They say that elephants never forget, but the same can easily said about bankers, too. Especially those whose job it is to approve or reject loan applications.
The same can also be said for the clerks whose signatures are required to obtain credit cards. And mortgages. They have ready access to your credit score. Even a landlord can access it before he agrees to let you rent. In short, a healthy record of repaying your debts on time protects your economic wellbeing. A credit record that reveals an inability to pay your bills on time is a handicap. And that’s only the beginning. Defaulting on loans can even be worse.
Here’s a big secret something you might not know. Your credit record is public, or more accurately, semi-public. Every bill you’re sent and every bill you pay, or don’t pay, is noticed by one or all of three major credit bureaus in the United States, which keep records on what you pay, when you pay and how much you pay. Or if you don’t. And every bill means every bill: gas, telephones, water, taxes, credit cards, insurance, license renewals (for cars as well as dogs and everything else), parking and speeding tickets, loans, mortgage or rent, even alimony payments, if you’ve been saddled with them.
Credit bureaus make their money by assigning you a credit score based on your credit report and then sell that information to banks should you apply for a loan, or even just overdraft protection. And they also sell the information they’ve collected on you to any other institution, such as credit card companies, which rely on it to decide whether or not to approve your application for plastic. Since a landlord is also granting you a type of credit when you sign a contract to pay him for residing in his property, he’s also entitled to view your credit report. Same for a car dealer who’s extending you credit, and on and on.
Technically, each one of these terms means something else. Your credit history is a compilation of your repayment of debt. Your credit record is a credit history that categorizes your payment of bills, not just debt, from all the sources that supply information to the credit bureaus. And your credit score (or credit rating) is a numerical assessment assigned by the credit bureau through the use of sophisticated algorithms that represents the likelihood that you will be able to repay a future debt on time.
In common parlance, however, many consumers use these terms interchangeably.
Since 1989, mortgages have been granted on the basis of a different statistic based on your credit record, which is known as a FICO score.
The best way to protect your credit record is by reviewing it on a regular basis. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the big three credit bureaus, are supposed to provide you with a free copy of it once a year, but only upon request. Don’t expect them to mail it to you otherwise or contact you if they downgrade your credit score. It is critically important to review each credit bureau’s record, since they may not all be identical and may not, therefore, yield the same credit score.
Upon receiving a credit record, inspect it detail by detail, line by line. Inform the credit bureau at once should you notice any irregularity, and be prepared to prove your case with appropriate documentation if necessary. This will mitigate against a deterioration in your credit score and that could cause long-term damage to your ability to borrow funds of any sort.
Most credit scores fall within a range from 300 to 850. A credit score of 700 or above is generally considered good. A score of 800 or above is considered to be excellent. Most credit scores, however, fall between 600 and 750.
It’s entirely up to you to keep yours as high as possible and prevent it from becoming a financial burden that can accompany you for the rest of your life..