Credit Reports

Are you looking to boost your credit score? Make sure you have these three accounts open first.

3 Types of Accounts You Need to Boost Your Credit Score

By | Credit Repair, Credit Reports, Credit Scores

Maintaining a solid credit score isn’t just about making on-time payments and keeping a low debt utilization ratio. Although these are two of the main criteria that credit agencies use in their formulas, they aren’t the only ways to improve credit scores. The major credit agencies also review the diversity of the accounts you have on your report—and that counts for 10% of the formula they use to determine your creditworthiness. Basically, they want to see that you have experience managing a variety of loans and accounts, such as a mortgage, a credit card, and an auto loan. People with the highest credit scores tend to boast a diverse mixture of accounts. Keep in mind that there is no magical set amount of accounts that will work for everyone, and the best blend for you will depend on your unique financial situation. Generally, you want to have at least three different types of accounts on your report. Here are three accounts that can help you improve your credit score.

Installment Loans

When you take out a significant loan for a large-scale expense, such as a home or a car, that’s known as an installment loan. You’ll generally agree to a fixed amount up front and then pay the same amount every month, with a certain amount earmarked for interest and the rest going toward the principal balance on the loan. Examples of these include a home mortgage, car loan, student loan, or home equity loan.

Why they help: Installment loans are an excellent way to boost your credit history. With a history of on time, regular payments, you’ll show potential lenders that you can handle larger loans.

Revolving Credit

As opposed to installment loans, you do not have a set payment schedule with revolving credit. Two common types of revolving credit are credit cards and lines of credit from a bank or credit union. Although you have a limit that dictates how much you can borrow—and minimum guidelines for monthly payments—it’s up to you to decide how much you want to pay. (Debit cards are not considered revolving credit, as they are treated like cash and therefore do not get reported to the credit bureaus.)

Why they help: As with installment loans, these types of accounts give your credit score a boost when you build a history of timely payments. However, moderation is key here. Lenders don’t want to see numerous credit cards open with several significant balances, which could indicate you’re overextended and in financial trouble. Revolving credit tends to be the area that causes the most trouble for consumers, but when used appropriately can be essential to establishing a solid credit record.

Open Credit

You pay your water and electricity bill each month, which typically varies depending on your usage. These examples, as well as other utilities such as sewer and phone bills, are what agencies consider open credit. The amount you pay is different from month to month, but you’re always expected to pay in full. These types of accounts are basically a cross between revolving credit and installment loans.

Why they help: You won’t see any difference in your credit score if you make these payments on time every month. However, missed payments will almost certainly appear on your credit report if you’re delinquent for 30 days or more. That’s why you should always make it a priority to budget for these bills first.

The Bottom Line on Improving Your Credit

It does help to have variety in your accounts. You’ll be proving to potential lenders that you’re able to responsibly manage several different kinds of accounts, making your credit risk fairly low. However, experts caution against opening up new accounts just to achieve that perfect mixture—especially if they come with high fees or you don’t intend on using them. Paying your bills on time and being mindful of your spending habits will go a long way toward improving your credit score as well.

When you’re trying to build up, fix, or repair your credit, it’s best to focus on only a couple of different accounts. Then, once you’ve established a solid payment history, you might consider a low-interest personal loan, or a CD-secured loan, to add some variety to your credit mix.

The factors that determine your credit score can be confusing to even the savviest consumers. If your credit report could use a tune-up, contact us for a free consultation. The professionals at Ovation Credit are here to help guide you through the process of repairing or building up a positive credit history, as well as complex issues like credit errors and credit disputes.

What is the best credit score? Find out now.

What Is the Best Credit Score?

By | Credit Reports, Credit Scores, Uncategorized

Working to achieve the best credit score is a worthy goal; after all, having good credit opens the door to an array of financial benefits. But hitting a magical number just to say you did it isn’t the best use of your time or other resources. In addition to understanding the best credit score, it’s equally important to understand how to best reach your credit goals, which won’t necessarily correspond to a single number. Here’s what you need to know.

The Highest FICO Score (and Why You Don’t Actually Need It)

FICO is the most widely used credit scoring model and is utilized by lenders and credit card companies to determine your financing approval and your interest rate. On the low end of the spectrum is a score of 300, while consumers with the highest possible score hit an 850.

While the achiever in you may set your sights on 850 as your ultimate goal in the credit repair process, it’s actually not necessary. Why? Because lenders and other creditors use credit score ranges to offer the best rates. As long as you’re in the “excellent” category, you’ll get the same low rate. Depending on the type of financing you apply for, an excellent credit score could be anywhere between 720 and 760. If you hit that benchmark, you’ll receive the same interest rate as someone with an 850.

How to Improve Your Credit

If your current credit score falls below the “excellent” category, it’s definitely in your best interest to fix your credit. There are a number of ways you can do this, no matter what your current financial situation may be. If you’re a DIYer who wants to take advantage of the best credit score possible, you just need to follow these three steps before you start seeing noticeable improvements.

1. Dispute Credit Errors

If you don’t already have the best credit score, the first major step in the credit repair process is ensuring the accuracy of your current credit report. You can request a free copy every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus. Once you have them, you’ll see every credit line you’ve had for the last several years. Make sure each one is accurate, especially when it comes to late payments and delinquencies.

When you find something that isn’t current, you can send a credit dispute to the credit bureau. If done successfully, you can get the negative item(s) removed and improve your credit score. The credit bureaus allow you to submit disputes online and through the mail to make it as convenient as possible. They’re legally required to investigate your dispute request within 30 days.

2. Lower Your Debt

Once your credit report is updated and accurate, you can still take some steps to improve other areas. One of the most important factors affecting your credit score is your debt, especially revolving debt from credit cards or another line of credit. Try to pay down that expensive revolving credit as quickly as possible. As you do, you’ll notice a distinct increase in your score, getting you closer to the best credit score possible.

Even if you pay off your credit card balance each month, your charges can still be bringing down your credit score. Your credit card company may report balances to the credit bureau before your payment is due. Try making payments at least twice a month in order to lower your balance amount before balances are reported.

3. Make Your Payments on Time

Most importantly, preserve and improve your credit by making your payments on time each month. Even a payment that is 30 days late can cause a drop in your credit score. Every 30 days after that can cause another dip, so don’t let the same bill drag down your credit score multiple times.

An effective way to avoid this problem is by signing up for auto bill payments, either through your bank or each specific creditor. As long as you keep on top of your bank account balance to avoid overdraft fees, you can successfully fix your credit with on-time payments each month.

Need Help Fixing Your Credit?

A comprehensive credit repair plan can help you get the best credit score possible in the shortest amount of time. Enlisting the help of a professional credit repair service ensures you’re maximizing your opportunity to improve your credit score.

Sign up today for a free consultation from Ovation Credit to find out how we can help.

job interviewer looking at an application

Job Seeking and Your Credit Score: Why It Matters

By | Credit Reports, Credit Scores

Job Seeking and Your Credit Score: Why It Matters

When you’re on the job hunt, generally you’re looking to put your best foot forward — in every way possible. Ideally, your qualifications, skills, and past experience alone would set you up for a successful job search. However, your credit score when job seeking could also play a part in your application. Many job seekers are surprised to find out that a credit check is included in a standard pre-employment screening.

Why Is a Credit Check Needed?

Employers typically check potential employees’ credit to obtain a more complete picture of their candidacy. (Note: If you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, or Washington, and certain cities and jurisdictions, employers are restricted or prohibited from using credit history as part of an employment decision.) The good news, though, is that when potential employers pull your credit report, they do not access the same level of information that a lender or creditor would. Your credit score when job seeking is, luckily, off-limits. However, the main criteria that factors into the calculation of your credit score — such as your history of on-time payments, amount you owe, and your available credit — will be fully visible to employers. So, even though would-be employers might not be able to see your credit score when you are job seeking, your current credit situation could interfere with your job prospects. Here are the major reasons why your credit matters when you’re pursuing a new position — and how you can overcome this if it becomes an obstacle in your path to employment.

 Illustrates Level of Organization

Your approach toward your own personal financial affairs can speak volumes to your organizational and time-management skills. If you’re up for consideration for a role that requires money management, companies want to know that you can successfully handle your personal finances as well. Your credit will be subject to more scrutiny if the job involves access to large quantities of money or highly sensitive consumer information. A credit report that reveals missed payments, outstanding balances, or a high credit-to-debt ratio could signal that you lack the organizational skills required for this type of position.

May Hint Toward Financial Distress

Your credit report will list your payment history and any accounts you have opened. Certain indicators, such as a flurry of recent account openings, late fees, or high credit utilization, could signal that you are in financial trouble. Potential employers might suspect you are only seeking new employment out of a desire for fast cash and not an actual interest in the job itself. In addition, they might be concerned that you will not be able to support yourself and pay your debts with the salary they are offering. Lastly, even though you may not have committed any wrongdoing, potential employers might see you as a risk for committing theft or fraud in order to cover your debt problems.

Shows Responsibility and Maturity

Paying your bills on time every month is good for your credit score — and the same is true for your overall credit report. A history of on-time payments shows potential employers that you are responsible, trustworthy, and fully capable of committing to obligations. On the flip side, a spotty payment history might hint that you do not have the level of responsibility that the employers require in the position you are seeking.

How You Can Address Problems

A history of credit problems may well cost you a coveted position. If you want to avoid this, it’s best to try to address the situation upfront. If you know you have negative information on your report — and the employer has informed you that you will be subject to a credit check prior to a job offer — be proactive and come prepared to explain what happened. Focus the conversation on what you have learned from the situation and the concrete steps you are taking to fix it. The more straightforward and solution-centered your explanation is, the better. The employer might even reward your honesty with a job offer.

H2: We Can Help

As you perfect your resume, don’t forget to clean up your credit report, too. Embarking on a job search is an excellent time to check in with the major credit bureaus and dispute any incorrect details that could be tarnishing your credit score. At Ovation Credit, this is our specialty. Contact us here for a free consultation.

Do’s and Don’ts of Disputing Items on Your Credit Report

By | Credit Reports

Disputing an item on your credit report is an undertaking that requires careful thought and planning—and even the most conscientious consumers might find themselves a bit overwhelmed. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit bureaus and lenders are required to investigate the validity of a disputed item on a credit report. However, even with that regulation protecting you as the consumer, there are few standard guidelines in place for disputing something on your credit report. We’ve compiled some of the top dos and don’ts of disputing credit errors, so you can avoid some of the major pitfalls involved.

DO submit your dispute to the credit bureau.

You may choose to dispute the error directly with the lender or business that allegedly reported it to the credit bureau. That’s a smart move, but should only be done in conjunction with a dispute to the credit bureau. If you only submitted your dispute to the lender, you run the risk of the lender refusing to remove the item—and then you’re stuck. It’s better to have a record of a formal dispute with the credit bureau.

DON’T throw away your paperwork.

Keep a record, including all originals, of the error and all of the documents supporting your position. For instance, if you have received denials of loans based on the information in your credit report, print out and save a copy of the denials. A credit bureau or lender can always claim to have lost your paperwork—but as long as you have held onto the originals, you will always be prepared to supply the evidence they require.

DO submit credit reports via snail mail.

Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to submit a dispute of an item on your credit report. The three major credit bureaus now offer online portals created specifically so you can submit the dispute and track its progress in real time. But you don’t want to be lulled into a false sense of security, believing the process to be an “easy” one. It’s probably to the credit bureaus’ benefit to provide consumers the ability to submit their disputes online—after all, there is only so much space allotted for you to plead your case. Then they can always claim they didn’t have enough information to investigate your dispute. You can head off that outcome by taking the old-fashioned route and typing your letter up to send through certified mail. Sure, it might take longer, but at least you can be sure that you have fully explained the error. The more details and evidence you can provide in support of your case, the better.

DO determine if it’s an identity-related error.

This is a case when it’s best to take up your claim directly with the credit bureau. It’s also a good idea to check the reports on the other credit bureaus to make sure the error hasn’t shown up on their reports as well. Although these types of errors are an inconvenience, they are also the most likely to be removed.

DON’T lose hope if the credit bureau denies your dispute.

Credit bureaus are allowed to deem certain disputes “frivolous,” if the consumer doesn’t provide enough proof or the information provided on the dispute is incomplete or inaccurate. In that case, the bureau must notify you that it has no duty to investigate the situation, along with its reasoning for determining the dispute frivolous. Even if that happens to you, you can still resubmit your dispute, but carefully reconsider your approach. It may be that your previous dispute was missing critical pieces of evidence that could be pivotal in your case. Either way, never resubmit a dispute with all of the same information that was already rejected. It’s a recipe for disaster.

DO consider asking for information about credit disputes to be added to your credit report.

This is another benefit of disputing directly with the credit bureau. If the dispute doesn’t end up in your favor, you can still request that the bureau add a statement to your report indicating the item has been in dispute. That way, you can demonstrate to potential creditors that you are actively trying to improve your credit.

Credit disputes aren’t easy, which is why so many consumers are leaning on credit repair firms like Ovation Credit to help them navigate the process of fixing their credit. We want to make this process as painless and stress-free as possible. Let us lend you a helping hand when you’re trying to rebuild your credit. Our team of professionals will walk you through the credit report review and champion your cause with the credit bureaus.

Your Credit Report: Prepare for a Mortgage Application

By | Credit Reports, Mortgage

Let’s be honest, not often do we have our credit report on our mind but when the time comes to apply for a mortgage, every point in your credit score matters. While you can get approved with a FICO score around 620, you often need a 740 or higher to get the best rates. If you want to maximize your credit score and potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your mortgage, follow the following plan.

Credit Report Mortgage Ready

Today – Review Your Credit Report

Go to and review your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can get a free credit report from each bureau every 12 months. While some people like to spread them out over the year instead of requesting them all at once, it’s important to know that each bureau may have different information.

When you get your credit report, first check it for accuracy. If there are any errors, such as accounts listed that don’t belong to you or accounts incorrectly listed as delinquent, the creditor and credit bureau are required by law to fix them upon notification.

You should also make a list of any negative items that are properly reported. Sending goodwill letters or offering to pay off charged-off accounts may convince creditors to remove that negative information. While a creditor doesn’t have to remove accurate negative information, if any do agree, each one that does will likely bump up your credit score a few points.

3 Years – Build a Credit History

Most mortgage lenders want to see that you have at least two to three active tradelines to show that you can use credit responsibly and make payments on time. A tradeline can include a major credit card, secured credit card, student loan, or auto loan.

While some people prefer to use cash and believe using cash is more responsible, lenders want to see a history of you making small payments before relying on you to make a larger mortgage payment. However, you never need to pay interest or fees to demonstrate good credit usage — you are always free to pay your bills in full each month.

2 Years – Stop Applying for New Credit

When you’re within two years of purchasing a home, it’s time to put your credit on hold. Don’t apply for any new credit no matter how good the sign up bonus is. Your credit score drops slightly each time you apply for credit, and new accounts also drag down your credit score by reducing your average age of accounts.

Even a small hit to your credit score can cost you big. A 0.25% interest rate increase can add about $5,000 in interest per $100,000 borrowed over a 30-year mortgage.

18 Months – Request Credit Line Increases

One thing that you can apply for at this point is credit line increases on your existing cards. If approved, the increased credit limit will help your credit card utilization and boost your credit score. The reason to do it this far out is that if your bank requires a hard credit inquiry for a limit increase, the inquiry only hurts your credit score for 12 months.

1 Year – Start Daily Monitoring

Start watching your credit like a hawk when you’re within the final 12 months. Any surprise changes, even errors, could delay your closing and potentially cost you your dream home. You need to know about any changes as soon as they happen so that you have plenty of time to fix them.

At this point, your free annual credit report isn’t enough. The cost of signing up for daily or weekly credit alerts from each of the three credit bureaus is far less than paying additional mortgage interest or delaying your closing because you were surprised by something on your credit report.

9 Months – Pay Down Debt

If you have additional cash beyond your savings for your down payment, moving expenses and emergency fund, think about repaying any outstanding debt early. While your total monthly payments don’t directly impact your credit score, mortgage lenders do consider your debt-to-income ratio when deciding how much you’re approved for and your interest rate.

If you have credit card debt, even at a zero-percent intro rate, consider paying that off first because your credit card balances can directly lower your credit score in addition to increasing your debt-to-income ratio.

3 Months – Micromanage Credit Card Utilization

While most of your credit score is built over time, up to 30 percent of your credit score is a snapshot of how much of your credit card limits you were using as of your last credit card statement.

  • For a good credit score, use no more than 30 percent of your total credit limits across all cards.
  • For a better credit score, make sure none of your cards are above 30 percent of their individual limits.
  • For an even better credit score, temporarily only use one card.
  • For the best credit score, use between one and ten percent of a single card’s credit limit. (Zero is bad because lenders want to see you paying at least one credit card bill on time each month, and a zero balance doesn’t generate a bill.)

While this may force you to change your spending behavior and miss out on a few rewards points, the benefit of squeezing every last point out of your credit score is much greater.

