The report card for adults

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Is this how you feel about credit reports ¯\_(? )_/¯?

It's understandable, but they influence more of your life than ever before. They can affect the price of your cellphone bill or insurance, rent or mortgage — and now, employers are running credit reports on prospective hires. To set you up for success, we reached out to Jill Bath, STCU's Learning and Development Facilitator (loan officer trainer extraordinaire) for guidance on credit reports — one of life's great mysteries.

The basics

What's a credit score? A number ranging from 300-850 that measures your credit worthiness. The higher the score, the better.

Who keeps score? The three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

How do they keep score? “Payment history makes up a huge portion of the score. Missing payments decreases the score significantly,” Bath said. Amount owed on a loan or credit card is another big factor. “Higher balances don't report as well as lower balances…if a card is maxed out, there's no limit available and that doesn't report well, either.”

Check yourself out

How often should you check your credit? Bath says once a year is plenty. STCU members can get a high-level credit report for free when they access online banking. Anyone can get one free full-fledged credit report per year at annualcreditreport.com. And now on to the most important subject — you.

On your report, check the following for accuracy: personal information, open accounts, closed accounts, and inquiries on your credit.

How to raise your credit score.

The number one way to increase your credit score according to Bath? On time payments. “If you miss a payment, it's weighted as 40% of your credit score the first year.”

The second most effective way to bump up your score is to bring your credit balances down.

Coming in third — don't open any new lines of credit. Until you make on-time payments for a year or two and pay down your balances, try to stay away from opening new loans or credit cards.

And last but not least, dispute incorrect items, like judgments, collections, bankruptcies, and liens directly with the three major credit bureaus. Each bureau will have their own process of how to dispute items on their respective websites.

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