Credit education

Credit Education

Some things you need to know about your credit

What is a Credit Score?
Credit Score Excellent

The majority of people understand the basics, like how failing to make a payment will cause your score to go down, but there are a number of complexities that trip up the average consumer. If you pay your debts on time, don’t carry too much debt on any one card, don't close older accounts unless absolutely necessary and only apply for new credit when you have to you will generally be in good shape. However, it is important to keep yourself informed so you can maintain a credit score that accurately reflects your consumer status.

Lenders use your credit report in order to judge your reliability as a loan candidate. Your credit report indicates your ability to handle debt responsibly and will help banks decide if you are a desirable loan customer. A high credit score can help you lock in low APR rates or secure special deals on loans. A bad credit report may prevent you from securing loans and can damage your ability to buy a car, open a credit card or rent a home. A history of inability to manage your credit successfully will make lenders uncomfortable about trusting you with additional funds in the future.

You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year, an offer you should take advantage of. When you do receive your credit report, check to ensure the figures are accurate and act quickly to correct any mistakes. This may include any clerical errors, identity theft issues or incorrect information. If your credit score is low, you should begin working on a financial rehabilitation plan, either on your own or with a certified debt counselor, to begin correcting your bad debt habits.

What Makes Up a Credit Score?

Your credit score is determined by an algorithm developed by the Fair Issue Corporation (hence its other name of FICO score). Three corporations, called "credit bureaus", specialize in collecting and reporting on financial histories. Those three companies are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. While, the exact formula used to calculate your credit score is a tightly guarded industry secret, these companies provide general guidelines about financial behavior that can affect your credit score.

Payment History

Thirty-five percent of your credit score is made up by your payment history. This includes late payments, collections, and even bankruptcies and tax liens. Each type of account will stay on your credit report a specified period of time and each type of derogatory will hurt your score differently. First Financial Consulting works to remove accounts that are not 100% accurate OR not 100% verifiable. Our removal rate is around 70%.

Debt Ratio

Your debt ratio is the amount of revolving credit (i.e. credit cards) you owe in relation to the amount of credit you have available. For instance, if your credit limit is $10,000 and your current balance is $2,000, your debt ratio would be 20%. While, ideally, you would have your debt ratio at 0%, we usually recommend you are at least at 30% or lower.

Length of Credit

Your length of credit is how long you have had credit. At face value, this seems like something you couldn't really do anything to fix. However, there are ways you can hurt yourself here. If you close out your older cards, even if they have higher interest rates, it will hurt your score. The credit scoring model has no memory or credit cards you close: if you close out that fifteen year old card you will get no credit for it!

Types of Credit

Types of credit include revolving, installment and mortgage loans. By having different kinds of credit open, you show creditors that you are responsible and able to handle different kinds of responsibilities.

Inquiries

Inquiries are marked on your credit report when you ask for new credit (i.e. when you apply for a home loan). Inquiries made by yourself or for unsolicited offers do not count against your score, but are shown on your report. It is important to note than when searching for a home you are allowed unlimited inquiries over a 45 day period since it is assumed you are rate shopping.

Credit Score Makeup

What Makes Up Your Credit Report

  • Your name
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your address (and any previous addresses)
  • Your current and past loan information
  • Your public record information (court judgments, bankruptcies, liens)
  • A list of other companies who have reviewed your credit.
  • Your 3 digit credit score (optional)

While some of this information is self explanatory, some of the other aspects, especially your credit score, are a bit of a mystery to most consumers. Few people know their credit score or understand how it is calculated. Additionally, most people are unclear about how their behavior can affect their scores.

The majority of people understand the basics, like failing to make a payment will make your score go down, but there are a number of complexities that trip up the average consumer. If you pay your debts on time, don’t carry too much debt on any one card, don’t close older accounts unless absolutely necessary and only apply for new credit when you have to you will generally be in good shape. However, it is important to keep yourself informed so you can maintain a credit score that accurately reflects your consumer status.

Your credit score is determined by an algorithm developed by the Fair Issue Corporation (hence its other name of FICO score). Since its inception, three corporations, called “credit bureaus” specialize in collecting and reporting on financial histories. Those three companies are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. While, the exact formula used to calculate your credit score is a tightly guarded industry secret, these companies provide general guidelines about financial behavior that can affect your credit score. When calculating your score, the basic formula includes:

35 percent: History of on-time or late payments of credit. 30 percent: Available credit on your open credit cards 15 percent: The age of your lines of credit (old = good) 10 percent: How often you apply for new credit. 10 percent: Variable factors, such as the types of open credit lines you have

Lenders use your credit report in order to judge your reliability as a loan candidate. Your credit report indicates your ability to handle debt responsibly and will help banks decide if you are a desirable loan customer. A high credit score can help you lock in low APR rates or secure special deals on loans. A bad credit report may prevent you from securing loans and can damage your ability to buy a car, open a credit card or rent a home. A history of inability to manage your credit successfully will make lenders uncomfortable about trusting you with additional funds in the future.

