Top Credit Questions Answered

With 3 different national credit bureaus, credit reports and credit scores, and all sorts of different creditors, the world of credit can be complicated. Fortunately, we have answers for these top credit questions.

1. What’s in a credit report?
Credit reports show information about your credit activity — basic identifying information, loan-paying history and the status of your credit accounts. Lenders, public agencies and other service providers issuing you credit may report information to one or all 3 major credit bureaus, each producing its own credit report.

2. Which types of information can affect credit scores?
Typically, the most important category of information used for credit scores is your payment history. Credit scoring formulas generally reward a record of on-time payments and penalize missed payments and charged-off accounts. Credit scores may also consider how many hard inquiries (means there has been an application for credit in your name) you have made. Credit scores typically also account for the length of your credit history, how many accounts you have open, and how much of your available credit you use.

3. How long does a bad credit item last?
Generally, most negative items — missed payments, bankruptcies, among others — stay on your report for seven years. Chapter 7 bankruptcies will be listed for 10 years. Hard inquiries stay on your report for two years. They aren’t necessarily negative, but having too many of them on your report may negatively affect your credit health.

4. If I check my score, will it go down as a result?
Not at all. Checking your own score is considered a soft inquiry, which won’t show up on credit reports  requested by lenders to evaluate your creditworthiness. Hard inquiries, on the other hand, are the ones credit scoring models factor in when calculating your score. In other words, checking your own score, in and of itself, won’t affect your score.

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