Friday, September 02, 2011

How do you know your real credit score?

While we all know that it is important to have a good credit score, often we do not think about our own score until we have credit declined, for example, when looking to arrange loans. It is important, however, to keep track of your credit score and take action if necessary.

It is interesting that while most Americans have heard of credit scores, many do not know how they are calculated and what they are used for.

At a basic level, your credit score measures your ability to repay loans and other debts. It influences whether lenders will lend to you and, if so, on what terms.

A credit score is a bit like a report card. It records what debts you have, whether you pay your bills and whether you make repayments on loans on time. Any missed or late payments are recorded.

The main benefit of having a good credit score is that you qualify for better rates on loans and mortgages. Lenders see you as a good risk and reward you accordingly.

It is not just when you are looking for credit, however, that your credit score is important. These scores are increasingly used as a background check to evaluate you when you apply for an apartment or job.

So who decides what your credit score is? There are a number of different credit agencies around. The main American ones are Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

Scores can be different at the different credit rating agencies because they may have slightly different information from each other and may use different ratings systems. There should not, however, be any major discrepancies between the different agencies.

Your credit score is constantly changing. You get points based upon the agencies' assessment of your creditworthiness i.e. your ability to pay back your debts such as loans and credit cards. Your whole financial history is taken into account.

There are, however, some things that cannot be used to determine your credit rating such as gender, race, ethnicity and religion. This is because of equal opportunities legislation.

The best way to know what information is being held about you is to obtain a copy of your credit report. These are available for a small fee but the agencies sometimes offer to obtain your report for free. You are also able to obtain a free copy if you have been denied credit in the last 60 days or are on welfare.

The first thing to check is that it is accurate. If anything is wrong, you should contact the credit agency and dispute it. Even if your dispute is not allowed, you are still able to ask for a statement to be added to your credit file.

If your credit score is poor, there are a number of steps that you can take to improve it, such as paying off existing debts on time. It is also important not to continually apply for new credit or loans as these applications will all appear on your file.

It is important to continue to have some form of credit such as loans or credit cards, however, as no credit history can have nearly as much of an impact as a poor credit history.

There are ways to rebuild your credit file. Some companies offer loans for people with poor or no credit history. These are usually for smaller amounts and are more expensive than conventional loans. They can, however, be a good way to demonstrate financial responsibility.

In the modern world, it is inevitable that we will all need credit at some point, whether it is for emergency loans or big purchases on credit cards. It is, therefore, important to make sure that your credit score is correct and take action if it could be improved.

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