not previously used credit • Affects one’s ability to acquire credit
Name and aliases Current and past addresses Marital status Date of birth Employment history Public records Judgments, criminal, and bankruptcy Credit card, store card, book clubs, music clubs, etc. Information on a Credit Report • Payment history • Credit card, store card, book clubs, music clubs, etc.
Financial records Loans, bounced checks, closed accounts, etc. Loans/leases Rent-to-own contracts, payday loans, lease agreements, etc. Credit inquiry- Number of credit inquiries Credit inquiry -a request for your credit. Can be done by businesses you apply to for credit or whom pre-approve you for credit Information continued *Medical information is not on a consumer’s credit report, but late medical payments are.
Building Credit History • Important for consumers to build a credit history to be able to purchase items on credit • For example – house, vehicle • Affects a young adult’s ability to make a purchase on credit in the immediate future including: • Renting an apartment • Buying a car • Purchasing electronics or other merchandise
Building Credit History continued • Store accounts (JcPenny or Sears charge accounts) • Credit card accounts • Even with a co-signer • Loan from financial institution • Acquire a small loan from a financial institution and pay the loan off in timely payments to develop a positive credit history
No Credit History While the following are all positive financial practices, a credit history is not built if a consumer performs the following actions: • Having no history of credit use • Not having any credit accounts in own name • Paying cash for all major purchases • Paying phone and utility bills on time
Practice good banking techniques Keep checkbook balanced, do not bounce checks Pay bills consistently and on time Keep public records free of bankruptcy Have no criminal record Keep a reasonable or small amount of debt Apply for credit sparingly, keeping credit inquiries low Hold a low number or credit/store cards Check credit report annually to remove errors Maintain reasonable amount of unused credit Positive Credit • Being responsible with credit and finances can lead to good credit • A consumer may develop and keep good credit by:
General Rule • Percentage of current debt compared to the total credit available is reviewed by potential lenders • Keep the amount of debt currently held at 25% of the total amount of available credit • For example - if Sue’s total amount of credit available is $1,000, her current amount of debt should not exceed $250
Bouncing checks Routinely paying bills late Having a criminal record Holding a large amount of debt Holding an unreasonable amount of unused credit Not paying utility or cell phone accounts consistently and on time Obtaining a high number of credit inquiries Carrying many credit/store cards Having a public record of bankruptcy Defaulting on a loan Having cards over the limit Negative Credit • Being irresponsible with credit and finances can lead to poor credit • A consumer may develop or keep poor credit by:
Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) • Keeps a record of a consumer’s credit transactions and compiles credit reports • Acquires information from several different types of lending companies • Information on credit reports differ between each individual agency • Lenders may only report to one credit agency • Consumers should contact all agencies when checking their credit report
CRA’s continued The three main credit reporting agencies are: • Equifax • www.equifax.com • (800) 685-1111 • Trans Union • www.transunion.com • (800) 888-4213 • Experian • www.experian.com • (800) 397-3742
Who Reports to CRA’s? • Store accounts • Credit card companies • Mortgage and other loan lenders • Financial institutions • Landlords • Courts • Utility accounts • Cellular phone companies • Delinquent accounts
Requesting Credit Reports • Consumers can request his/her credit report any time • Can obtain one free credit report annually from all three credit agencies www.annualcreditreport.com • Additional copies can be purchased for no more than $9.50 • Consumers should check credit report once a year for accuracy • Mistakes are common
Insurance agencies Current and potential credit companies State/local child support agencies Government agencies Financial institutions inquiring for lines of credit Landlords Potential employers Only with applicant’s written request Requesting continued • Any time a consumer requests credit from a business, they are able to review his/her credit report. This may include:
Mistakes in Credit Reports • More than 50% of the credit reports checked in a study contained errors • Consumer Reports (July 2000) • The two main errors commonly appearing in a consumer’s credit report are: • Mistaken identity – occurs when a lender reports a credit transaction and information is recorded on the wrong person’s credit report, usually of a similar name • Fraud
Fair Credit Reporting Act • Enacted to protect the consumer in 1971 • Designed to promote accuracy and ensure privacy of information in credit reports • Consumers have the right: • To know the information in their credit report • To have errors corrected in their credit report
Correcting Errors on Credit Reports Steps include: • Contact the particular credit bureau that has the error • CRA must report to the consumer within 30 days • If the CRA can’t verify the information, then it must be removed from the file or if in error it must be corrected • If a consumer disagrees with result of CRA investigation, they have the right to submit a 100 word explanation which stays in the consumer’s file • Negative information is usually removed from credit file after seven years, except bankruptcy which is removed after 10 years
Correcting Errors on Credit Report Cont. • According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): • Consumers can do just as good of a job repairing their credit report errors as a fee based debt repair agency • Be cautious of debt repair agencies promising instant help because there is no immediate fix for poor credit • Be proactive and correspond to CRA’s if an error is found
Credit Scores • A mathematical tool created to help lender evaluate the risk associated with lending a customer money • Scores range from 150-950, with 950 being the best score • Not listed on a credit report • Each CRA has an independent scoring system based upon a standard percentage of five different categories • Consumer’s scores can differ between each CRA
Five Standard Categories of Scores • 35%-Payment history - Timely manner in which a consumer pays debt • 30%-Outstanding debt -Amount of debt currently held • 15%-Credit history -How long the consumer has held credit accounts and how often they are used • 10%-Pursuit of new credit -How much credit is acquired over the length of the consumer’s credit history • 10%-Types of credit in use -May include credit cards, gas cards, store cards or accounts, loans, etc.
Credit Scores continued Other factors calculated into a credit score may include: • Length of time at current address • Current income • Financial information • Late payments • Amount of outstanding credit • Amount of credit in use • Length of time credit has been established
Financial Effect of Credit Scores • Interest rate of loans • High score – can insure a lower interest rate on credit • Low score– can cause a higher interest rate on credit • Ability to receive future loans/credit • Financial lending institutions have guidelines of what score will qualify for a loan • Reflection of risk of borrower to the lender • The lower the score, the higher the possibility the consumer pays bills late • Financial security for lifetime • Takes time to improve credit, which could take time from building financial security
Conclusion Build and maintain positive credit! Check credit reports annually for errors! Act financially responsible!