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Important Information You Should Know About Your Credit Report

By Janet Lacey
Published: Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

What few people realize is the 3 credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax, TransUnion are required to provide free credit reports. Credit reports can be accessed through the website AnnualCreditReport.com. You can go to the site and request any of the three bureaus for a free online credit report, which you may be able to see instantly after providing some identifying and verification information about yourself. You may also place your request for a free credit report by calling the toll free number 877-322-8228, but getting your report this way may take time.

Keep in mind, however, that while credit scores are derived from the credit report, it is not part of the report itself. Credit scores are calculated differently, depending on the organization which utilizes the report. Some companies may use the Vantage Score and FICO score. Bigger institutions such as banks and car dealers may use a customized scoring model. In general, however, your credit score shows the amount of risk you pose to a lender.

Some of the information you can derive from your credit report include your personal information, credit history, inquiries and other public records. As a debtor, one thing you should be on the lookout for are your record of late payments which can negatively affect your credit score. Late payments are located at the bottom of each credit account’s summary. You will see a row of squares marked with 30, 60, 90 and 120 and if any of these squares are colored in red or orange, then it means that your payment has been late by that many days. A clean account will not have any of these numbered squares colored. Instead, you will see an OK square colored in green, a 0 marked beneath the late payment numbers or a status showing ‘never late’. Make sure you check this as soon as you can dispute all incorrect entries to ensure that your credit report stays clean (thereby allowing you to get high credit rating).

Some of the terms you should know when reading your credit report include: charged off, placed for collections or bad debt all mean the same thing. When any of your accounts is reported as being charged off or placed for collections, it means that you have been so late in paying that your credit agency has decided to “write off” the debt assuming that you will not pay it at all. In such a case, the company will take an IRS tax deduction and sell off the debt to a collection agency.

Also, there might be times when you will read ‘account closed by credit grantor’ notification on an account. This essentially means that your credit card company has canceled your credit card on its own because of your poor payment history on other accounts. Fearing that you will only borrow more and not pay off your balance, many credit card companies may close down your accounts when your credit score goes down or when you default on other cards.

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