Understanding Your Credit Score And How To Keep It Healthy

What is a credit score, anyway?

Your credit score is a snapshot of your payment history for all credit transactions that you have from age 18 until present day.  It is important to guide teens towards responsibly developing good credit upon turning 18.  This system of credit rating began in 1989 and is a system scoring the likelihood a person will pay their debts.  

What information is in my credit report?

Your credit report details when you applied for credit, how many positive and negative accounts you have, who has viewed your report, and your personal information (full name, phone number, address, social security number). 

How can my life be impacted by my credit score?

A fair or poor credit score (640 or below) leads to paying higher rates – even denied access - to credit cards, auto loans, bank loans, mortgage loans and insurance.  Some companies deny employment based on poor scores.  Understand what constitutes negative items on your report with this guide.    

How often should I check my credit report?

We recommend reviewing your credit report every four to six months.   This gives you a chance to check for identity theft, inaccurate accounts, and any incorrect information – all of which could have a significant negative impact on your credit.  Hint: program bi-monthly ‘don’t forget to check your credit report’ reminders on your phone to help you remember.   Still don’t think you’ll remember?  Sign up for a paid credit monitoring service.

How do I get a copy of my credit report?

Currently there are 3 main credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and you should request a report from each as each may contain different information.  You are entitled to 1 free report a year, additional copies cost from $15-$20.  The bureaus also offer the option for a 3-in-1 credit report where all 3 scores are merged into one.  These cost between $30-$40.  You can request your report online, by mail, or by phone.  If you request a copy by mail, be sure to include a copy of your driver’s license, social security card and a current utility bill.

TransUnion (800-916-8800)
Equifax (800-685-1111)
Experian (888-397-3742)
For mailed inquiries - Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta GA  30348-5281

Here’s a template for you to follow if you’re requesting your credit report by mail: