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Illustration of a credit report.
Illustration of a credit report.
Illustration of a credit report.

Published December 12, 2019.

How to read your credit report. And to raise your score.

Credit reports affect your life more than ever before. Make sure you know how to read your report and improve your credit score.

Credit reports don't have to be one of life's great mysteries. Here's a quick overview of what they are and why you should care.

Is this how you feel about credit reports ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  ?

That shrug of indifference is a common reaction to credit reports, but you might be surprised how much influence your report can have on your life.

Credit reports can affect the price of your cellphone bill or insurance, rent or mortgage — and now, employers are running credit reports on prospective hires.

To set you up for success, we reached out to Jill Bath, STCU’s Learning and Development Facilitator (loan officer trainer extraordinaire) for guidance on credit reports — one of life’s great mysteries.

The basics

What's a credit score? A number ranging from 300-850 that measures your credit worthiness. The higher the score, the better.

Who keeps score? The three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

How do they keep score? "Payment history makes up a huge portion of the score. Missing payments decreases the score significantly," Bath said. Amount owed on a loan or credit card is another big factor. "Higher balances don't report as well as lower balances...if a card is maxed out, there's no limit available and that doesn't report well, either."

The No. 1 way to increase your credit score, according to Jill Bath? On time payments!

Check yourself out.

How often should you check your credit? Bath says once a year is plenty. You can get one free, full-fledged credit report per year at annualcreditreport.com. And now on to the most important subject — you.

On your report, check the following for accuracy:

Personal information — name, address, birth date, and Social Security number.

Open accounts — creditor name (bank or credit card issuer), account number, credit limit, and payment history (including late payments).

Closed accounts — creditor name, who closed the account, and payment history.

Inquiries on your credit — these are instances when you applied for credit, you checked your own credit, or a creditor checked you out.

How to raise your credit score.

The number one way to increase your credit score according to Bath? On time payments! "If you miss a payment, it's weighted as 40% of your credit score the first year."

The second most effective way to bump up your score is to bring your credit balances down.

Coming in third — don't open any new lines of credit. Until you make on-time payments for a year or two and pay down your balances, try to stay away from opening new loans or credit cards.

And last but not least, dispute incorrect items — judgments, collections, bankruptcies, and liens — directly with the three major credit bureaus listed above. Each bureau will have their own process of how to dispute items on their respective websites.



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