Found Your Dream Home – Mortgage Application Time!

Once you’re approved, you can relax and stop worrying about micromanaging your credit, but keep the good money habits you developed to save on future car loans, get better credit cards and improve your personal finances as a whole.



Credit Report Errors: Why, How and Solutions to Fix My Credit

By | Credit Reports

Credit report errors can happen to anyone. It affects roughly 25 percent of files in the United States. This statistic is high enough to cause alarm, and one in 20 files have errors that cause financial damage. A small percentage of these instances involve borrowers with wrongfully reduced scores of 100 points or more.

Credit Report Errors

Check for Credit Report Errors First

If you’re concerned, check each of your credit reports (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to see if there are any incorrect entries. Begin by scanning for information that doesn’t line up properly. There might be different balances, payment dates or your account might not even show up.

Keep in mind: credit-reporting companies are only required to provide information to one of the three bureaus. It’s possible to have details and accounts on one file that aren’t on the others. This is a leading cause of credit report errors and it’s not always easy to fix.

You can get your files from, the government-authorized source for your free annual report. This is a right for American consumers, thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If you’ve already requested a file and you want more current information, you can pay a nominal fee to each bureau for a fresh copy.

Common Types of Credit Report Errors

Sometimes, a credit report error is because of an innocent mistake by one of your credit card providers or lenders. Other times, it might be a mishap with your work’s accounting department. Worst case scenario, the errors on your report are a sign of credit fraud or identity theft.

Regardless of the details, any wrongful entries on your credit report should be taken care of immediately. If not, it’s possible for the negative effects to carry on for years — while keeping your credit score down in the process.

Take a look below for some tips on clearing up certain types of errors.

How to Handle Mismatching Credit Reports

Unfortunately, you can’t force the reporting company to notify the other bureaus if they only reported to one. This can put you at both an advantage and a disadvantage.

It’s beneficial if you have negative items and they only show on a single file. However, it can be a serious setback if your positive items are not there. It can result in your FICO score dropping — which means more rejections and higher interest premiums.

Your best bet is to contact the credit-reporting agency. You can request that they report to the other bureaus. If they won’t, there’s little you can do, “by force,” to make it happen for you.

How to Remove Outdated Information

Your credit report can only contain negative items for a set time frame. After the period runs out, you’re allowed to request removal of any items that still show. To do this, you must send a dispute letter to the respective credit bureau(s). This is also the standard process for dealing with errors. Outdated information is different since it’s so easy to check and prove, so no further information is needed.

You’ll hear back in 30 days or less with a decision. If you have a delinquency stated on your file, inside the acceptable reporting period, you’ll have to prove to the bureau that it’s incorrect. In most cases, this happens when debt goes to a collections agency — as it gets reported with a delinquency, inaccurately, on a more recent date.

How Long Does It Take to Fix Errors?

The FCRA states that the credit bureau you send the dispute letter to must get back to you within 30 days. They’re required to investigate your claim and determine whether there’s any accuracy to it. The simpler issues tend to get fixed right away, but it’s possible you’ll be asked for more documentation.

Should You Use Credit Repair Services?

Credit repair companies focus on fixing your credit report, not your score. The goal is to make sure that all information matches up between each of your credit files. It means an expert will work with you to go through all your credit reports. They’ll have a much better eye for finding errors.

However, most of the time, you can identify the errors yourself. It only becomes important to consider hiring a credit repair agency when fixing the problem. This will save you a good 30-60 hours in paperwork, phone calls and other tedious processes. It also means you have a greater chance of removing the error, as your case will be represented as best as possible.

Credit report errors are always a headache. However, you don’t have to stress over the situation too much. Credit repair professionals can take all the manual work out of the reparation process. The law is also by your side when it comes to removing inaccurate negative items.

Things will only get more confusing if you’re dealing with fraudulent entries. In this case, you might need to supply police reports, FTC Identity Theft Affidavits and much more. The problem could take 100s of hours to resolve as well, which is when a credit repair expert can really save the day.


Understanding Your Credit – Score, Reports and Bureaus

By | Credit Reports

Understanding Your Credit

Most Americans do not realize how credit scores, reports and bureaus actually work. In fact, 42 percent believe the myth that lenders must report to all three major credit bureaus. This is wrong and causes a huge headache at times. The truth is that your score could vary by as many as hundreds of points between your files at each of the bureaus.

This is just one of many examples of credit misinformation. When you research how credit works, there is a web of knowledge to uncover. It all helps you become a better borrower, as you can pay your debts and manage new credit more efficiently.

Credit Scores & FICO Explained

Your credit score, or “FICO score,” is something you need to mentally master. It is a single output that significantly impacts your borrowing abilities and creditworthiness. All credit score factors matter to you – therefore, it is essential to have a solid understanding of how they work.

The Types of Credit Scores

While there are many types of credit-scoring algorithms, the majority are a type of FICO score. This is why the term “FICO” goes hand-in-hand with “credit score” so often. If you hear the term “FAKO score,” it just means anything but a FICO score.

Here are some different credit-scoring models that exist:

  • CE
  • Empirica
  • FICO
  • VantageScore 3.0

At least nine of 10 lenders use a FICO score to screen applicants.



How Does FICO Calculate Your Credit Score?

  • Payment History = 35%
  • Amounts Owed = 30%
  • Length of Credit History = 15%
  • New Credit = 10%
  • Credit Mix = 10%

Of course, each type of credit rating will have a slightly different algorithm. But, you should hold these rating factors as the most important variables. Focus on avoiding delinquencies or worse, and start bringing your total debt down.

Hint: pay revolving debt first. Your installment debts (such as student loans) do not count toward your utilization ratio.

Which Credit or FICO Scores Do Lenders Use?

