Credit score

on Feb 17, 2012 @ 08:46 am

Can anyone tell me more about credit scores, how and
where to go to get mine for free? The last time I was told mine I was in
a meeting at my bank about five years ago. She said it was 720, but all
she said about that was that it was good. I have no idea if it really
is, or if its even the same now. The next time I had a meeting at the
bank it was with a different woman and when I asked her if she could
tell me what my score was now, she said she could, but it wasn't a good
idea to do. She said the more my score was looked up the worse it would
be for me, so I said forget it. I hear all the time that we should know
it and look it up to be sure nothing is wrong, but this woman said it
was a bad thing to do. Can anyone enlighten me about this and let me
know how to go about finding this info out, or if I even should?

13 Replies

I'm no expert, but... on Feb 17, 2012 @ 09:16 am

720 is a very good score! I have never heard of anyone having higher than 800 (though I don't know what the upper limit is). I believe the average credit score is in the 600s so you are ahead of the pack.

You can pull your free credit report once per year by contacting Equifax and the other credit bureaus, but you may have to pay to get your actual score (at least that's how it works in the US). If you pull the report more than 1x per year, you usually have to pay for that.

What I typically do is pull my reports every year to make sure there's nothing funky, and then when I'm getting ready for a major purchase (car, mortgage, etc), I will pay the $10 or so and pull my score so that I know what I have to bargain with going in.

Your report will include all the credit inquiries and account history for the past 7(?) years. You will be able to see if there are any inquiries or open accounts that you personally didn't apply for and that will be an indication that someone is trying to open accounts fraudulently. Every time you open any kind of credit card (e.g. Best Buy store card, GAP card, etc), they will register a hit. There will also be things like prior history of missed/late payments (if any), student loans, etc.

So to directly answer your question, I would say to pull your report right away to make sure everything on there is a-ok. If you have not been recently opening a lot of new store cards or major credit cards, then occasional check-ins are just a "soft" hit that should not be a problem. It's the "hard" hits when you are applying for a card that can be bad.

Overall, not knowing the health of your credit report for the last 5 years is in my opinion worse than losing a few points off your score.

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. The advice I just gave is based solely on my own private experience and the advice I have received in the past from my advisors.

Thanks mamaluv, one ? on Feb 17, 2012 @ 09:30 am

Can I look my info up through Equifax on line, or is there a phone
number to call, or a address to write to them? I always worry about
doing any financial stuff on line. It took me until two years ago to
even do my banking on line. I'm a big chicken when it come to my info
getting out there and into the wrong hands.

yes on Feb 17, 2012 @ 09:59 am

Hi Takoda,

yes, you can go onto Equifax and TransUnion websites and request directly from there. Make sure that the url on the page where you're entering your personal information is a secured site. You will know this by the "s" on the http: Secure = https://www.whatever; Not Secure = http://www.whatever.

Make sure you are visiting the actual Equifax or TransUnion site! There are a lot of places that advertise online as being locations where you can access these reports but they are not the actual providers. Many of these sites are legit, but many of them charge fees for a service you should have free access to. There are also some scam sites, so as always be careful.

There is a toll free number where you can request your records by mail, which is another excellent option. I would strongly suggest you contact both credit reporting agencies for your records. For reasons I'm not sure about, not all the hits will register on every agency. I have personally seen this on my reports.

Here is a solid resource directly from the Government of Canada with the links and additional info you need:

TransUnion's site:

Equifax's site:

For anyone from the US who is reading this post, the same advice applies. Here is a great resource from the FTC:

Seriously guys, check your reports. But don't get freaked out if there is an item that you cannot initially account for. Sometimes the name of the vendor (e.g. a certain bank or a certain department store) is listed under the name of the parent company. You should be able to identify the item by comparing account numbers and other details that will be included in your report. However, if you cannot determine what the item is, contact your bank immediately and start an investigation.

