You may have checked your credit score before through mobile banking or a website like Credit Karma, but have you checked your credit reports?
A credit score can give you an overview of your creditworthiness, but you can find more detailed information about what has determined one of your credit scores by checking out your credit reports. And yes, you do have more than one credit score and more than one credit report, because there are multiple credit scoring companies and credit bureaus that calculate this information.
Your credit reports are a more robust summary of your credit history than your credit scores. They provide details about your credit history such as personal information, your credit accounts, hard inquiries by potential creditors, and public records such as bankruptcy.
The credit experts at Loqbox, a completely free way to improve your credit history while building your savings, have put together the following explanations of how to understand your credit reports and why they’re so important.
Why do you have more than one credit report?
A credit reporting agency (or credit bureau) is a business that creditors report information to about consumers. The credit reporting agency holds a database of consumer information that creditors pay to have access to so they can better evaluate potential borrowers. In the US, the three largest credit reporting agencies are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Each credit reporting agency is required to make your credit report free to access once annually, which you can view at AnnualCreditReport.com. We recommend using this annual allowance to your advantage: Check each report 4 months apart so that you can check them for free more often. Also, given the global pandemic and increased anxieties about finances and identity fraud, each credit bureau is actually providing free weekly reports through April of 2021.
What if my credit reports differ?
You may notice differences between each credit report. There could be a few reasons for this. It’s possible that one or more of your creditors only report to one or two bureaus. It’s also possible that there are simply timing discrepancies between the three bureaus, and they haven’t updated the same information at the same time. Because so much data is assembled to create a credit report, credit reporting agencies could also be pulling from different data sources.
Usually, differences in your credit reports are minor and are not cause for concern. If you notice any glaring discrepancies though, it may be worth further investigation to make sure your identity hasn’t been compromised or unintentional errors aren’t negatively affecting your credit score.
Why should you check your credit report?
Checking your credit report can tell you more information than checking your credit score. The information that lives in your credit report can determine opportunities that are available to you; opportunities such as:
- Getting a mortgage to buy a house
- Qualifying for better loan terms
- Getting a job (did you know 16% of employers pull credit or financial checks on all job candidates and almost one-third do credit checks on some candidates?)
Obviously, opportunities like buying a house, qualifying for better terms, and getting a job are important to most people and can have significant impacts on your life. Checking your credit report before applying for a mortgage or other type of loan can help you avoid unpleasant surprises and reveal areas to improve if needed.
What can your credit report tell you?
If there’s negative information in your credit history, it’s better to know what it is before hearing the bad news from a lender. Knowing your creditworthiness can save you from an embarrassing situation and prepare you to start on the road to credit improvement.
Your credit report can also reveal any inaccuracies or, in a worst-case scenario, that you’ve been a victim of identity fraud. Identity fraud is unfortunately quite prevalent in today’s online world, and scammers are getting smarter at accessing your information. Reporting identity theft and having fraud removed from your credit report can take years, but the process will be easier the sooner you identify the fraud.
It’s also possible that you will find inaccuracies on your credit report, due to simple mistakes like human or digital error. Finding inaccuracies on your credit report can be a headache, but it’s not uncommon. In fact, around 20% of Americans have an inaccuracy in their credit report that needs to be corrected. If you find one on yours, you can file a dispute with the credit reporting agency and the creditor that reported the information. Correcting inaccuracies can help your credit score improve and open up more opportunities for you.
Finally, as you continue along the journey of improving your creditworthiness, check your credit reports at least annually so that you can watch for inaccuracies, track your progress, and be proud of your improvement. Celebrate your successes along the way and watch your dreams get closer to reality.
How can you improve your credit history?
If your credit history contains negative information, we understand the heartache and frustration you might be feeling. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to improving your credit history, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. You can improve your credit history by starting down the credit improvement path sooner rather than later.
Loqbox is a completely free way to build your credit history while saving money at the same time. To learn more about how we work, click this link. You can also find more credit improvement ideas (like this article about applying for a credit-building credit card) by reading our blog.