How to Check Your Credit Report and Credit Score

Although the names are very similar, there is a difference between receiving a credit report and a credit score.

Credit reports contain information about your credit history, including whether you currently owe any debt and the number of active credit cards/loans you have. However, your actual credit score is typically not included in a credit report, though some reports will offer that, as well. Even if your credit score is included in a credit report, this may not be the same number potential lenders see when they perform a credit check on you. If that confuses you, you’re not alone.

How to Request Your Credit Report

Every major credit bureau uses slightly different methods to compile your credit score. In some cases, one credit bureau will have more information than another, which may cause your credit score to vary. Usually, your credit score will only experience a minor change depending on the different company.

However, if you are right on the border between bad and acceptable credit, a few points difference may significantly change whether you can get a loan. To get the most accurate information regarding your credit, you will have to look at, and more importantly, understand both your credit report and credit score.

A credit report may not provide your credit score, but the information on the credit report is still very important. If your credit score is not what you expected, you need to look at your credit report to get a full financial breakdown to figure out why your credit score is not as high as you wanted.

Fortunately, requesting a credit report is easy.

Once a year, each of the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are required to perform and offer a free credit report. You are also entitled to see your credit report within 60 days after being denied credit. This also applies if you are on welfare, unemployed or if you reported an error on your credit report.

Because the information may be different on each credit report, you are strongly encouraged to request a free credit report from each of the major bureaus. Carefully look over each report you receive.

If there are any errors on your credit report, such as missing payments or loans you never took out, you can request a dispute form from whichever agency provided you the report. You have up to 30 days after receiving your credit report to dispute any of the information.

How to Request an Applicant’s Credit Report

There may be times where you have to request a credit report belonging to someone else. If you are a landlord or hiring manager, you may have to look at an applicant’s credit report before making a decision on whether to accept him or her as tenant or employee. For privacy reasons, you will always need permission before viewing a credit report belonging to someone else. Some of the reasons you can obtain permission include:

  • Accessing a credit report on behalf of someone you are representing as a client.
  • Performing a background check on a client over the age of 18.
  • When you are underwriting insurance involving your client.
  • Determining eligibility of a license or government benefit of an applicant.
  • When performing a business transaction that is initiated by a consumer.

Once you have written permission from the applicant, requesting a credit report follows the exact same steps as if you were requesting your own credit report.

Currently, Experian is the only company that does not charge a fee if you are requesting a credit report for someone else. TransUnion charges $30 but provides a criminal background check and credit recommendation in addition to the report. Equifax charges $15.95 for a basic credit report, or $29.95 for a full criminal background check.

If you do not want to pay the fee, you can charge the applicant for this service. However, you should be upfront in your listing if the applicant will have to pay for a credit report or full background check.

If you do not want to perform the credit report yourself, you can instead hire a company to perform the check on your behalf. You are still required to present written permission from your applicant if you hire someone else to request the credit report. How much you have to pay depends on the company you choose, but typically it is around $20 to $40 dollars.

How to Check your Credit Score

There are a few different ways you can view your credit score.

You can purchase your credit score from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can also purchase your credit score from the Fair Isaac Corporation, which created the FICO score.

The FICO score is the main model most credit bureaus use to determine your overall credit score. If you want the most accurate number possible, you should consider going through FICO directly to receive your credit score.

You may also be able to check your credit score through your credit card provider or bank. Some loan companies also provide credit scores, but typically, you must be one of their customers to receive your credit score for free. Not all credit card companies or banks offer your credit score, but it is becoming a much more common practice.

There are also some websites that provide credit score services. Some of these websites even provide free scoring. While this is an option, you should be extremely careful which website you choose, as it is very easy for scammers to set up their own credit scoring website to get your personal information or charge you for an inaccurate credit score.

Is it risky to make too many credit inquiries?

One of the influencing factors of your credit score is how many credit inquiries are made on your behalf. However, the number of inquiries ultimately has a very small impact on your credit score.

In addition, credit bureaus try not to penalize you for making multiple inquiries within a short amount of time. If you are shopping around for a loan, each potential lender you visit will perform a separate credit check, so it would be unfair to penalize you for smart shopping. As long as the inquires are made within a 30-day period, you will not be penalized for making multiple credit inquiries.

 

It might also interest you: