Consumer Guide to Credit Reporting
Understanding the Impact to Your Financial Well-Being
Credit Scores vs. Credit Reports
While you may hear these two terms used interchangeably, they are different. A Credit Report lists personal information like your address history, account information like payment history and balances, when and how often you have sought credit, and any bankruptcies or collections information if applicable. In contrast, a credit score is an attempt to boil the information in your credit report down to a single number that represents your financial wellness. Three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion manage your credit report(s) and calculate your scores. You probably recognize these names.
Who Uses Credit Scores and Credit Reports?
Credit scores or reports can be used in a variety of ways by several different groups. Potential creditors and financial institutions may use a credit score in the underwriting process to help them estimate how likely you are to repay a debt they extend to you. Oftentimes landlords or property management groups will request a credit score to determine whether you are likely to make your scheduled payments. Sometimes employers will request your credit report in the hiring process. The use of credit reports in hiring is governed by Federal law under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Depending on where you live, your state may also impose additional regulations on use of credit reports by potential employers.
Why does your Credit Score matter?
A credit score exists as an indicator of your financial wellness. While a credit score reflects past financial choices and decisions, many of the uses of the credit score are forward-looking. Therefore, it is important to understand the impact your current financial choices can have on building credit for your financial future. A good primer on credit scores is available free from myfico https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/credit-scores
So, how can you build credit from scratch or rebuild credit following a financial hardship? Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. The best way to start building credit is to understand the credit score process so you can focus on the components of the score that lie within your control.
Understand the Calculation
The truth is that a credit score is like a very complex grade. Instead of assignments, credit bureaus like Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian look at certain factors in your credit report and use complex mathematical models to determine a single number that represents your financial wellness. Adding to the confusion, different companies use different factors and different mathematical calculations. To top it off, not all accounts are reported to all bureaus, so your score can vary based on the company or product providing your score. Each bureau must make one credit report per year available to you free of charge under federal law. You can check your credit report for free using AnnualCreditReport.com. You should be wary of credit repair services offering to guarantee a better credit score for a fee. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it often is.
When making decisions, the different groups who use credit scores can use either the single numerical score or the entire report, which includes details on the number of accounts you have opened, available credit, balances, whether you make payments on time, and whether any accounts are past due or in collections. While this means that the steps to making your score go up may not be the same for everyone with a unique borrowing and repayment history, there are some general factors that credit bureaus all agree impact your score. For more details on credit scoring directly from the source, check out these links from the three major credit bureaus:
Read your Credit Report
The first step to building credit is to understand your scores today. When you access your credit report, you will get information about which factors are affecting your credit score. For most people, however, the same factors are important:
- Making payments on time
- Paying off old debts
- Using less credit than you have available
- Applying for new credit less often
- Keeping your oldest accounts open
If you have questions about the accounts managed by Resurgent that appear on your credit report, our friendly representatives would be glad to help you. Representatives can be reached Monday through Thursday 8am-9pm Eastern and Friday from 8am-5pm at 1-888-665-0374. For detailed information on the Fair Credit Reporting Act that regulates Credit reporting from the Federal Trade Commission, please visit http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcra.htm.