Payment History Tips
Pay your bills on time.
Delinquent payments and collections can have a major negative impact on your score.
- If you have missed payments, get current and stay current. The longer you pay your bills on time, the better your score.
- Be aware that paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report. It will stay on your report for seven years.
- If you are having trouble making ends meet, contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor. This won’t improve your score immediately, but if you can begin to manage your credit and pay on time, your score will get better over time.
Amounts Owed Tips
- Keep balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credit”. High outstanding debt can affect a score.
- Pay off debt rather than moving it around. The most effective way to improve your score in this area is by paying down your revolving credit. In fact, owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may lower your score.
- Don’t close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score.
- Don’t open a number of new credit cards that you don’t need, just to increase your available credit. This approach could backfire and actually lower score.
Length of Credit History Tips
- If you have been managing credit for a short time, don’t open a lot of new accounts too rapidly.
New accounts will lower your average account age, which will have a larger effect on your score if you don’t have a lot of other credit information. Also, rapid account buildup can look risky if you are a new credit user.
New Credit Tips
- Do your rate shopping for a given loan within a focused period of time. FICO® scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.
- Re-establish your credit history if you have had problems.Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your score in the long term.
- Note that it’s OK to request and check your own credit report. This won’t affect your score, as long as you order your credit report directly from the credit reporting agency or through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers.
Types of Credit Use Tips
- Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed. Don’t open accounts just to have a better credit mix – it probably won’t raise your score.
- Have credit cards – but manage them responsibly. In general, having credit cards and installment loans (and paying timely payments) will raise your score. Someone with no credit cards, for example, tends to be higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.
- Note that closing an account doesn’t make it go away. A closed account will still show up on your credit report, and may be considered by the score.
FICO Scores are calculated from a lot of different credit data in your credit report. This data can be grouped into five categories as outlined below. The percentages in the chart reflect how important each of the categories is in determining your score.
These percentages are based on the importance of the five categories for the general population. For particular groups – for example, people who have not been using credit long – the importance of these categories may be somewhat different.
- Account payment information on specific types of accounts (credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts, mortgage, etc.)
- Presence of adverse public records (bankruptcy, judgements, suits, liens, wage attachments, etc.), collection items, and/or delinquency (past due items)
- Severity of delinquency (how long past due)
- Amount past due on delinquent accounts or collection items
- Time since (recency of) past due items (delinquency), adverse public records (if any), or collection items (if any)
- Number of past due items on file
- Number of accounts paid as agreed
- Amount owing on accounts
- Amount owing on specific types of accounts
- Lack of a specific type of balance, in some cases
- Number of accounts with balances
- Proportion of credit lines used (proportion of balances to total credit limits on certain types of revolving accounts)
- Proportion of installment loan amounts still owing (proportion of balance to original loan amount on certain types of installment loans)
Length of Credit History
- Time since accounts opened
- Time since accounts opened, by specific type of account
- Time since account activity
- Number of recently opened accounts, and proportion of accounts that are recently opened, by type of account
- Number of recent credit inquiries
- Time since recent account opening(s), by type of account
- Time since credit inquiry(s)
- Re-establishment of positive credit history following past payment problems
Types of Credit Used
- Number of (presence, prevalence, and recent information on) various types of accounts (credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, mortgage, consumer finance accounts, etc.)
Please note that:
- A score takes into consideration all these categories of information, not just one or two. No one piece of information or factor alone will determine your score.
- The importance of any factor depends on the overall information in your credit report. For some people, a given factor may be more important than for someone else with a different credit history. In addition, as the information in your credit report changes, so does the importance of any factor in determining your score. Thus, it’s impossible to say exactly how important any single factor is in determining your score – even the levels of importance shown here are for the general population, and will be different for different credit profiles. What’s important is the mix of information, which varies from person to person, and for any one person over time.
- Your FICO score only looks at information in your credit report. However, lenders look at many things when making a credit decision including your income, how long you have worked at your present job and the kind of credit you are requesting.
- Your score considers both positive and negative information in your credit report. Late payments will lower your score, but establishing or re-establishing a good track record of making payments on time will raise your score.
For more detailed credit report information: MyFico.com
Facts for Consumers
How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
Your credit report–a type of consumer report–contains information about where you work and live and how you pay your bills. It also may show whether you’ve been sued or arrested or have filed for bankruptcy. Companies called consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) or credit bureaus compile and sell your credit report to businesses. Because businesses use this information to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and other purposes allowed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), it’s important that the information in your report is complete and accurate.
Some financial advisors suggest that you periodically review your credit report for inaccuracies or omissions. This could be especially important if you’re considering making a major purchase, such as buying a home. Checking in advance on the accuracy of information in your credit file could speed the credit-granting process.
Getting Your Credit Report
If you’ve been denied credit, insurance, or employment because of information supplied by a CRA, the FCRA says the company you applied to must give you the CRA’s name, address, and telephone number. If you contact the agency for a copy of your report within 60 days of receiving a denial notice, the report is free. In addition, you’re entitled to one free copy of your report a year if you certify in writing that (1) you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, (2) you’re on welfare, or (3) your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise, a CRA may charge you up to $9.00 for a copy of your report.
If you simply want a copy of your report, call the CRAs listed in the Yellow Pages under “credit” or “credit rating and reporting.” Call each credit bureau listed since more than one agency may have a file on you, some with different information. The three major national credit bureaus are:
- Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241; (800) 685-1111.
- Experian (formerly TRW), P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013; (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742).
- Trans Union, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022; (800) 916-8800.
Under the FCRA, both the CRA and the organization that provided the information to the CRA, such as a bank or credit card company, have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights under the law, contact both the CRA and the information provider.
First, tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request deletion or correction. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Your letter may look something like the sample below. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the CRA received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
CRAs must reinvestigate the items in question–usually within 30 days–unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRAs so they can correct this information in your file. l Disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.
- If your report contains erroneous information, the CRA must correct it.
- If an item is incomplete, the CRA must complete it. For example, if your file showed that you were late making payments, but failed to show that you were no longer delinquent, the CRA must show that you’re current.
- If your file shows an account that belongs only to another person, the CRA must delete it.
When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the CRA gives you a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.
Also, if you request, the CRA must send notices of corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. Job applicants can have a corrected copy of their report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes. If a reinvestigation does not resolve your dispute, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports.
Second, in addition to writing to the CRA, tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Again, include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider then reports the item to any CRA, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if you are correct-that is, if the disputed information is not accurate-the information provider may not use it again. Accurate Negative Information When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. Accurate negative information can generally stay on your report for 7 years. There are certain exceptions:
- Information about criminal convictions may be reported without any time limitation.
- Bankruptcy information may be reported for 10 years.
- Credit information reported in response to an application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000 has no time limit.
- Credit information reported because of an application for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance has no time limit.
- Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Criminal convictions can be reported without any time limit.
Adding Accounts to Your File
Your credit file may not reflect all your credit accounts. Although most national department store and all-purpose bank credit card accounts will be included in your file, not all creditors supply information to CRAs: Some travel, entertainment, gasoline card companies, local retailers, and credit unions are among those creditors that don’t. If you’ve been told you were denied credit because of an “insufficient credit file” or “no credit file” and you have accounts with creditors that don’t appear in your credit file, ask the CRA to add this information to future reports. Although they are not required to do so, many CRAs will add verifiable accounts for a fee. You should, however, understand that if these creditors do not report to the CRA on a regular basis, these added items will not be updated in your file.
Sample Dispute Letter
Your City, State, Zip Code
Name of Credit Reporting Agency
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute are also encircled on the attached copy of the report I received. (Identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.)
This item is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing)
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