FICO offers 28 main score versions to each of the three major credit bureaus. It provides a scoring algorithm for these bureaus to determine a FICO score to assign to each file. With the help of FICO, every credit bureau also has an in-house scoring model. They are as follows: BEACON (Equifax), FICO Risk Score (Experian) and Empirica (TransUnion).

A lender will decide on which credit bureau to pull your file from. That bureau will dictate the score that is provided – based on the type of account you wish to open. This means your score could vary for a car loan, home mortgage and so on.

Auto Score vs. Bankcard Score vs. FICO Score

There is an appropriate time for a lender to use each type of score. FICO Score 8 is the most generally accepted model between borrowers and lenders. Older FICO score versions are regularly used and more common in the mortgage market. FICO Auto Score is the go-to score when qualifying an applicant for an auto loan, and Bankcard Score is used to measure the worthiness of credit card applicants.

FICO Scores Used by Auto Lenders

FICO Auto Score is most common, but the version each bureau uses will differ. Equifax typically supplies FICO Auto Score 5 or 8. Experian uses Auto Score 2 or 8. Meanwhile, TransUnion falls to Auto Score 4 and 8. Since the FICO Auto Score 9 recently came into being, it might start gaining traction with any or all of the credit bureaus soon.

FICO Scores Used by Credit Card Issuers

FICO Bankcard Score 2 and 8, and FICO Score 3, are all sometimes pulled for the purpose of making credit card lending decisions. FICO Bankcard Score 9 also now exists but is not yet commonplace. The Bankcard Score focuses more on your credit card history and less on your medical debts, utility bills and any one-off missed payments.

FICO Scores Used by Home Loan Providers

A mortgage broker or private lender will typically use a dated FICO Score. This is because the underwriting rules for the U.S. mortgage industry require the use of older versions. As such, Equifax uses FICO Score 2, Experian uses FICO Score 5, and TransUnion uses FICO Score 4 to qualify mortgage applicants.

Even after reading about scores here, you no doubt have some questions. A good way to gain more knowledge is by reading the informative content on’s website. This will give you a better idea on how the credit rankers run things, too.

Credit Report Mystery

Reading and Understanding Your Credit Report

Confusion forms when you first look at your credit report. It is hard to know what is there, what is not and how things got there in the first place. But, this foggy way of thinking clears up once you get a good grasp of basic credit report terms. Below are some things you might find in your file:


After you fail to pay, it will say you are in default on your debt. This happens after you fail to repay as scheduled. With credit cards, a default is usually reported after you go 90 days without making any payments. The default status will stay on your credit report for six years before it drops off.


A derogatory mark means only that the item is a negative one. It usually implies a late payment, charge-off or court judgment against you. It serves as a warning from a scorned lender and symbolizes a lack of creditworthiness. The derogatory status can stay on your report for up to seven years.


A satisfied item is anything that went into dispute with a creditor but is now fully resolved. As with all public record documents, a court judgment will stay in your file for seven years from the date you satisfy the debt.


A settled item is a debt that was in arrears but no longer exists because a settlement agreement was made between you and the creditor. This is a payoff that allows you to settle for less than what you actually owe – it is common when dealing with debt collectors since they pay pennies on the dollar to own the debt and will typically negotiate. Not paying the total amount back can harm your score, and the damage will stay on your file for seven years.

If you are a responsible borrower, the positive terms you might see include “Pays As Agreed” or “Paid/Closed Never Late.” Additionally, when you start running late on your payments, you might see 60 Days Past Due or 120 Days Past Due on your report.

What Else Your Credit Report Tells You

Your credit report contains many other pieces of information aside from the current account status for each debt. Take a look below to better understand what all is on your credit report and how to read it.

Personal Information

Your credit report will provide personal information, including your full name, where you live, your place of employment and your Social Security number. This data is gathered from the various accounts you hold that are being reported to the credit bureaus. A credit report will get an update to its information any time an account is updated. It can mix up information at times if your accounts are not up-to-date, so keep that in mind.

Soft / Hard Inquiries

Any time a lender pulls your file, it will result in an inquiry. This inquiry can be either soft or hard, with the latter having a short-term negative impact on your score. Soft inquiries mostly occur when employers run a background check for employment purposes. Many lenders will also perform a soft pull of your credit report to see if you pre-qualify for one of their offers before sending it to you.

Hard inquiries occur when lenders determine your creditworthiness at your request. A hard pull can drop your score a few points but will drop off of your report two years after it posts.

Public Record and Collections

Your credit report will include any public records in your name, such as bankruptcies, court judgments, foreclosures, lawsuits, wage garnishments and tax liens. The length of time these entries stay on your reports is variable. A civil judgment will last for seven years. Meanwhile, tax liens are very dangerous – they drop off seven years after the paid date, but leaving them unpaid can plague your file for 15 long years.

Credit Errors


Tackling Your Credit Report – and the Errors!

You have a credit report on file at Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each bureau accepts information from credit reporting companies. The creditors submit details to one, two or all of the major bureaus. Thus, it is possible for your reports to contain inconsistent information.

Some lenders will pull from one credit bureau only. This means your chance to qualify for credit comes down to which bureau they choose. So, it is important to make sure your information is accurate. You also need to make sure that all your accounts show up on each of your reports.

Boost Your Score by Fixing Credit Report Errors

Did you know that the FTC’s 2015 follow-up study on credit report accuracy found that roughly 20 percent of subjects saw a credit score increase after fixing errors found on their reports? This news came after discovering that 20 percent of credit reports contain at least one inaccuracy.

These errors are often little details that get mixed up. This typically happens when lenders only report to one of the credit bureaus. The missing pieces of your payment history can make or break your credit score. Furthermore, having only part of your debt in each file will result in an inaccurate calculation of your credit utilization rate – for better or worse.