You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year, an offer you should take advantage of. When you do receive your credit report, check to ensure the figures are accurate and act quickly to correct any mistakes. This may include any clerical errors, identity theft issues or incorrect information. If your credit score is low, you should begin working on a financial rehabilitation plan, either on your own or with a certified debt councilor, to begin correcting your bad debt habits.

Credit Score Secrets

Top Ways to Manage Your Debt Ratio

Debt ratio is the difference between the amount of debt you have charged versus the amount of money the credit card has authorized for you to use, or your credit limit. The difference is your debt ratio. This can also be referred to as revolving (credit card) credit you have available. If your credit limit is 5,000 dollars and you have charged 2,500 on the card, your debt ratio is 50%.
Debt ratio accounts for 30% of your FICO score, which makes it the second highest factor the credit agencies take into account when looking at your credit.
Maintaining your debt ratio can make an impact on your credit score, but unlike payment history, not everyone knows how ensure their debt ratio is a positive force on your credit score. Here are a few tips for you to make sure your debt ratio is not a drain on your credit score:

Maintain Your Total Credit

  • Don’t ever close credit cards if you can avoid it. The more cards you have open, the higher your total of available credit. Credit calculating software takes your TOTAL available credit versus TOTAL debt into account. Closing a credit card will decrease your overall available credit without decreasing your debt.
  • Keep your debt even across your credit cards. It is better to have 4 credit cards with 20% debt ratio, then 1 card with 80% ratio and 3 cards with no debt.

Know Your Limits

  • Keep the balances on your credit cards as low as possible. Aim to keep all of your balances below 50% of the credit limit on that card.
  • The FICO software ranks your credit debt based on levels. If your credit card debt is more than 75% of your credit limit, it will cause serious damage to your credit score. The next limit begins at 50%, then 25%.
  • If your debt is high and approaching that 75% mark, call your credit card company and request an increase of your credit limit.

Check Your Credit Report Regularly

  • Look at your credit report to ensure the credit card companies have accurately reported your credit limit. If they haven’t reported your limits, the FICO software will read all of your cards as maxed out.
  • Report any errors on your credit report immediately. The sooner errors are remedied, the better.
  • Maintain communication with your credit card company. Call them if there are suspicious charges on your account or if you need to make adjustments to your payment schedule.

By maintaining your debt ratio, you can ensure your credit score is as high as possible. While a solid debt ratio alone is not the only element involved in the calculation of your FICO score, it is a significant portion.

Top Ways to Manage Your Debt Ratio

Debt ratio is the difference between the amount of debt you have charged versus the amount of money the credit card has authorized for you to use, or your credit limit. The difference is your debt ratio. This can also be referred to as revolving (credit card) credit you have available. If your credit limit is 5,000 dollars and you have charged 2,500 on the card, your debt ratio is 50%.
Debt ratio accounts for 30% of your FICO score, which makes it the second highest factor the credit agencies take into account when looking at your credit.
Maintaining your debt ratio can make an impact on your credit score, but unlike payment history, not everyone knows how ensure their debt ratio is a positive force on your credit score. Here are a few tips for you to make sure your debt ratio is not a drain on your credit score:

Maintain Your Total Credit

Don’t ever close credit cards if you can avoid it. The more cards you have open, the higher your total of available credit. Credit calculating software takes your TOTAL available credit versus TOTAL debt into account. Closing a credit card will decrease your overall available credit without decreasing your debt. Keep your debt even across your credit cards. It is better to have 4 credit cards with 20% debt ratio, then 1 card with 80% ratio and 3 cards with no debt.

Know Your Limits

Keep the balances on your credit cards as low as possible. Aim to keep all of your balances below 50% of the credit limit on that card.
The FICO software ranks your credit debt based on levels. If your credit card debt is more than 75% of your credit limit, it will cause serious damage to your credit score. The next limit begins at 50%, then 25%.
If your debt is high and approaching that 75% mark, call your credit card company and request an increase of your credit limit.

Check Your Credit Report Regularly

  • Look at your credit report to ensure the credit card companies have accurately reported your credit limit. If they haven’t reported your limits, the FICO software will read all of your cards as maxed out.
  • Report any errors on your credit report immediately. The sooner errors are remedied, the better.
  • Maintain communication with your credit card company. Call them if there are suspicious charges on your account or if you need to make adjustments to your payment schedule.

