Learn How to Check Your Credit Score & Get a Full Credit Report

You should check both your credit score and your full credit report on a regular basis. Both are very important to your finances, although they are different.

Your credit report contains your entire credit history, including how many lines of credit you have open, collections, bankruptcies and more. Your credit score, however, is calculated based on different factors that also affect your credit. Your score is not included in your report. If someone wants to perform a credit check on you, you should confirm whether they want to examine your credit score or your credit report.

Learn How to Run All 3 Credit Reports

You should examine your full credit report on a regular basis for errors and negative marks against you. Your credit report documents everything from your credit cards to your mortgages and car loans. It includes a record of how consistently you have paid your credit card bills and made loan payments. Additionally, when you run a full credit report you can see how many inquiries into your account have been made.

There are three major credit bureaus in the United States that offer a full credit report to consumers. The companies include:

  • Equifax.
  • Experian.
  • TransUnion.

Each bureau uses slightly different formulas and sources to gather information and develop a report on individual customers. As a result, each report can be different from the next. Errors may appear on one that do not appear on the other two. Finally, different companies and lenders may choose to rely on any one of the three companies or cite all three. Therefore, individuals should check all 3 bureau credit score reports to evaluate their history.

To monitor all 3 credit reports, you should obtain copies of your report from each company at least once a year. You can purchase a credit report from each individual company’s website. The cost to purchase the report depends on whether you have obtained one from that company that year or not.

Learn How to Get a Free Credit Report

You can obtain a free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus once a year. Effectively, that means you can get a free credit report up to three times a year. Additionally, you can get free reports immediately after you have been denied credit. However, beyond that, you must pay for copies of your report. It is best to take advantage of your free credit reports and request them strategically. You may choose to request all three free credit reports at once, or you can spread out your requests throughout the year. It may be better to spread your reports out rather than order them all at once. By requesting your reports throughout the year, you can more effectively monitor your credit score for errors or signs of identity fraud.

To request a free credit score report from any of the major credit bureaus, you should visit the official Annual Credit Report website. This website is operated jointly by all three bureaus. From that website, you can select which report you want to obtain. Note that you can get a credit report from each company one at a time, but you cannot request them all at once. You should maintain a record of your credit reports in order to compare them against future copies and identify errors.

Learn How to Check Your Actual Credit Score

Your credit score is calculated based on the information contained in your credit report. Although companies do not generally share the precise details of how they calculate your score, the following factors are considered in general order of importance:

  • Payment history
  • Debt owed vs credit available
  • Length of credit history
  • New accounts opened
  • Types of credit accounts

Maintaining a regular, on-time payment history is by far the most important factor for determining your credit score. The second most important factor is how much debt you carry versus how much debt you are approved to carry. Generally, you should use less than 30 percent of your total credit at once. Factors like how long you have had a credit history, how many accounts you have opened recently and how various the types of accounts you have are have an impact as well. However, they are less important than your payment history and how much of your credit you utilize.

Does checking my credit score affect my credit rating?

You may wonder, “Does checking my credit score hurt my credit?” No, it does not. You may have heard that inquiries into your credit negatively affect it, but that is only partially true.

When you check your credit score, you perform a soft inquiry. Soft inquiries also include occasions when your employer or a company performs a check on your credit as part of a larger background check. Soft inquiries do not negatively affect your credit score.

When a financial institution or lender checks your credit to determine whether to approve your loan or credit application, that is a hard inquiry. Hard inquiries for credit are recorded on your credit report. Multiple hard inquiries in a short amount of time will negatively impact your credit score. This is because it suggests that you are seeking large amounts of cash at once.

Learn How to Fix Your Credit Score Fast

You can fix your credit score fast by minimizing how much debt you carry and making regular payments. If you have accumulated credit card debt, stop using the cards and begin paying in cash when possible. Pay down your debt, including paying well above the minimum payment required. Set up an auto-pay preference so you ensure you never miss a payment. As your utilized debt goes down and you develop a history of steady payments, your credit score will begin to improve. It can take a long time to fully restore your credit, depending upon what is in your history.

Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Reports That Most People Don’t Know

Can landlords report to credit bureaus?

Landlords can report delinquent payments to major credit bureaus. All three credit bureaus have the option for landlords to report payments, whether missed or on time. Those payments are then included in an individual tenant’s credit report.

However, not all landlords do report their payments. Most major landlords subscribe to a system that enables them to report missed payments to a major credit bureau. Individuals renting from a corporation or a large apartment complex likely have their payments reported to credit bureaus. However, this system is typically subscription-based. As a result, many smaller landlords may choose not to subscribe to the service and pay the required fees. Individuals renting out a single property from an owner with a handful of properties may therefore not be reported for missing payments.

How do I get collections off my credit report?

The correct way to remove collections off your report varies depending on how old the account is and whether it is in dispute. You should dispute a collection account on your credit report. Provide any documentation you have regarding the account in question.

If you have multiple accounts you want to dispute or do not have time to handle the process, you can employ a credit repair company. These companies will examine your reports on your behalf, dispute claims and collect evidence to have claims removed.

Learn How to Get Items Off a Credit Report

You can dispute any item on your credit report if you believe it is there in error. However, if it is not there in error, you may have to wait until the item ages out. But how long before something falls off your credit report? It takes seven years for something to come off of your credit report. This time limit was established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970. However, items that disappear from your credit report do not disappear from your financial background. That means debts that fall off can reappear under specific circumstances. For instance, if you establish a payment plan with old debts that have fallen off, that could unintentionally bring it back onto your record.

Learn How to Remove Missed Payments From a Credit Report

You have a variety of options available to remove missed payments from your credit report. If you have generally good credit, you can request a goodwill adjustment to your credit. Contact the creditor with a letter explaining the circumstances of your late payment and request an adjustment to your report. However, you may not be able to get rid of late payments on your credit report if you have multiple missed payments.

For multiple late payments, you can instead negotiate their removal from your report in exchange for an automatic payment arrangement. By signing up for automatic payments, you reassure lenders that you will not accidentally miss a payment again. This improves your chances that a lender will agree to remove late payments from your record.

Can a settled account be removed from a credit report?

Settled accounts generally remain on your credit report for the full seven-year duration required. Settled accounts are debts that you have negotiated into settlement. You typically do not pay the full debt, but instead negotiate a smaller amount. Settled accounts negatively impact your credit report because they indicate that you once had a history of failing to make payments.

After seven years, settled accounts will fall off your record and no longer be visible to creditors and lenders. You cannot remove a legitimate settled account from your record before the seven-year deadline. You must wait for it to fall off your record. However, if you believe that a settled account on your credit record was included in error, you can dispute the charge.