Used to work in financing! on Feb 17, 2012 @ 10:39 am

I did a stint in a credit department and became way too familiar with credit reports. I can't tell you where to get your report exactly, but I can give you a few tips.

I am familiar with Equifax and TransUnion, and I think you can get directly from them as mamaluv says above. Equifax tends to be an easier read and a bit more thorough, but I *think* it might be more expensive.

You're very lucky to know what your number was. 720 is a great number! They only go as high as 800, and anything under 600 is questionable.

You will have to pay extra if you want the score. Your report will just show you general stuff, like what balances are on credit cards, the limits, closed accounts, missed payments, etc. When you call to discuss the score, try to be specific with them and let them know you want the numeric version - some companies are now doing a grading type thing so they'll send your report and "Oh, you have an A- credit score". Sure it sounds like your score is decent, but that has zero bearing on anything financial and is interpreted solely by the credit company.

Pulling your credit will drop your score, but it shouldn't be a significant dip. Your score will also be different with separate credit bureaus, so be aware of that when deciding who to go with (if I remember correctly, TransUnion scores tended to be higher/more lenient while Equifax was a bit more strict).

I think that's all the advice I have, mamaluv covered pretty much everything you need to know.


I have a dumb question.... on Feb 17, 2012 @ 11:59 am

What exactly is "credit rating" and what is it used for? When would you need it? How do you build it, what makes it high / low? I have several credit cards but I always pay everything before the due date and never pay any interest, is that good or bad? Someone told me it's bad 'cuz the banks aren't making money off me so it'll negatively affect my credit rating?

ps. on Feb 17, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

and not having any loans (paid off my student loans before it incurred any interest) - is that a good or bad thing? Sorry, very ignorant question, I know, especially in this day and age...

A lot of information! on Feb 17, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

A credit rating is used by banks/financial companies/etc. to check your reliability when you apply for loans, lines of credit, credit cards, mortgages, etc. You can only build your credit rating by having credit with companies - kind of a catch 22, since a lot of places won't give someone with zero credit history any credit to start building their rating.

So, a lot of things can make a rating high. You should pay your bills on time or as close to on time as possible. Obviously things like bankruptcies and collection assignments (i.e. when you don't pay indefinitely and the amount is outsourced to an agency that threatens you with court if you don't pay ASAP) are bad. They bring down your score and usually stay on your report for 6 or 7 years.

Something else that can make your score low is carrying a lot of debt (i.e., having all credit cards maxed out or over limit).

Checking your credit score regularly can also drop your rating, as can applying for a lot of financing since they will have to check your score (and drop your rating as they do so). I think this is just a safeguard measure - when I worked in financing, it was usually a red flag if someone had had like 30 hits on their score within the past week or two, it makes you wonder what they're trying to do.

What else...

Paying off your credit cards and not paying interest is totally fine. As long as the cards are used and payments are made on time, your credit report will show the limit of your card, a zero balance and a clean history of payments. Long term clean payment histories really help up your credit score. I think the only way a credit card wouldn't contribute to your score is if you never ever use it (someone correct me on that if I'm wrong!).

Credit ratings are weird business though. Different institutions look for different things. I've seen reports from people who have credit cards with super high limits but have claimed bankruptcy in the recent past. When I worked in financing, we would usually look at how much the applicant carries on their credit cards or loans (balance) and juxtapose that with their income and any non-credit related expenditures (i.e., rent). That would make it easier for us to see what they could/could not afford - but it didn't have anything to do with their credit rating.

Not having loans is fine. I think credit cards and lines of credit are used most often to build up credit reports. It's a fine line because the more you have reporting to the bureau (credit cards/banks are responsible for keeping credit bureaus up to date with your payment info), the more responsibility it shows. But the more debt against you, the more possibility of your credit rating dropping.

There are other ways to build credit too, now that I think about it. You can ask companies that you make monthly payments too - insurance, phone and cable companies, utilities - to report to the bureau to show payment history there as well.

