Understanding and Dealing with Events and Factors Affecting Your Credit

Regardless of whether or not you are planning to make a major purchase (home, vehicle, home furnishings, etc.) in the immediate future, it is advisable to keep your credit score as high as possible.  Although there are sometimes ways in which you can obtain your credit score without incurring a charge, in general, obtaining your actual score costs something in the neighborhood of $10.  All consumers are eligible however, to obtain one free credit report (less the credit scores) from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) every 12 months.

How to obtain a copy of your credit report
A copy of your credit report may be ordered at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/ or by calling 1-877-FACTACT (1-877-322-8228).  If you prefer to write, a request form is available at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/.

Information included in your credit report

  • Your name, current and previous addresses, phone number, Social Security number, date of birth, and current and previous employers. Your spouse’s name may appear on your copy of the credit report, but will not appear on copies provided to others.
  • Federal district bankruptcy records and state and county court records of tax liens and monetary judgments.  This information comes from public records.
  • Specific information about each account, such as the date opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance, monthly payment and payment pattern during the past several years. This information comes from companies with whom you do business.
  • The names, and often the addresses, of anyone who has recently obtained a copy of your credit report.  This information comes from the credit reporting company.
  • Statements of dispute, which allow both consumers and creditors to report their version of the factual history of an account. Statements of dispute are added after a consumer officially disputes the status of an account, the account has been reinvestigated, and the consumer and creditor cannot agree about the account status. Both the consumer’s and creditor’s statements of the account status will appear on the credit report.
  • Rental payment history from property management companies that report their information to the credit reporting company (or companies) that report rental payment history.

After receiving your credit report, you should review it very carefully, and correct any errors which may adversely affect your score.  You may dispute inaccurate or incomplete information online or call the telephone number on your credit report for assistance.  It is important to be specific by including the account number of any item you feel is in error or incomplete and explaining in detail exactly why you feel it is inaccurate.   Investigations of disputed items can take up to 30 to 45 days, so it is important to ensure that your credit report is always as accurate as possible.

How long does information remain on your credit report?

  • Missed payments and most public record items remain on your credit report for up to seven years, with the exception of bankruptcies and unpaid tax liens.
  • Chapter 7, 11 and 12 bankruptcies remain for 10 years, and unpaid tax liens remain for up to 10 years.
  • Active positive information may remain on your credit report indefinitely.
  • Requests for your credit history remain on your credit report for up to two years.

It is crucial that you understand all of the factors which can affect your credit report and credit score, and exercise continued diligence to keep your credit report accurate, in order to maximize the effect of those factors which are positive influences while minimizing the effect of those factors which are negative influences.