Credit Report Errors Worth Disputing

The hardest thing to decide is whether you should report an error or not. It is not wise to ignore anything that is incorrect, but many issues will not impact your score. Little discrepancies in your personal information, for example, will not lead to a points boost.

The best time to report an error is when you see a major issue. If something is literally holding your score down, then you should report it. Even as little as 25 points can influence how you are able to build your credit. Imagine a few unjust rejections as you apply for loans and credit cards – these further drop your score. Ultimately, you look like a less reliable borrower than you really are.

Here are the errors that can impact your FICO score the most:

  • Letting an account enter Collections status = up to 100 points
  • 30 days delinquent on a bank card debt = up to 100 points lost
  • Missing a single credit account = up to 100 points difference by file

Understand that if you have an error causing a 100-point difference, it is severely holding you back. Going from a 780 to 680 score alone can result in more than $450 annually spent on extra interest. Take advantage of the chance to improve your score whenever you can. However, make sure not to fabricate errors or exaggerate issues to get bad debts removed.

How to Find Errors on Your Credit Report

First, simultaneously obtain current copies of your credit reports from the big three credit agencies. Then, you can compare the data and determine where any inconsistencies lie. This will be effective for picking up on most or all errors, but further review may still be still necessary.

One thing to watch for is debt that gets sold and resold. The information can change with time, and even the amount owing might be different. Any discrepancies may be grounds for removal of the entry.

This can bring your score up, but, how much will it increase? Four in every 1,000 reports with errors will see a change of as many as 100 points. This is a staggering statistic, but you should look at the stats affecting the majority. Five percent of erroneous credit reports contain inaccuracies of 25 points or more.

It is free to dispute credit reporting errors. Do this if you find anything in your file to be unfair or unjustified. Your credit score will improve after the errors are removed. However, make sure to only report true inaccuracies; if the debt reappears, your score boost will reverse itself fast.

Step-by-Step Credit Report Error Guide

So, have you come to the decision that reporting your errors is the right thing to do? It can make a major difference and aid you in your journey to rebuild your FICO score. With that said, you will only get good results if you follow the proper protocols.

Here’s how you can go about reporting errors in your credit file:

Contact the Credit Bureau

Reach out to the credit bureau to report your claim with a dispute letter. Be respectful, and provide all evidence you have to back up the fact that an item should be removed. If the information is inaccurate with all three bureaus, make sure to report the problem to each.

Wait to Hear Back

The company that reported the debt will have a short period to dispute your claim. This is when any information against you can come into play. After that, the dispute can go into mediation for a final judgment. Typically, you will hear back from the creditor within 30 days.

Usually, the judgment will be completed within this short time frame. In difficult situations, though, it can run on for a few months or longer. Once all is over, your score will recalculate. However, it is important to note that the entries might drop off temporarily and return after evidence against you is found. So, if you report factually accurate entries, it could end up leaving you in a worse position later.

What if You’re the Victim of Identity Theft?

This is an entirely different situation, but the process for handling identity theft is somewhat similar to reporting other issues. You must contact the credit bureau(s) with your claim. However, to be better prepared, a copy of your FTC Affidavit should be supplied. You can also use this to obtain a police report at your local police station.

Supplying all this information, along with your proof, will be adequate. From there, you will wait for a reply and see if any further documents are needed. Identity theft entries can damage your score drastically, and they should be reported as soon as you notice them.

Furthermore, it is important to watch out for identity theft all the time. This issue hurts many Americans every year, and there are endless ways for fraudsters to target you. There are many free identity theft protection services that work wonders.

If you believe you are the victim of identity theft and have contacted the credit bureau, you will also receive a fraud alert on your credit report. This lets lenders know to be careful when dealing with someone who connects to your file.

Read the FTC’s Disputing Errors on Credit Reports to learn the entire process.

Credit-Related FAQs

You should have a clearer view now of how credit works, but here’s extra info (and reminders) to help you out!

1. Do Lenders Report to ALL Credit Bureaus?

A lender can post information to one or all of the major credit bureaus, which are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This data will calculate into your FICO score. Eventually, a lender will use your credit rating to determine your loan eligibility. Your reports can get mixed up and have varying scores, which can result in unjust denials of credit.

2. How Do Credit Bureaus Collect Personal Data?

Information like your current employer and physical address can come from your credit card issuer, your loan provider or your utility provider. These data points are put in your file on a somewhat regular basis – monthly, quarterly, etc. This gives the bureaus what they need to try and keep your personal information up-to-date.

3. How Do You Get a Copy of Your Credit Report?

Go to to make a request online. This is a service that allows U.S. citizens to request a free credit report from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can pull your reports once a year, and per the FACT Act, it is your legal entitlement. You may view the reports online or request that printed copies be mailed to you. However, keep in mind that this will only get you copies of your reports – and not the associated credit scores.

4. How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report?

You should always stay up-to-date with what posts to your credit report at each of the major credit bureaus. Spread things out, and check one of your files every four months. Alternatively, a free or affordable credit monitoring service can help you keep tabs on things.

5. Can You Find Out Which Score a Lender Will Use?

Thanks to the FCRA Act, a lender must include “the range of possible credit scores under the model used to generate the credit score.” This means you will know whichever credit ratings a prospective lender receives. Not only that, but you will also be told the type (version) of FICO score that was pulled for your application.

6. How Long Does Stuff Last on Your Credit Report?

  • Unpaid tax liens: Up to 15 years from the filing date
  • Bankruptcies: 10 years – possibly seven years if you get a Chapter 13 discharge
  • Tax liens: Seven years from the filing date
  • Collection accounts: Seven years + 180 days from the first month’s missed payment
  • Foreclosure: Seven years after the date of your foreclosure
  • Late payments: Seven years after the date of the payment delinquency
  • Charge-offs: Seven years after the date your debt is written off as a loss
  • Soft inquiries: Two years from the date of the inquiry
  • Hard inquiries: One year from the date of the inquiry


How Long Does It Stay on My Credit Report?

