When you're applying for a loan, renting an apartment or applying for a job, your credit score says a lot about your ability to repay debt obligations. It’s also a major factor in determining your interest rate on loans. People with higher credit scores typically qualify for lower interest rates because they've proven their ability to repay debt responsibly.
Understanding Your Credit Report
Why does my credit report matter?
Your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. Businesses and individuals can request copies of your credit report to assess how well you manage financial obligations and pay your bills.
How can I get my credit report and where does the information come from?
You can request your report for free online at annualcreditreport.com to view it instantly. This is the only authorized online source for a free report. Call 877-322-8228 to request your report by phone.
You will be asked to provide your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. As an additional security measure, you may be asked other financial questions specific to you.
The information in your credit report is provided to the reporting bureaus by credit card companies and lending institutions and pulled from public records that contain information including bankruptcies and collections.
What’s in my credit report?
- Personal details such as name, address, birth date, Social Security number, telephone number and employment information
- Account information including account types and any loans you have. It also includes credit payment and loan history, account balances, loan amounts, credit limits and date on which accounts were opened or closed.
- Credit history inquiries from lenders and others, such as landlords and utility companies
- Public records including foreclosures, bankruptcies, liens and wage garnishments
Negative information, such as late payments or bankruptcies, stays on your credit report for a period of time. Some information stays on for seven years. Filing a personal bankruptcy remains for 10 years.
Who can see my credit report?
Access to your credit report and score can be provided by credit bureaus to lenders, service providers (like utility and phone companies), landlords, banks or other businesses like employers or insurance companies.
Is my credit report the only thing lenders care about?
No, lenders are likely to look at your income and work history too.
Tips for Raising Your Credit Score
Is your score in need of a boost? You can’t raise your score overnight, but there are a few things you can start doing now to make a positive impact in just a few months.
- Review your credit report. You can get one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These reports won't show your actual credit score, they do give you vital insight into the categories that affect that score. To request your free credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com.
- Always pay your bills on time. Late or missed payments will quickly drag down your credit score. Take advantage of payment reminders or online bill pay through United Community Bank to make sure yours are paid on time. Letting an overdue account go to a collections agency or declaring bankruptcy or foreclosing on your home can damage your score for years to come.
- Pay down your credit card balances. The less you owe, the better your credit score will fare. Try to keep your balance below 30% of your credit limit on each card. Don’t automatically close unused or paid-down credit cards, especially if you have had them for a long time, as a long credit history can positively affect your score.
Be smart about handling your money and credit and you’ll set yourself up for financial success in the future and ultimately save money.