For many people, monitoring their credit may seem like a minor entry on the to-do list, but doing so regularly could help avoid major problems.
Everything from landing a job to securing insurance coverage to even getting utilities turned on in a residence can be made easier or more difficult depending on your credit, said Cindy Clampet, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension assistant state specialist, family resource management.
“It’s important to know what’s on your credit report, especially before you make major purchases like a car or home because that’s not the time for surprises,” Clampet said. “Mistaken information also can end up on the report and identity theft happens often these days. There are a number of reasons to closely monitor your credit.”
Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, the three national credit reporting agencies, compile information from their members – businesses and organizations that provide monthly or quarterly reports on the payment practices of their clients, or in this case, consumers – and publish it in a credit report.
In addition to including personal information such as names, aliases, addresses, previous addresses as well as any collections, bankruptcies or liens, credit reports list truncated account numbers and descriptions of each type of account, such as whether it is an individual, joint, shared or authorized user account.
A code numbered from one through nine reflects whether the consumer pays on time or late, with the number one indicating the account is paid on time each. The report also includes a month-by-month breakdown of payment history.
The consumer’s credit score does not appear on the credit report, but the score is based on information in the report.
“Your credit score is a measure of how risky it would be to extend credit to you,” Clampet said. “The higher the score, the better.”
FICO, the more-well known score, ranges from 300 to 850. Another measure called the VantageScore was created in 2006 by the three major credit reporting agencies and assigns a number between 501 and 990, that is then equated to a letter-grade between A and F.
A consumer’s FICO score is made up of payment history (35 percent), amount owed on credit accounts (30 percent), length of credit history (15 percent), new credit accounts established (10 percent) and the number of various types of credit accounts (10 percent) such as credit cards, retail accounts and mortgages.
By law, consumers are entitled to one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the credit reporting agencies. To request a copy of a credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.
For information on how to report errors on a credit report, visit www.ftc.gov. Instructions for disputing erroneous information also may be found on the credit report.
For more information about credit and personal money management, contact the nearest county Extension office and download free OSU Fact Sheets on the topic, including T-4158, “The Financial Puzzle: Credit Reports and Scores,” at factsheets.okstate.edu.
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