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How to Check Your Credit Rating

How to Check Your Credit Rating

One truth of modern-day living is that the better your credit rating, the more advantageous it will be for your future financial transactions. A good credit rating will get you a lower interest rate on a mortgage, a car loan or a new credit card account. So it is of the utmost importance to not only keep your credit rating good by paying your bills on time, but by keeping track of what is actually showing up at your credit reporting agencies.

In the United States, there are three main credit reporting agencies. The largest is Experian, with gross revenues of $4.8 billion annually. The second largest is Equifax, with gross revenues of $2.3 billion. TransUnion is the smallest of the Big 3, with gross revenues of $1.3 billion per year. And, whether you know it or not, they are watching you and collecting information on every financial move that you make.

Who Gives Them Information

Basically, any credit account that you open or even apply for reports to at least one of these Big 3 credit bureaus. This includes all credit cards (including department store cards), student loans, auto loans, mortgages and any other borrowing that you participate in. Some credit companies report to all three credit bureaus and some report to only one. This is important to keep in mind since if you check one of the Big 3, it will no doubt not match the other two exactly.

What Determines Your Credit Rating

Since the three credit bureaus do not use the same reports from credit companies, they generally end up with individual credit scores that differ from company to company. Some of the things they have in common, however, are that they judge you based on the same criteria. They look at your income, your ability to repay the debt, the number and frequency of timely payments, how much open credit you have, and how much debt you currently carry. Then they issue your rating to any company who is thinking of giving you a loan or a credit card. The Big 3 also make note of how many cards or loans you have applied for and “ding” you, or lower your credit rating, based on the fact that you are either shopping around or trying to get more credit. This is disadvantageous because it makes shopping around for a car loan or a mortgage more difficult.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to check your credit reports on a regular basis. If something is wrong on your account, such as an old debt that you have paid off that is still listed and working against you, you can contact each company separately through their websites and tell them exactly what is wrong with your report and remedy it in that manner.

The Cost of Checking It Out

Checking your credit rating can be costly at times. For example, TransUnion charges $17 a month for access to your account, whereas Experian charges $19.95 a month for regular access. However, if you just want to check your scores once a year or so, Experian has a credit report that you can buy for $39.95 that will give you your credit scores from all three bureaus.

Another way to check that is actually free includes Credit Karma, which shows the accounts you have but doesn’t give you the actual score from any one bureau. They give you some number but they don’t mention where it came from. An additional way to check for free is if you get turned down for any credit card or loan that you’ve applied for. Once this happens, Federal law states that you have a right to see your full report for free from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. If this happens, follow the instructions of the letter you receive declining you credit. Neither of these systems counts as a ding against you. Last and not least is kind of a new thing that actual credit card companies are offering. Capital One, for instance, allows you to check your TransUnion report whenever you want from your Capital One account website, which is also a ding-free service. They also send out an email to their customers once a month letting them know if anything on their TransUnion report has changed.