By | Credit Reports

If your credit report includes some negative items, it’s important to know how long they will remain there. Every negative mark on your credit report has some impact on your overall credit score, so the sooner a negative mark no longer shows up, the better. If you’re trying to improve your credit score, take a look at some of the most common types of negative items and how long they will stay on your credit report.

Credit Report Lifetime

Late Payments

If you paid a debt more than 30 days late, your creditor may have reported it to the credit bureaus. It will take about seven years from the date of your late payment for it to come off your report.

A payment that was 90 days late affects your score more negatively than a payment that was 30 or 60 days past due. In addition, the older your late payment is, the less it affects your credit score. So while it might take seven years to get a late payment off your report, its impact will gradually lessen as you get closer to that seven-year mark.


Any debts you haven’t paid on time may go to collections, and these will stay on your credit report for seven years plus 180 days from the date of the first missed payment. Even one account going to collections will reduce your credit score, as will any subsequent accounts that you leave unpaid. Even after you pay an account that has gone to collections, it may remain on your credit report unless you contact the creditor or a credit repair agency for help removing it.


Many creditors decide that your debt is a lost cause once your payment is more than 120 days late, so they mark it as a charge-off. Essentially, it’s a negative item on your credit report at that point, and it will stay there for seven years plus 180 days from the date of the first missed payment. This is the case even if you pay this debt off eventually. Keep in mind that you may still owe the debt after it has been charged off, because the creditor can still sell it to a collections office that will contact you for payment.


The amount of time a bankruptcy stays on your credit report depends on the chapter you filed. For a discharged chapter 13 bankruptcy, it will stay on your report for seven years, since you had to repay at least some of the debt you owed. For chapter 7 or 11, the bankruptcy will show up for 10 years, since debts are not repaid with these chapters.


Before you foreclose on a home, you should know the foreclosure will stay on your credit report for up to seven years from the date you file. This timeline also applies to a short sale, which will be reported as a negative mark on your credit report and will therefore make it more difficult for you to buy another house for at least seven years.

Tax Liens

If you have a tax lien on your credit report due to not paying your taxes, this negative item will remain on your report for up to seven years after the IRS filed it. This is the case even after you’ve paid it off. If you want it to come off sooner, contacting the IRS to see if you qualify for withdrawal of the lien. This is a good step to consider if you need to get a loan or mortgage soon and do not want an old tax lien affecting your credit score and thus your chance of obtaining the loan or mortgage.


Credit inquiries may show up as negative marks on your credit report, but they’re not as damaging to your score as many of the other negative items discussed above. In fact, soft inquiries do not damage your credit score at all. An example of a soft inquiry is when a current creditor reviews your account to see if you’re eligible for a better interest rate or increased credit limit. Checking your own credit score is also a soft inquiry.

On the other hand, hard inquiries occur when you apply for a new credit account, such as a car loan or credit card. This will damage your credit score slightly, but only for up to one year. Luckily, the effects of either type of inquiry are minimal, since inquiries stay on your report for up to two years.

Clearly, with most types of negative items on your credit report, the magic number is seven. So any time you make a mistake when it comes to your finances, you could be suffering the consequences for the next seven years. The good news is that you may be able to reduce the amount of time the typical negative mark stays on your report, because you have the option of hiring a credit repair company to help. This could get items removed much sooner and is worth looking into if you plan to make any big purchases soon that require you to have a good credit score.


Repair Credit: Results in Months Not Years

By | Credit Repair, Credit Reports

repair credit now

Full credit repair is no seven-year journey; with the right efforts, you could increase your FICO score by more than 100 points in just six to eight months.

If you’re trying to repair credit problems, don’t turn to bankruptcy. In fact, even if you’re unsure how to repair credit, the best route is debt management.

Take a look below for more details on what actions you should take, which include: using secured credit cards to repair credit, fixing credit report errors to remove penalties, shifting away from heavy revolving debts and taking credit limit increases when possible.

How to Improve My Credit Score

In less than a year, you can go from bad to great credit. It’s just going to take some work. That means building new credit, paying old debts and fixing any delinquent accounts. But if you have bad credit, how exactly will you do this?

The best thing you can do is forget everything you thought about secured credit cards. It’s never a good route if you have other options – but a secured card works wonders when you’re trying to repair credit.

How to Repair Credit with a Secured Card

It’s simple – get a secured credit card in your name and start using it. After 12 to 18 months of responsible paying, the card issuer will upgrade you. Some cards only increase in security funds and others switch to unsecured cards.

Aim for the latter and shoot for the highest credit limit you can get – the bigger the collateral you can provide, the better. The best convertible secured credit cards allow for a $5,000 to $10,000 secured credit limit.

The only other thing is to avoid using the secured card for all your monthly expenses. It’s not good to be that active – after all, the more debt you carry on the card, the worse your credit utilization rate will be. This is an important variable to keep under control; your outstanding debt levels amount for 30 percent of your FICO score calculation.

Building Credit by Fixing Errors

Another way to see a fast increase in points is by fixing errors on your credit file. If there’s an inaccurate entry, it could plague your score by 100 points or more. In fact, a FTC study from 2013 found that 1 in 250 consumers have a 100 point or higher deficit due to reporting errors. Beyond that, another 1 in 20 files contain errors amounting to lower scores by 25 points or more.

You can request a copy of your credit report from each bureau individually, or through the website. Take a look at it for any signs of inaccurate or missing information. If anything is spotted, when the bureau acts on it your new FICO score will be higher.

You can report errors on your file through the credit bureau websites. TransUnion also lets you send your report by mail. It’s best to contact all three, but once you notify a single bureau they’re obligated to tell the others. If the issue is due to identity fraud, and not a recording error, then an FTC affidavit and police report might be required.

