Frequently asked questions and answers
Before we answer this question let’s dive into “What is a credit report?” A credit repair is a summary of how you have handled your credit accounts. Simply put it’s a snapshot of your ability to make payments Credit reports are used by potential lenders and creditors to decide whether to offer you credit and at what interest rate. Now, what’s in your credit report? Each credit report has:
A. Identifying Information – this section of your credit report includes personal information like your name, address and social security number.
B. Credit account information – this information is reported to the credit bureaus by lenders and creditors and includes the type of account (credit card, mortgage or student loan). This section also includes the date your accounts were opened. They also will include the credit limit and the loan amount.
C. Inquiry information – there are two types of inquiries. A soft inquiry which doesn’t effect your credit report and a hard inquiry which may cause a negative impact to your credit report. The image below will show the two types and examples of each.
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This answer is long because there are many factors that can affect your score positively and negatively but we’ll start.
Behind the number itself (credit scores typically range from 300 to 850), there are five main factors used to calculate credit scores. Lenders use those scores to figure out how likely you are to pay back your debt—thus those scores are often the deciding factor in whether you will get a new loan.
As your financial profile changes, so does your score, so knowing what factors and types of accounts affect your credit score gives you the opportunity to improve it over time.
Credit mix—or the diversity of your credit accounts—is one of the most common factors used to calculate your credit scores. It is also one of the most overlooked by consumers. Maintaining different types of credit accounts, such as a mortgage, personal loan and credit card, shows lenders you can manage different types of debt at the same time. It also helps them get a clearer image of your finances and ability to pay back debt.
While having a less diverse credit portfolio won’t necessarily cause your scores to go down, the more types of credit you have—as long as you make on-time payments—the better. Credit mix accounts for 10% of your FICO® Score and could be an influential factor in helping you achieve a top score.
Service accounts, such as utility and phone bills, are not automatically included in your credit file.
As we discussed above, certain core features of your credit file have a great impact on your credit score, either positively or negatively. The following common actions can hurt your credit score:
Missing payments. Payment history is one of the most important aspects of your FICO® Score, and even one 30-day late payment or missed payment can have a negative impact.
Using too much available credit. High credit utilization can be a red flag to creditors that you’re too dependent on credit. Credit utilization is calculated by dividing the total amount of revolving credit you are currently using by the total of all your credit limits. Lenders like to see credit utilization under 30%—under 10% is even better. This ratio accounts for 30% of your FICO® Score.
Applying for a lot of credit in a short time. Each time a lender requests your credit reports for a lending decision, a hard inquiry is recorded in your credit file. These inquiries stay in your file for two years and can cause your score to go down slightly for a period of time. Lenders look at the number of hard inquiries to gauge how much new credit you are requesting. Too many inquiries in a short period of time can signal that you are in a dire financial situation or you are being denied new credit.
Defaulting on accounts. The types of negative account information that can show up on your credit report include foreclosure, bankruptcy, repossession, charge-offs, settled accounts. Each of these can severely hurt your credit for years, even up to a decade.
Improving your credit score can be easy once you understand why your score is struggling. It may take time and effort, but developing responsible habits now can help you grow your score in the long run.
A good first step is to get a free copy of your credit report and score so you can understand what is in your credit file. Next, focus on what is bringing your score down and work toward improving these areas.
Here are some common steps you can take to increase your credit score.
Pay your bills on time. Because payment history is the most important factor in making up your credit score, paying all your bills on time every month is critical to improving your credit.
Pay down debt. Reducing your credit card balances is a great way to lower your credit utilization ratio, and can be one of the quickest ways to see a credit score boost.
Make any outstanding payments. If you have any payments that are past due, bringing them up to date may save your credit score from taking an even bigger hit. Late payment information in credit files include how late the payment was—30, 60 or 90 days past due—and the more time that has elapsed, the larger the impact on your scores.
Dispute inaccurate information on your report. Mistakes happen, and your scores could suffer because of inaccurate information in your credit file. Periodically monitor your credit reports to make sure no inaccurate information appears. If you find something that’s out of place, initiate a dispute as soon as possible.
Limit new credit requests. Limiting the number of times you ask for new credit will reduce the number of hard inquiries in your credit file. Hard inquiries stay on your credit report for two years, though their impact on your scores fades over time.
While the exact criteria used by each scoring model varies, here are the most common factors that affect your credit scores.
Payment history. Payment history is the most important ingredient in credit scoring, and even one missed payment can have a negative impact on your score. Lenders want to be sure that you will pay back your debt, and on time, when they are considering you for new credit. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO® Score, the credit score used by most lenders.
Amounts owed. Your credit usage, particularly as represented by your credit utilization ratio, is the next most important factor in your credit scores. Your credit utilization ratio is calculated by dividing the total revolving credit you are currently using by the total of all your revolving credit limits. This ratio looks at how much of your available credit you’re utilizing and can give a snapshot of how reliant you are on non-cash funds. Using more than 30% of your available credit is a negative to creditors. Credit utilization accounts for 30% of your FICO® Score.
Credit history length. How long you’ve held credit accounts makes up 15% of your FICO® Score. This includes the age of your oldest credit account, the age of your newest credit account and the average age of all your accounts. Generally, the longer your credit history, the higher your credit scores. Credit mix. People with top credit scores often carry a diverse portfolio of credit accounts, which might include a car loan, credit card, student loan, mortgage or other credit products. Credit scoring models consider the types of accounts and how many of each you have as an indication of how well you manage a wide range of credit products. Credit mix accounts for 10% of your FICO® Score.
New credit. The number of credit accounts you’ve recently opened, as well as the number of hard inquiries lenders make when you apply for credit, accounts for 10% of your FICO® Score. Too many accounts or inquiries can indicate increased risk, and as such can hurt your credit score. Types of Accounts That Impact Credit Scores
Typically, credit files contain information about two types of debt: installment loans and revolving credit. Because revolving and installment accounts keep a record of your debt and payment history, they are important for calculating your credit scores.
Installment credit usually comprises loans where you borrow a fixed amount and agree to make a monthly payment toward the overall balance until the loan is paid off. Student loans, personal loans, and mortgages are examples of installment accounts.
Revolving credit is typically associated with credit cards but can also include some types of home equity loans. With revolving credit accounts, you have a credit limit and make at least minimum monthly payments according to how much credit you use. Revolving credit can fluctuate and doesn’t typically have a fixed term.
If you want to establish and build your credit but don’t have a credit score, these options will help you get going.
Get a secured credit card. A secured credit card can be used the same way as a conventional credit card. The only difference is that a security deposit—typically equal to your credit limit—is required when signing up for a secured card. This security deposit helps protect the credit issuer if you default and makes them more comfortable taking on riskier borrowers. Use the secured card to make small essential purchases and be sure to pay your bill in full and on time each month to help establish and build your credit.
Become an authorized user. If you are close with someone who has a credit card, you could ask them to add you as an authorized user to jump-start your credit. In this scenario, you get your own card and are given spending privileges on the main cardholder’s account. In many cases, credit card issuers report authorized users to the credit bureaus, which adds to your credit file. As long as the primary cardholder makes all their payments on time, you should benefit.