Posts filed under ‘Credit Report’

Your Credit Report Part II: To Do and Not To Do (Protect Your Credit!)

In Part I of this series we learned just how important our credit rating is and the far-reaching financial consequences of our credit score.  Now on to the good stuff.  What can we do to improve or maintain our credit rating?  What actions should be avoided?

Do pay your bills on time,even those bills that might not be automatically reported to the credit bureaus such as rent, insurance, and utilities.  Payment history affects about 35% of your score. Don’t allow taxes (whether real estate or income tax) to go to lien.  Tax liens have a huge negative impact on a credit score, as do 90 day lates.
Do have active credit card accounts.  Showing that you can manage a revolving line of credit is an important piece in the overall credit history. Don’t open too many new accounts all at once.  It is important for some time to pass to prove that you can handle the new debt.
Do keep your credit card balances low.  One important aspect of your score is the ratio between the balance owed and the amount of available credit.  The more that is available and untapped is a sign of debtor restraint.  It is best if you can keep your balance at 30% or less of your maximum credit available. Don’t close out all your credit card accounts.  It may seem that paying off a card and closing it would be the “responsible” thing to do, but that can distort the balance-to-limit ratio.
Do keep in mind that credit card companies can choose to drop a credit limit on a whim.  What might be a good ratio today could look like excessive debt in the future. Don’t carry large balances on your credit cards.  The minimum payments required have increased dramatically recently, and these payments can have a serious impact on your borrowing power when analyzing debt-to-income ratios for mortgage qualifying.
Do mix things up.  Having some installment debt (auto, student loans) and a major credit card along with a retail (store or fuel) card will give the lender a clear idea that you can manage different types of debt. Don’t sign up for all those retailer’s incentives.  The next time you are offered a 10% discount on your $80.00 purchase, remember that you will be authorizing that cashier to check your credit.  This will count as a recent inquiry into your credit report AND make it look like you are desperate for credit, reducing your credit score.
Do know your score.  Check your credit report at least annually at  Often enough, there are serious reporting errors on a credit report.  Vigilantly correcting these as they come up can have you better prepared for when you are ready to get a mortgage loan. Don’t shop for a loan too long.  It may seem smart to go from lender to lender, shopping for the best loan terms.  The credit reporting agencies will distinguish what type of credit you are seeking (car dealers when car shopping, mortgage lenders when house hunting).  If 14 days pass, and your credit is checked again for the same type of debt, the credit agency will assume, often unfairly, that you have been turned down for your initial application and had to apply elsewhere.  When that next report is pulled your score will likely have decreased.
Do pay your hospital bills and utility bills.  Even a small balance of $25.00 can be very detrimental to your credit report if it goes to a collection agency. Don’t co-sign for friends.  Not only might their monthly payment count in your debt ratios and reduce your borrowing power, but any late payments on their part will adversely affect your credit history.
Do be pro-active.  Build up a savings or investment account to cover at least 3 months’ of payments and expenses.  Even better to have 6 months in reserves. Don’t avoid your creditors.  If you are experiencing difficulties with your payments, ask them to work with you.  From the bank’s perspective, silence = complete unwillingness to repay the obligation.

When it comes to your credit report and score, it is important to remember that some of the best and worst things you can do are counter-intuitive.  True, there is a logic behind credit scoring, but it is not always the same logic we employ in our day-to-day decisions.  When dealing with credit matters, getting help from an advisor who has in-depth training in credit reporting, along with industry perspective, can be invaluable.  MDI Mortgage of Maine has helped hundreds of applicants understand, improve, and maintain their credit scores.  We would be pleased to extend that assistance to you, as well.

~Sherri Dyer, Advisor & Mortgage Maven

writing for MDI Mortgage, a full service mortgage company located in Bar Harbor, Maine, Mount Desert island


July 11, 2011 at 6:29 AM Leave a comment

Your Credit Report (Part I)

     Part I:  What it is, and Why it Matters

It was the mid-1990’s, and I was traveling out-of-state to attend a one-day banking seminar.  The topic:  this new-fangled thing called credit scoring.  As automated underwriting systems were beginning to take hold in residential mortgage lending, the days of extensive manual review of credit histories to determine credit worthiness were coming to end.  In its place, a mysterious three-digit code based on secret algorithms would be telling us bankers what type of credit risk we should associate with our applicant. 

While much has changed since those beginning days of credit scoring, one fact has remained constant . . .  a credit report and credit score ranks at the top of important tools used when determining your creditworthiness.  Whether you are talking to your mortgage lender, your insurance agent, a car dealer, a new landlord or even a new employer, it is likely that your results will be impacted by what is being reported in your credit history.  They will use the information from your report to try to answer such important questions as: 

  • What is your willingness to repay debt? 
  • How much money can you borrow, and on what terms?
  • Will you make a good tenant?
  • Are you a good insurance risk?
  • Can you be an employee who is trusted?

Since your credit report has such far reaching effects, let’s learn more and debunk some popular myths while we are at it.

What is a Credit Report?

