Free Credit Report - FAQ

How often should I check my credit report?

Experts recommend checking your credit report every 3 to 4 months. Identity theft has become an epidemic.

Do the 3 credit bureaus have the same information about my credit?

No. Credit reports are available from 3 credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and these 3 major credit agencies do not exchange information with each other. Therefore each of the 3 credit bureaus may have different information about your credit, depending on who and what was reported to them. What is on one credit report may differ from another. This is why a merged free credit report or 3-in-1 credit report has become a popular method for consumers to obtain their credit information. A merged or 3-in-1 credit report basically "merges" the information found on all 3 credit files.

What is a credit score?

A credit score, calculated from variables in your credit report and other factors determined by the lending institution, is a rating tool used by lenders to gauge an individual's creditworthiness.

What is the credit score range? What is the average credit rating?

Credit scores range from 350 to 850. The higher the number, the better the credit rating. A score in the 700s or higher is excellent, around 650 is a midrange score, and anything lower than 600 has room for improvement. What is the average credit rating? The national average score is 676.

Some statistics about the score distribution (percentiles):

  • 90% of the US population is below 790
  • 70% of the US population is below 755
  • 50% of the US population is below 710
  • 35% of the US population is below 670
  • 15% of the US population is below 600

How does my credit score affect me?

Credit scores, calculated from such information in your credit file as total debt, types of accounts, number of late payments, age of accounts, and number of inquiries, give lenders a subjective rating of your creditworthiness. Lenders then consider this rating when deciding whether or not to extend you credit. It's in your best interest, therefore, to keep your credit as robust as possible so you can secure favorable rates and terms. If your credit score is weak, you can often strengthen it by minimizing outstanding debt, avoiding overextension, and limiting new credit applications.

How often does my credit score change?

Your credit score fluctuates as often as information in your credit file changes.

Do late payments affect my credit score?

Yes, late payments negatively affect your score - paying your bills on time is the single most important contributor to a good credit score.

Do inquiries affect my credit score?

It depends on the type of inquiry. Inquiries for marketing purposes do not affect your score. These include consumer requests for a credit report, lenders using credit information to review an account, or a potential employer looking over someone's credit. Inquiries initiated by the consumer, such as mortgage, auto loan and credit card applications, however, do affect your score because studies have shown that too many are a red flag for credit risk. Inquiries do not weigh as heavily, however, as past payment history or number of delinquent accounts.

What is a credit monitoring service?

Credit monitoring companies are owned by publicly-traded major corporations. They use the latest encryption, consumer screening, and data security technologies to make sure that your information is protected. If you've been a victim of fraud, or want to avoid becoming a victim, then credit monitering services may be the right choice.

Won't signing up for a credit monitoring services hurt my credit?

No. Consumers have the right to look at their credit report without it affecting their credit or credit score. When you request your credit report it's called a "consumer pull" and has no affect on your credit. Only when you ask a possible creditor to inquire about your credit can it affect your score. For example, if you go out looking for a new car and you let a dealership request a copy of your credit report, that could affect your credit score because it implies you're looking to open new lines of credit.

What are monitoring alerts?

You receive a monitoring alert via email or text messaging if essential information has changed on your report. That way, you can identify fraudulent activity early in cases where credit activity is unfamiliar or unauthorized. Most credit monitoring services will also send out a Monthly All Clear email when no key changes have been posted to any of your three national credit reports in the past month.