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HOME / Credit Check - FAQs  


The History of Credit Scoring
What is a Credit Score?
Why Your Credit Score is So Important

The Five Factors of Credit Scoring
Disputing Errors On the Credit Report

Dealing with Credit Challenges
Dos and Don’ts During the Loan Process
What if I Have No Credit?

The History of Credit Scoring
The subject of credit scoring has become an increasingly hot topic, and for good reason. For many years, the general public only associated the concept of credit scoring with the need to purchase high-ticket items such as a new car or a home. Today, credit scoring goes much further. Your credit score can affect your ability to get a good rate on commodities such as car insurance, cell phones, or even determine whether or not you get the job that you want. Indeed, the financial snapshot provided by the credit score has also become a gauge for many employers, especially those who seek to place employees in a position of financial responsibility.

The credit score system used today has evolved since the 1960s. It was originally designed to provide lenders with financial profiles on consumers who wished to borrow money. The lenders' biggest concern was whether or not an individual had the ability to repay a loan, and establish what percentage of risk might be involved.
Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1971 to establish guidelines for fair practices in regard to the use of credit scoring. This law was designed to promote accuracy in reporting and protect the privacy of consumers. In light of the increased use of credit scoring and a growing fear of identity theft, recent legislation has been passed to further protect Americans and improve consumer awareness.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (sometimes referred to as The FACT ACT or FACTA) was signed by President George W. Bush on December 4, 2003. This amended the Fair Credit Reporting Act, enabling each American to obtain one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (CRAs); Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. Those bureaus have created a central web site, www.annualcreditreport.com, to accommodate Americans who wish to obtain copies of their credit report.

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What is a Credit Score?
A credit score is a number that represents your calculated measure of credit risk. Your credit score is the result of a complex mathematical formula that takes into account numerous factors in your credit history. Put simply, your credit report is scored against millions of other people's credit reports, generating your consumer credit score. Your credit score is very important because it can determine your financial future. More specifically, your credit rating can affect whether or not you can obtain

  • A mortgage
  • A car loan
  • A credit card
  • A school loan

A company may also use your credit score to calculate the rate you get for a loan; the lower your consumer credit score, the higher the interest rate you'll be charged. So over time, a good credit score can save you lots of money. Companies look at your credit score report as a prediction of how likely you are to make your payments and make them on time.

In addition, potential employers may do a credit check for employment to determine whether you're financially responsible. And landlords often do a credit check for renters.

It’s important to know that you may get a different score than one pulled by a company who is checking your credit score, because the information in your credit file is constantly changing. The credit score you get this week may not be the same score a company would get from the credit reporting company the next week.

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Why Your Credit Score is So Important
The credit scoring model seeks to quantify the likelihood of a consumer to pay off debt without being more than 90 days late at any time in the future. Credit scores can range between a low score of 300 and a high score of 850. The higher the score, the better it is for the consumer, because a high credit score translates into a low interest rate. This can save literally thousands of dollars in financing fees over the life of the loan.

Only one out of 1,300 people in the United States have a credit score above 800. These are people with a stellar credit rating that get the best interest rates. On the other hand, one out of every eight prospective home buyers is faced with the possibility that they may not qualify for the home loan they want because they have a score falling between 500 and 600.

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The Five Factors of Credit Scoring

Credit scores are comprised of five factors. Points are awarded for each component, and a high score is most favorable. The factors are listed below in order of importance.

  1. PAYMENT HISTORY – 35% IMPACT
    Paying debt on time and in full has the greatest positive impact on your credit score. Late payments, judgments and charge-offs all have a negative impact. Missing a high payment will have a more severe impact than missing a low payment, and delinquencies that have occurred in the last two years carry   more weight than older items.
  2. OUTSTANDING CREDIT BALANCES – 30% IMPACT
    This factor marks the ratio between the outstanding balance and available credit. Ideally, the consumer should make an effort to keep balances as close to zero as possible, and definitely below 30% of the available credit limit when trying to purchase a home.
  3. CREDIT HISTORY – 15% IMPACT
    This portion of the credit score indicates the length of time since a particular credit line was established. A seasoned borrower will always be stronger in this area. What most borrowers do not know is that it also takes into consideration variations in the personal demographic information that is being reported            about the person to the three credit bureaus. So if you have too many names reporting, AKAs, you are losing points. If you have too many variations in your addresses being reported, you are losing points. The logic behind this is that the credit reporting system feels that if you are a good credit manager, you   will check your credit every six months. If there are some errors on the credit report, a person has to clean them up.
  4. TYPE OF CREDIT – 10% IMPACT
    A mix of auto loans, credit cards and mortgages is more positive than a concentration of debt from credit cards only.
  5. INQUIRIES – 10% IMPACT
    This percentage of the credit score quantifies the number of inquiries made on a consumer’s credit within a six-month period. Each hard inquiry can cost from two to 25 points on a credit score, but the maximum number of inquiries that will reduce the score is ten. In other words, 11 or more inquiries within a six-month period will have no further impact on the borrower’s credit score. Note that if you run a credit report on yourself, it will have no effect on your score.

Remember that the credit score is a computerized calculation. Personal factors are not taken into consideration when a credit report is generated. It is merely a snapshot of today’s credit profile for any given borrower, and it can fluctuate dramatically within the course of a week.

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Disputing Errors On the Credit Report
If you find that you have errors on your credit report, follow this procedure to correct those errors.

