Credit Reports: What They Are and How They Work

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I recently went to a "direct from the providers" seminar on credit reports and credit scores.



Some of this information has changed from previous information, and some of it will change in the future. Credit Reporting, FICO scores, and related items are an evolving knowledge, as they figure out how to more perfectly predict future performance of potential debtors.



A FICO score is nothing more or less than a prediction of the likelihood of a particular consumer having a 90 day late in the next 24 months. It is a snapshot, based upon your position and your balances as reported at the exact moment it was run.



I learned a bit more about the various other credit reports besides mortgage. They emphasize different things (naturally) and score differently. Auto scores go to 900, where mortgages range 300 to 850. Landlord tenant screens are different from a mortgage score. Revolving credit screens are different than mortgage screens. Finally, and most important, the "Consumer Screen" reports you get on yourself will always have a higher credit score than the ones mortgage providers run.



Inquiries are 10 percent of your credit score. They only go back twelve months. Whereas I've been informed in the past that additional inquiries will get you zonked, that is not the case currently. Depending upon your length of credit history, after three to five "hard" inquiries in the last twelve months, they quit counting. now. A hard inquiry is done at your request for reasons of granting credit. Fewer is better. Longer history of credit means they will allow you more inquiries.



Mortgage inquiries, if done within the correct time frames, still only count as one, no matter how many. Automobile inquiries also count differently than other inquiries.



Types of credit used is 10%. They're looking for a reasonable balance between types. The absolute worst type of account to have is from one of those zero interest finance companies. You know the ones, "Buy this sofa now and no payments and no interest for twelve months." People who are broke but need or want stuff now do this, and that's why the hit happens. They are deferring payment. You suffer guilt by association.



15 percent is length of credit history. How long you have had revolving accounts divided by the number of revolving accounts you have had. You have three cards that have all been going for thirty years, that's a better picture than five cards of which four are brand new.



I've been telling people not to close open accounts. This is confirmed as not a good thing to do. Closing an open account can cause your credit to drop by as much as 80 points in some circumstances. If it doesn't cost you anything, don't close it.



Balances is thirty percent of your score. There are significant hits at fifty and seventy five percent of your credit limit on each card. Significantly, a small balance is a little bit better than zero, even. This is one reason you want to charge something you'd buy anyway to your credit card, just make sure you pay it off when the bill comes. Some credit cards (specifically charge cards in particular, not to mention any specific names of charge card companies where the balance is due in full every month) will report your high balance as being your limit, which can have the effect that you appear to the reporting agency as "maxed out" if you've charged something big. So make certain your credit limit is being accurately reported. If your balance is incorrectly reported, in general the only way to correct it quickly is with a letter from the provider, signed and on their letterhead, saying "Your balance as of (date)is $X"



Payment history is 35 percent of your score. This is divided into three categories: 0-6 months, 7 to 23 months, and 24 months or older. If you have had a delinquent credit reported within 6 months, you are getting the full impact in terms of lowering of credit score. Between 7 and 23 months is a lesser impact. Over 24 months is still less impact.



Important: DO NOT PAY OFF OLD COLLECTION ACCOUNTS! It can cause a 100 point drop in your score. Here's why. You owed $X to company A, and five years ago they sent it out for collection. Now you go back and pay it off, and the date it's marked with is TODAY. It's gone from being over two years old to being current as of now, bringing the full impact to bear once more. The one exception to this is a deletion letter. If you get a deletion letter on their letterhead signed by them saying "Please delete this account," you can make it vanish off your credit report as if it never was. Note that you may still have to pay off collection accounts, but do it as a part of escrow, where the loan is done before your credit is hit.



There are tools out there that can be used to analyze and tell you how to improve your score or how best to improve it with a given amount of money.



Bankruptcy: Three things determine what kind of credit score you'll have coming out of bankruptcy. 1) Percentage of trade lines you include in the bankruptcy. More is worse, lower is better. Including half your trade lines will not hurt you nearly so bad as including all your trade lines. 2) Number of inquiries. If you've still got one or two open lines you didn't include, you may not need more after discharge and you won't go apply for more. The poor schmuck who includes everything needs more to start a credit history, and is dinged HARD for each turndown inquiry. 3) Post bankruptcy payment history: if you included everything in the bankruptcy, you have no history until you get more credit. Can you say, "Vicious Circle," boys and girls? Knew you could. No payment history is even worse than a bad payment history, but any reports of delinquencies after bankruptcy hits you much harder than if you were never bankrupt and had a late.



Last individual points:



Rate on credit card does not affect FICO score.



Nor does salary, occupation, employment history, title, or employer.



Credit Repair Services cost a lot of money for things you can do for free.



If you are disputing a medical collection (only) it doesn't count on your score.



Finally, a note about a likely coming change. If you are a regular around here, you may realize what a hole negative amortization loans can be. There is a high likelihood that in the near future the fact that you possess a negative amortization loan will be counted heavily against you, score-wise. The reasons this change is coming is obvious: Your payment every month is not covering your interest charges. This is not a situation that can go on indefinitely, and it is indicative of someone who is likely to be in over their head.



Caveat Emptor

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on April 4, 2007 10:00 AM.

For Sale By Owner was the previous entry in this blog.

Refinancing Has No Effect Upon Property Taxes is the next entry in this blog.

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