By maintaining your debt ratio, you can ensure your credit score is as high as possible. While a solid debt ratio alone is not the only element involved in the calculation of your FICO score, it is a significant portion.

Credit Resources

AnnualCreditReport.com

Federal Law mandates that your credit report be made available to you freely on an annual basis. The three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion all make your annual reports available at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp. You are able to get one free report at a time, but keep in mind your other reports most likely will be reporting data the one you received don't.

MyFICO.com

Your credit report and your credit score are different. The FICO score is a number between 350 and 850 that predicted how likely you are to become 90 days late on a loan. You can purchase your FICO score for all three credit bureaus, or just for one, at http://www.myfico.com.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

As credit scores became more and more important to the everyday person's life, it became apparent that some laws governing the credit bureaus were needed. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the law that governs the credit bureaus and protects consumers.

Equifax, TransUnion and Experian

The credit bureaus have a lot of helpful information on their sites about credit, and the ability to purchase reports if you have already received your free report for the year.

Raise Your Credit Score

Eight Ways to Raise Your Credit Score

1. GET RID OF YOUR COLLECTION ACCOUNTS

Did you know that paying a collection account can actually reduce your score? Here’s why: credit scoring software reviews credit reports for each account's date of last activity to determine the impact it will have on the overall credit score. When payment is made on a collection account, collection agencies update credit bureaus to reflect the account status as "Paid Collection". When this happens, the date of last activity becomes more recent. Since the guideline for credit scoring software is the date of last activity, recent payment on a collection account damages the credit score more severely. This method of credit scoring may seem unfair, but it is something that must be worked around when trying to maximize your score. How is it possible to pay a collection and maximize your score? The best way to handle this credit scoring dilemma is to contact the collection agency and explain that you are willing to pay off the collection account under the condition that the all reporting is withdrawn from credit bureaus. Request a letter from the collector that explicitly states their agreement to delete the account upon receipt/clearance of your payment. Although not all collection agencies will delete reporting, removing all references to a collection account completely will increase your score and is certainly worth the involved effort.

2. GET RID OF YOUR PAST DUE ACCOUNTS

Within the delinquent accounts on your credit report, there is a column called "Past Due". Credit score software penalizes you for keeping accounts past due, so Past Dues destroy a credit score. If you see an amount in this column, pay the creditor the past due amount reported.

3. GET RID OF YOUR CHARGE¬OFFS AND LIENS

Charge¬offs and liens barely affect your credit score when older than 24 months. Therefore, paying an older charge¬off or a lien will neither help nor damage your credit score. Charge¬offs and liens within the past 24 months severely damage your credit score. Paying the past due balance, in this case, is very important. In fact, if you have both charged¬off accounts and collection accounts, but limited funds available, pay the past due balances first, then pay collection agencies that agree to remove all references to credit bureaus second.

4. GET RID OF YOUR LATE PAYMENTS

Contact all creditors that report late payments on your credit and request a good faith adjustment that removes the late payments reported on your account. Be persistent if they ref use to remove the late payments at first, and remind them that you have been a good customer that would deeply appreciate their help. Since most creditors receive calls within a call center, if the representative refuses to make a courtesy adjustment on your account, call back and try again with someone else. Persistence and politeness pays off in this scenario. If you are frustrated, rude, and unclear with your request, you are making it very difficult for them to help you.

5. CHECK YOUR CREDIT LIMIT(S) AND EVENLY DISTRIBUTE THE BALANCES YOU ARE CARRYING

Make sure creditors report your credit limits to bureaus. When no limit is reported, credit scoring software scores the account as though your current balance is "maxed out". For example, if you know that you have a $10,000 limit on your credit card, make sure that the limit appears on the credit report. Otherwise, your score will be damaged as severely as if you were carrying a balance of the entire available credit. Credit scoring software likes to see you carry credit card balances as close to zero as possible. If it is difficult for you to pay down your balances, read the following guidelines to maximize your score as much as possible under the circumstances:

  • There are different degrees that scoring software can impact your score when carrying credit card balances.
  • Balances over 70% of your total credit limit on any card damages your score the most. The next level is 50% of your balance, then 30% of your balance.
  • In order to maximize your score without having to pay down your balances, evenly distribute your credit card balances among all of your credit cards, rather than carry a large balance on one credit card. For example, if you are carrying a $9000 balance on a credit card with a $10000 limit, and you have two other credit cards with a $3000 and $5000 limit, transfer your balances so that you have a $1500 balance on the $3000 limit card, a $2500 balance on the $5000 limit card and a $5000 balance on the $10000 limit card. Evenly distributing your balances will maximize your score.

