Everybody knows that their credit report matters. But beyond that, most people don’t know much else.
Here are 13 things you don’t know about your credit report — but should.
1. Scores and Reports Are Not the Same
While many people use the terms “credit report” and “credit score” interchangeably, those two terms mean two completely different things.
A credit report details your credit history, including personal data, detailed account information, inquiries into your credit history, and accounts turned over to collections.
A credit score is a number calculated by a financial institution to determine the your creditworthiness (or how likely you are to repay your debts).
2. There Are More Than 3 Credit Reporting Agencies
When talking about credit agencies or bureaus, you may think of Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. However, there are many other consumer reporting agencies out there gathering data about you to help institutions make decisions about credit, insurance, or employment, and for other purposes.
3. You May Not Have One
It is possible not to have a credit history. If you have neither credit cards nor any type of loans, then you won’t have a credit history. (See also: How to Build Your Credit History)
4. Agency Scores Aren’t The Same
When talking about credit scores or reports, make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples.
For example, let’s imagine that you have a credit score of 660. Now try to evaluate that number with the following ranges:
FICO: 300 – 850 Equifax: 280 – 850 Experian: 330 – 830 PLUS Score: 330 – 830 TransUnion’s TransRisk: 300 – 850 VantageScore: 501 – 990 (versions 1.0 & 2.0), 300 – 850 (version 3.0)
Not so black and white, is it? Even when talking about a specific credit score you have to double check which one your lender is referring to. For example, there are 53 different FICO credit scores.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analyzed 200,000 files from all credit reporting agencies and found that one out of every five Americans is likely to receive a score that is meaningfully different from the score used by a lender to make a credit decision.
5. You Are Entitled to Free Credit Reports
By federal mandate, you’re entitled to a free annual credit report that includes all the information gathered by the three main credit bureaus. Every 12 months, you can request your free report by:
Mailing this Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281; or
Requesting it online at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Getting your own credit report doesn’t hurt any of your credit scores.
6. The Unemployed Get an Extra Report
On top of your free annual credit report, you can get another free report when you are unemployed.
7. Credit Reports Can Factor in Hiring Decisions
One in 10 Americans has been denied a job due to information on their credit report.
The reasoning is that some employers may perform background checks, which include credit report information. So, to be on the same page as potential employers and to be able to dispute any inconsistencies, you are granted a second free report.
The 7 occupations that regularly check an applicant’s credit history:
parking booth operator the military accounting mortgage loan originator Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer law enforcement officer employment through temp agencies
8. You Can Get a Free Report After an Adverse Action
If you believe that a company has taken adverse action against you, such as dramatically increasing your home insurance or denying employment, then the relevant consumer reporting company is required to give you a free copy of your consumer report. Other times that you can get a free credit score report are in case of mortgage scoring and risk-based pricing.
9. Parking Tickets and Library Fines Appear on Your Report
Your credit report includes details of public record, which includes debts to any level of government. This is why ignoring that public library fine comes back with a vengeance by popping up on your credit report and staying there for the next three to seven years. The same applies to parking tickets. (See also: 10 Surprising Ways to Hurt Your Credit Score)
This is why it is important to always notify the U.S. Postal Service every time you move, so you never miss a bill from any city or state government.
10. Some Late Payments Are Not Reported
The industry standard for account delinquency starts 30 days after a due date.
This means that any payment within 30 days of its respective due date won’t be reported to any of the credit bureaus. While it is a bad idea to pay your bills late, if you already got hit with a late payment, then you can take advantage of your grace period before it affects your credit report.
11. Closing Accounts Hurts Your Credit Report
While it may sound like a good idea in theory, closing accounts negatively affects your credit history in two ways.
First, it may lower your average account age, which is viewed negatively by credit reporting agencies. Generally, it is a bad idea to close your oldest credit account if you have no other account as old as that one. Second, closing accounts always decreases your available credit, which increases your credit utilization rate. The higher this rate, the more likely you are to fall behind on debt payments.
12. Time Heals All Credit Wounds
No matter what kind of credit faux pas you have committed, it will not haunt you forever. Foreclosures, bankruptcies, and other negative financial information will generally disappear from your credit report after 7 years.
13. Your Credit May Land You a Date
Turns out that some bachelors and bachelorettes enjoy deep conversations, long walks on the beach… and amazing credit histories. By submitting your credit score to CreditScoreDating.com, you may attract potential suitors and find the love of your life.
There is one catch: The creators of the dating site are still looking for a third party to verify credit scores. This means that you have to trust what others tell you about their credit histories and scores. Good luck!
Have you been surprised by what’s in your credit report?