Hope this helps and isn't too overwhelming. Like I said, I always found credit reports and ratings to be a little bit tricky and I worked very closely with them for a long while.

very basic reply on Feb 17, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

I'm going to explain my understanding of this based on what my bro-in-law (who works for a bank in their agro-finance dept) told me a while back. Therefore take everything I'm about to say with a boulder of salt.

A credit score is a value of your lendable worthiness - whether banks can trust you to pay back your loans or not.

Things that boost your score: paying your credit card, mortgage, loan, and utility bills on time (even if just minimum payments); having a fairly high amount of credit available to you (compared to what you're actually using - more on that in a sec); lower quantity of "hard" hits to your report; length of time you've been on their radar (ie. an older person with 20 yrs of good credit generally has a better score than a young person with just 6 months of good credit).

Paying off your loans in full and closing the account apparently is NOT beneficial to your score. You are better off keeping that Best Buy card active, even if you never spend anything on it. Banks want to see that other retailers have invested their trust in you. Even better if your credit limit with Best Buy is, say $2000 rather than just $500. Basically, if lots of creditors think you're a safe risk, then others will too.

I have heard conflicting reports about whether it is better FOR YOUR SCORE to pay off balances in full or only minimum payments/less than full balance. One argument says that banks make less money from ppl who pay in full (which makes you a "worse" customer) but others say it shows good fiscal responsibility. We recently paid off our car loan and closed the account... and got dinged 15 points on Equifax for doing so (I believe TransUnion was unaffected IIRC).

We always pay our balance in full and have a long and flawless credit history. We have never had a score above 740, if that helps any. Still, 740 is a spectacular number and more than adequate to get competitive rates for mortgages and car loans.

Which brings me to "why is a good score important?" A good score means that banks will give you the best interest rates available. you know those commercials that say "we'll give you a car loan even if your credit is bad"? Sure, they'll give you a car loan alright - at 15% maybe. someone with stellar credit will get that same loan for 7% or whatever. So that's the reasoning behind having a good number.

Having zero loans and zero credit cards will give you a meaningless score. The bank will say "well, we don't know how worthy you are because you don't have a history!" The best thing a young person can do in terms of their credit score is to get a store card or major credit card as soon as they can. Be smart about how you use that card and don't get stupid, but it will start building your credit history which will be critical when you go for a major loan like a new car or a mortgage.

You should get proper advice from your bank or financial consultant, but hopefully this gives you at least a small idea of what's involved.

waow.. on Feb 17, 2012 @ 02:12 pm

thanks ladies, that's a lot of information, but really clear! I think I understand now, certainly much better than I did before! thank you!! :)

Thanks a lot ladies on Feb 19, 2012 @ 11:40 am

That was a lot to take in for my simple mind, but I think I got most of
it now. Now I know why the bank sent me $10,000 line of credit to use if
I wanted to with out me even asking for it. It just so happened that
the day I got the letter from them offering me the line of credit, my
car die and I needed a new one. So it did come in handy at the time. I
always pay all of my bills on time, or even before they're do. I do
carry a balance my cards, but its way below half and even when they say
you don't have to pay this month, I make the payment any way.

One thing I don't get is why banks and credit card company's keep
sending me credit cards and loans if I don't work. I haven't worked in
20 years, but they all want to hand me money. I was shocked when they
gave me my first credit card because I wasn't working back then and
never had one before that. It only started out at $500, but it kept
going up and up ever year. They're still trying to give me more, but I
don't want it. Is it bad not to take more credit when they try to give
it to you?

At first they just added it to my card, but in the last three years they
tell me its up to me if I want to take it or not. I didn't want more,
but now I'm thinking maybe that was the wrong thing to do.

So is it better for me to take every thing they give me even if I will
never use it? Or was I wright to say no I'm happy with the amount of
credit you have already given me?

I hate numbers and all they can and can not do to ya! Mine head hurts now. LOL


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