6. DO NOT CLOSE YOUR CREDIT CARDS

Closing a credit card can hurt your credit score, since doing so effects your debt to available credit ratio. For example, if you owe a total credit card debt of $10,000 and your total credit available is $20,000, you are using 50% of your total credit. If you close a credit card with a $5,000 credit limit, you will reduce your credit available to $15,000 and change your ratio to using 66% of your credit. There are caveats to this rule: if the account was opened within the past two years or if you have over six credit cards. The magic number of credit card accounts to have in order to maximize your score is between 3 and 5 (although having more will not significantly damage your score). For example, if a card was opened within the past two years and you have over six credit cards, you may close that account. If you have more than six department store cards, close the newest accounts. Otherwise, do not close any at all.

7. OPEN BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS

Most business credit cards do not report to the personal credit report unless the person pays the card late. Given that fact, any debt carried on these cards does not hurt the credit score if it is not reported. You can carry credit card debt on these cards without hurting your credit score. Just apply for business credit cards now to start building this segment of your credit.

8. KEEP YOUR OLD CREDIT CARDS ACTIVE

15% of your credit score is determined by the age of the credit file. Fair Isaac's credit scoring software assumes people who have had credit for a longer time are at less risk of defaulting on payments. Therefore, even if your old credit cards have horrible interest rates, closing those cards will decrease the average length of time you’ve had credit. Use the old card at least once every six months to avoid the account rating to change to "Inactive". Keeping the card active is as simple as pumping gas or purchasing groceries every few months, then paying the balance down. An inactive account is ignored by Fair Isaac's credit scoring software, so you won’t get the benefit of the positive payment history and low balance that card may have. The one thing all credit reports with scores over 800 have in common is a credit card that is twenty years old or older. Hold onto those old cards, trust me! Preparing credit is a slow and time consuming process. Full knowledge of your credit profile and how it represents you to creditors and credit bureaus is pivotal to full credit restoration success. Credit bureaus always advise individuals that they have a right to dispute their own credit files, but when the rights of the Credit Bureaus slow you down, you know where to ask for help.

Laws & Notices

Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has issued final summaries of identity theft and general consumer rights and revised furnisher and user notices under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA). Consumer reporting companies are required to notify consumers of their rights under FACTA and steps they can take to protect themselves against identity theft and difficulties resulting from identity theft.

The identity theft rights summary includes the major new identity theft rights granted to consumers by FACTA, including the right to place fraud alerts on their credit reports, to block businesses and credit bureaus from reporting information in their credit files that is a result of identity theft, and to obtain from businesses information about accounts or transactions in their name that result from identity theft. The identity theft rights summary will be provided by consumer reporting companies to consumers who contact the agencies because they believe they are victims of fraud or identity theft.

The general consumer rights summary includes, among other things, consumers' right to see their credit files and know when they have been used against them, to correct inaccuracies, and to opt-out of unsolicited offers. The summary also notes that, in addition to identity theft victims, active duty military personnel have additional rights under the FCRA and FACTA. This general summary of rights updates the current summary, which credit reporting companies provide to consumers with their credit reports. The furnisher and user notices explain to businesses their duties under the FCRA.

The FTC received 50 comments from individuals, businesses, and associations. In response to these comments, the Commission has made some changes to the proposed summaries and notices it issued in July 2004, including: (1) the addition of a Spanish-language statement at the top of the summary of rights indicating where Spanish-speaking consumers may go to obtain more information in Spanish; (2) clarification that a consumer must contact the nationwide consumer reporting companies to request that a fraud alert be placed on his or her credit file, and that the initial alert remains in a consumer's file for at least 90 days; and (3) clarification that a consumer may request that a consumer reporting company block any information, not just account information, in the consumer's file if the information is the result of identity theft.


The FTC vote to approve the final rule and the publication of the Federal Register notice was 5-0.

Summaries of Rights and Notices of Duties Under the FCRA & FACT Act: Publication of Final Guidance on Model Disclosures
http://www.ftc.gov/os/2004/11/041119facta.pdf

Appendix E: Summary of Consumer Identity Theft Rights: Remedying the Effects of Identity Theft
http://www.ftc.gov/os/2004/11/041119factaappe.pdf

Appendix F: Summary of Consumer Rights Under the FCRA
http://www.ftc.gov/os/2004/11/041119factaappf.pdf

Appendix G: Notice to Furnishers of Information: Obligations of Furnishers Under the FCRA
http://www.ftc.gov/os/2004/11/041119factaappg.pdf

Appendix H: Notice to Users of Consumer Reports: Obligations of Users Under the FCRA
http://www.ftc.gov/os/2004/11/041119factaapph.pdf

FCRA
http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf

GLBA
http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/glbact/glboutline.pdf

DPPA
http://www.nydmv.state.ny.us/forms/mv15dppa.pdf