In a shaky economy, maintaining good credit can be a real challenge.
The good news? Credit is repairable, and Veterans United’s Lighthouse program is here to help you along every step of the way.
If you’re aiming for a brighter credit future, start with a good look at your credit report. A credit report describes your experience as a borrower, and includes details such as payment history, current balances and unpaid debts.
Your credit report will be closely analyzed by any potential lender, so it’s an important tool to understand. Here are five things military buyers need to know about credit reports.
1. You’re Entitled to a Free Credit Report
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law passed in 2004, every citizen has the right to obtain a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) once a year.
To obtain a free copy of your credit report, head to annualcreditreport.com. You can either choose an annual “tri-merge” report, which combines reports from the three bureaus, or individual reports.
(Note: One benefit of choosing individual reports is the ability to check-in periodically on your credit. Consumer Reports recommends that you request your report from one bureau initially, then follow up with another bureau’s report four months later and the third four months after that.)
2. Credit Reports Won’t Tell You Your Credit Score
Want to use a credit report to zoom in on your FICO credit score? Sorry, Charlie.
Free credit reports typically won’t contain FICO credit scores. The FICO score is a diagnostic tool that ranges in value from 300-850 and helps lenders quickly evaluate a potential borrower’s credit-worthiness.
But most companies require you to either pay a set fee or sign up for a monthly credit-monitoring service in exchange for a peek at your score.
3. You Could Pay for your Credit Score…
If you’re dying to know your credit score, check out myfico.com. A free 10-day trial will unlock your FICO credit score and a complete Equifax credit report. But be sure to mark your calendar for the end of the trial period. Failure to cancel will singe your credit card with a three month subscription charge ($44.85).
You can also go directly to the three credit reporting bureaus to purchase your credit score:
- Equifax.com: $15.95
- TransUnion.com: Free seven-day trial, then $16.95/month.
- Experian: $1 seven-day trial, then $17.95/month
4. But Buying Your Credit Score Probably Isn’t Worthwhile
Buying your credit score certainly won’t send you to the poorhouse, especially if you take advantage of a free-trial offer.
But is it even that important to know your credit score?
Probably not. Here’s why:
A credit score is simply a watered-down version of your credit report. While a credit score is just a number, the credit report contains the essential details you need to analyze and improve your borrower profile. That’s why we recommend you skip the pricey score and stick with the credit report.
Need another reason to forgo purchase of your credit score? Your lender can usually get it for you. If a lender pulls your credit in connection with your home loan application, you’re entitled to learn your score for free.
5. Your Credit Report May Contain Errors
You’re responsible for your credit report. That includes any errors that your report may contain.
Unfortunately, credit errors are common. In fact, 25 percent of credit reports contain errors, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission. While most of those errors were minor (misspelled names or addresses), 25 percent of the errors were serious enough to result in denial of credit.
If you discover errors, contact the credit reporting agencies and creditors immediately in writing. Explain the errors, provide documentation to back up your claims, and request that the items be removed or adjusted. Check back often to ensure your claim is receiving appropriate attention.
Understanding your credit report is an essential first step on the journey to better credit. For more information on improving your credit, take a look at our Guide to Understanding Credit.
Have an urgent question? Contact the Veterans United Home Loans credit experts at 800-698-5158.