  1. Make a copy of the report and circle the item(s) you are questioning. Keep your original copy for your own records.
  2. Prepare a letter to the CRA (Credit Reporting Agency) that provided you with the report in question, and request to have the erroneous item(s) removed. If you have proof of payment for an item in question, include a copy of that documentation.
  3. Prepare a letter to the creditor reporting the problem, especially if you feel you are a victim of fraud or identity theft. Inform the creditor that you are disputing an error reported to the CRA, state why the claim is inaccurate, and include any relevant documentation to prove your point.
  4. Send your correspondence via certified mail.

You should receive a response from the CRA within 30 to 45 days. If the error has been corrected, they will send you a fresh copy of your credit report at no charge to show you that the item has been removed. They will also send a corrected report to any entity that received a report that contained errors within the last six months.
If you cannot have a disputed item removed, you have the right to include your side of the story on the credit report. Your statement should be a concise explanation (100 words or less) as to why you are challenging the item in question. From that point on, this notation will be included in your credit report as long as the item in question remains on your report.

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Dealing with Credit Challenges
Unfortunately, a person with a bad credit score is often in this position because he or she lacks the discipline to pay bills on time. Of course, there are exceptions where unforeseen circumstances come into play, such as health complications, or loss of employment.
There are a few things that may be able to bring your score up so that you can secure a better interest rate on your mortgage loan.

Example 1: Distribute debt from revolving credit.
Our borrower, Mr. Jones, has a credit score of 664. He has five credit cards, but his Visa account is almost maxed out. His other four credit cards have relatively low balances. Mr. Jones moves part of the debt from the Visa account to the other major credit card accounts, thus distributing the debt more evenly over the five cards. This changes the ratio of debt to available credit (which has a 30% impact on the overall credit score), and Mr. Jones successfully raises his credit score by 20 points with very little effort.

Example 2: Transfer outstanding balances to new accounts.
Our borrower, Mr. Smith, has only two credit cards, but both are pushing the limit of available credit. Mr. Smith opens two new credit card accounts, each with a credit limit of $5,000. He transfers part of his existing balances to the new accounts. While he has acquired two new cards that have no established history, the greater impact is the change in the ratio of debt to available credit.
Ultimately, experts say that it is best to have three to five credit cards, and no more than that. You should keep your balances as low as possible. If you have a credit account with a zero balance, do not close the account.

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Dos and Don’ts During the Loan Process
When you fill out a credit application, we run a credit report for the underwriter. Each lender and each loan program has different guidelines they must follow. You should not do anything that will have an adverse effect on your credit score while your loan is in process. We know it’s tempting… If you’re moving into a new home, you might be thinking about purchasing new appliances or furniture, but this is really not the right time to go shopping with your credit cards. You’ll want to remain in a stable position until the loan closes and give us the opportunity to help you lock in the best interest rate we can possibly get for you.
Here is a handy list of dos and don’ts that you should adhere to after your loan application has been submitted to the lender.*

DON’T APPLY FOR NEW CREDIT OF ANY KIND – If you receive invitations to apply for new lines of credit, don’t respond. If you do, that company will pull your credit report and this will have an adverse effect on your credit score. Likewise, don’t establish new lines of credit for furniture, appliances, computers, etc.

DON’T PAY OFF COLLECTIONS OR CHARGE-OFFS – Once your loan application has been submitted, don’t pay off collections unless the lender specifically asks you to in order to secure the loan. Generally, paying off old collections causes a drop in the credit score. The lender is only looking at the last two years of activity.

DON’T CLOSE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTS – If you close a credit card account, it can affect your ratio of debt to available credit which has a 30% impact on your credit score. If you really want to close an account, do it after you close your mortgage loan.

DON’T MAX OUT OR OVER CHARGE EXISTING CREDIT CARDS – Running up your credit cards is the fastest way to bring your score down, and it could drop up to 100 points overnight. Once you are engaged in the loan process, try to keep your credit cards below 30% of the available credit limit.

DON’T CONSOLIDATE DEBT TO ONE OR TWO CARDS – Once again, we don’t want you to change your ratio of debt to available credit. Likewise, you want to keep beneficial credit history on the books.

DON’T RAISE RED FLAGS TO THE UNDERWRITER – Don’t co-sign on another person’s loan, or change your name and address. The less activity that occurs while your loan is in process, the better it is for you.

DO JOIN A CREDIT WATCH PROGRAM – Your bank, credit union or credit card company may be able to provide you with a free credit watch program that can alert you to any changes in your credit report. This can be a safeguard to help you intervene before the underwriter sees a problem.

DO STAY CURRENT ON EXISTING ACCOUNTS – Late payments on your existing mortgage, car payment, or anything else that can be reported to a CRA can cost you dearly. One 30-day late payment can cost anywhere from 30 to 75 points on your credit score.

DO CONTINUE TO USE YOUR CREDIT AS YOU NORMALLY WOULD – Red flags are easily raised within the scoring system. If it appears you are diverting from your normal spending patterns, it could cause your score to go down. For example, if you’ve had a monthly service for Internet access billed to the same credit card for the past three years, there’s really no reason to drop it now. Again, make your changes after the loan funds.

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What if I Have No Credit?
On occasion, a borrower will not have enough credit references to obtain the loan they wish to secure. If this is the case for you, start by opening small lines of credit that report to one of the three major CRAs, and make purchases that can be paid off easily. If you do not already have a checking or savings account, open one. Your bank or credit union may be able to provide you with a credit card account once you have established a history with them as a customer.
If you don't have a credit card, DO get a secured card immediately. This is a great way to rebuild or establish credit quickly.
Because this account is secured by funds that you deposit (typically between $100 and $400) you're not seen as a great risk to the card issuer because of your initial investment. Again, use this card strategically to build a strong credit history. Pay your bill on time every month, and it won't be long before you qualify for an unsecured credit account. Talk to your mortgage professional about which cards to apply for.

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