School is back in session, but many people still have questions about a subject that is rarely taught in the classroom: their credit. Here, credit reporting bureau Experian explains the truth behind these common credit questions.
What is my credit report used for?
Credit reports often are referenced to help lenders quickly and objectively decide whether to grant consumers credit and under what terms. Information from credit reports can be used for select employment, rental housing, licensing, insurance and other specific business relationship decisions. Consumers also can check their credit reports for signs of identity theft or use them to better understand what influences credit so they can make more informed financial decisions.
Typical credit reports include the following main categories of information:
Identification: the consumer’s name, current and previous addresses, telephone number, reported variations of his or her Social Security number, date of birth, employer and spouse’s name
Account history: specific information about each account, such as date opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance, monthly payment, payment status and payment history
Public records: bankruptcy filings, court records of tax liens and monetary judgments
Inquiries: a record of those who have reviewed a consumer’s credit information
How often are credit reports updated?
In general, creditors forward information to the credit reporting agencies monthly after payments for that billing cycle are posted. Because billing cycles vary, account updates are received by the credit reporting agencies throughout the month. However, it is important to note that lenders are not required to report account information to the national credit reporting agencies. Participation is entirely voluntary.
What do I need to know about my credit score?
Credit scoring is a separate process from credit reporting. Lenders and other credit grantors obtain consumers’ scores by selecting the scoring methods that are most predictive of risk for their specific kind of business. There is not one credit score. In fact, there are hundreds of credit scoring systems used by lenders. However, a credit score results from information in a consumer’s credit report, translating various score factors into a simple number. This enables lenders to make more objective, consistent lending decisions — and make them more fairly and quickly.
Consumers also may track their own credit scores from a number of sources, including Experian.com. Any score consumers receive through a consumer score disclosure service, such as a credit reporting agency, will explain what the number means in terms of general credit risk and will describe the factors from the credit report that most influenced the score.
Credit score factors are the elements from consumers’ credit reports that shape their credit scores. They could include:
Average age of accounts
Factors like total debt, types of accounts, number of late payments and age of accounts affect credit scores; however, information such as marital status, age and occupation does not. Credit factors indicate what elements of a consumer’s credit report most affected the credit score at the time it was calculated.
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.