A credit report may be several pages long, and will detail a list of items such as debt paid, open loans, credit cards, balances due, payment amounts, and collection accounts.  It also gives information about your identity (names, aliases, past addresses and employers), your existing and previous tradelines (all debtors who might report to the credit bureaus), your public records (foreclosures, real estate liens, income tax liens, and judgments), and recent inquiries into your report.  Because a credit report does more than just report on payments made and balances due, it is also used as a tool to combat fraud.

Your creditors may report your information to one, two or all three of the credit bureaus; Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.  Because there are 3 bureaus, and not all have the same data to analyze or the same scoring models, the typical mortgage credit report will give three different credit scores.  In mortgage underwriting, we use the middle score.

The myth:  A credit report does not know or comment on personal or household income.  Income is not a component of credit scoring (although its excess or lack thereof may have an effect on how timely payments are made, which DOES impact the score).

Another myth:  Although a credit report may show your date of birth, your age is not a component of credit scoring (however, the length of time accounts have been opened can impact a score, so age does have an effect on the score)

One more:  If you are married, your credit file is not completely merged together.  Only joint accounts will show on both spouses’ credit reports, otherwise, it will have completely different and individual information per spouse, with separate credit score ratings.  In this case of two or more applicants, we will use the lower of the two middle scores as the credit score for the file (the thought being that the lower score will bring the higher score down instead of the higher score helping to raise the lower score up).

What Does a Credit Score Try to Do?

The FICO algorithms are actually trying to calculate the odds of you having a 90 day late payment in a 24 month period on a loan obligation.  This is why the reporting of a payment made 90 days or more late will have such a negative impact on a credit score. 

A little-known fact:  Your credit score is based on a snapshot in time.  The score is calculated at the precise moment that your report is pulled.  Even if you always pay your credit card down to $0.00 each month, if you owe a large amount on a credit card at the same time that your credit card company happens to report your balance (mid-billing cycle, for instance), your score can look very different than if you happened to have a low balance at the time of their reporting to the bureaus.

Another little-known fact:  Sometimes payments are made late and aren’t reported to the bureaus as a late payment.  I have had customers who were very concerned about what their report might show because they were habitually making their payments a few days or even weeks beyond the due date.  A late payment is not reported as late unless it reaches more than 30 days past due.

Where Can I Get a Free Copy of My Credit Report?

For many years, banks were not allowed to share an applicant’s credit score with them because it was considered “proprietary” information.  This all changed with the FACT Act of 2003, when it became mandatory for creditors to share this score through proper disclosures to the consumer.  In answer to other aspects of that new regulation, the 3 credit bureaus designed a website where a consumer could request and acquire a free credit report from each bureau every 12 months.  There are a number of websites that have popped up offering this service for a fee, so it is good to know the official site:

Even though the report is free, be prepared to pay approximately $7.00 to get your credit score.  You can also contact them via phone at (877) 322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request form and mail it to:  Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA  30348.    

While checking and monitoring your credit report is a good idea at any time, it is especially important to do so if you have recently gone through a divorce, bankruptcy, foreclosure, short sale or medical emergency.

Little known fact:  If you check your credit report yourself, it does not count as an inquiry on your report and you therefore do not experience any decline in your credit score.

Helpful hint:  You can get a copy of your credit report for free at the above website, but now here is a tip that can save you some money:  Instead of using and paying for a credit monitoring service, you could pull from one bureau (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) every 4 months.

What If There are Errors On My Credit Report?

You can dispute credit reporting errors yourself.  The best way to dispute an item on your credit report is online.  If you have pulled your own report from, you will notice a tab at the top of your report that reads, “Dispute”.  When you click on that tab, your report opens up and you can select the items you wish to dispute and use a drop-down menu to select the reason why this item should be removed/corrected/altered.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the reporting creditor either “prove it or remove it” when a dispute is filed.  Many home loan applicants have had great success getting their report to be corrected and have enjoyed a positive jump in their credit score. 

Your specific rights to review and challenge what is being reported is detailed in a booklet provided by the Federal Trade Commission here

Although this can be done by yourself, I would highly recommend that you speak with a knowledgeable mortgage advisor before doing this, especially if you are in the process of being approved for a mortgage loan.  There are some items on credit reports which, if changed, could have a negative impact on your score.  A difference in credit score could have a significant impact on the rates and terms you are being offered.  (See posting about What’s Happening With Risk-Based Pricing here)

A little known fact:  It can take a few weeks for a credit report tradeline to be updated, and then it will usually take up to another 5 weeks before the change shows up in the credit score.  This is why is can be so important to work on a pre-approval prior to starting the house hunt.   

How Can I Stop All Those Unsolicited Credit Card Offers?

You can opt out from creditor’s marketing lists by going to and submitting your information. 

What to Do Next?

Part II and Part III of this Credit series will continue the discussion by giving information on what hurts and what helps, and also tips on establishing (or reestablishing!) a credit history.

You can also contact me, Sherri Dyer, at (207) 288-2881 as I am happy to assist by sharing this type of information in more detail and tailoring it to your own situation.  With the changes in mortgage underwriting and risk-based pricing, it is more important than ever that your credit report looks spiffy!

~Sherri Dyer, Advisor & Mortgage Maven

writing for MDI Mortgage, a full service mortgage company located in Bar Harbor, Maine, Mount Desert island

May 27, 2011 at 7:47 PM 1 comment

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Author: Sherri Dyer

Mortgage Maven

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