Consolidating Your Revolving Debts

Revolving debts weigh more on your credit score than installment debts. This means short-term loans can help. If your credit card debts are high, you could use a consolidation loan to lower your debt-to-credit ratio. The installment debt created by your loan won’t drag your score as much, so your score will go up once your file updates with the change.

This is why debt repair services are actually a hidden gem. You can avoid bankruptcy and pay back what you owe on your own schedule. In the end, you might be able to repair your credit score within six months to a year. It’s just a matter of organizing your debts and optimizing your file based on how FICO calculates your score.

Take Any Limit Increase You Can Get

When you are offered a higher credit limit it means you’re given the chance to take on even more debt. This shows that you’re trusted with a higher amount; until you spend it, your debt-to-credit ratio will be improved.

Therefore, taking on credit limit increases as they come is a fantastic idea. It’s just a matter of having the willpower to not blow all the new funds. Long story short, if you can manage this, then the greater credit limits will help boost your credit score.


Credit repair is a scary subject – where the only happy ending seems to come after you go through bankruptcy or if you win the lottery. This doesn’t have to be the case, and there are ways around bankruptcy, but it will take a real commitment.

The journey begins with figuring out what you’re doing wrong as a borrower. In most cases, it’s carrying too large of a debt on credit cards. Deleverage this by getting access to loans and by consolidating your high-interest debts.

Then work on sustaining the best credit utilization rate you can manage. Your FICO score will show real changes after only three to six months of good stats getting reported to the credit bureaus.


Keep a Tax Debt From Ruining Your Credit

By | Credit Reports, Credit Scores, Personal Finance, Your Credit

Keep Tax Debt from Ruining Credit

The IRS has more power than any other creditor. Unlike private creditors, the IRS can directly garnish your wages and levy your bank accounts. Tax liens are also one of the biggest negative items for credit scoring purposes. If you owe taxes that you can’t pay, here are your options and how they affect your credit.

Not Filing a Tax Return

Not filing a tax return to try to keep the IRS from finding out you owe taxes is one of the worst things you can do. It doesn’t even work because the IRS will receive copies of your W2s and 1099s from your employers and banks.

When the IRS realizes that you owed taxes and failed to file returns, the penalties are typically ten times greater than if you filed but paid late. The IRS will also be less willing to work with you after you’ve attempted to evade taxes. For large debts or multiple un-filed returns, you may also face criminal prosecution.

As far as your credit score is concerned, the IRS will begin the collections process and issue a tax lien as quickly as possible.

Not Paying When Filing

If you don’t pay your taxes in full by the time your return is due, you will be charged late fees and interest starting from the due date. However, if you still filed a return on time, the IRS takes a slightly friendlier approach to collections.

You will receive a bill and at least a second notice before the IRS files a tax lien. As long as you meet the deadline to avoid the lien, your credit report will never be affected.

Typically, your options will either be to arrange full payment within 120 days of the due date or to enter into an installment agreement.

Personal Loan/Credit Card

The IRS recommends that you take out a personal loan or charge your taxes to a credit card instead of using IRS repayment options. They gain the advantage of receiving immediate payment in full.

Your advantage is less clear. You avoid IRS penalties and interest, but your loan or credit card interest charges might be higher. You’ll also avoid the IRS collections process, but IRS collections don’t impact your credit if you follow the steps to avoid the lien.

When you apply for a loan or credit card, the credit inquiry will lower your credit score, and your average age of accounts credit score factor will be reduced. The increase in your credit balance will also lower your credit score. However, once you pay off the debt, you’ll have additional positive payment history on your credit report.

Installment Agreement

An installment agreement is a payment plan directly with the IRS. It may be advantageous if you can’t get a good rate on a loan or credit card.

Installment agreements never show up on your credit report, so it won’t affect your credit score. If you sign up for automatic payments, you’ll also avoid a tax lien.

However, if you default on an installment agreement, the IRS may cancel the agreement and issue a tax lien. There are several ways to default, including the following.

•     Late payments

•     Bounced payments

•     Failure to have adequate withholding or estimated tax payments  for the current tax year

•     Any other late taxes

Offer in Compromise

An offer in compromise is an agreement to settle a tax debt for less than it’s worth. The offer can be either a lump sum payment or a payment plan.

Unlike settlements or charge offs on credit card accounts, offers in compromise are not reflected on your credit report. Because the tax is considered to be settled in full, the IRS will withdraw any liens once you’ve completed the offer.

The downside is that it’s incredibly difficult to be approved for an offer in compromise. The IRS must believe that you have almost no chance of ever paying in full. This is typically only when you are disabled or well past retirement age.

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Tax Lien

If you can’t pay your taxes in full, make payment arrangements or complete your payment plan, the IRS will issue a tax lien. Tax liens will destroy even a nearly perfect credit score. They’re also automatically disqualifying for many loans, jobs and rentals.

The good news is that the IRS almost never issues liens for tax debts under $10,000. They believe the negative effect on your credit report will make it harder for you to pay back a tax debt at that level.

If you have a tax lien, there are three ways to get it off of your credit report:

  • Paying in full: Once your tax debt is paid in full, whether in a single payment or through installments, the lien will be released within 30 days. At that time, you can request the lien be withdrawn.
  • Discharge of property: If you need to sell your home or a vehicle, you can apply to have the lien discharged on that specific piece of property. Typically, the IRS will expect a portion of the sale proceeds to approve your application.
  • Withdrawal: You may also be eligible to have a tax lien withdrawn and removed from your credit report before you pay in full. Requirements include being current on all tax returns and estimated taxes as well as having a direct debit installment agreement to satisfy your past-due taxes.

Unlike other negative credit report items that stay on for seven years, once liens are withdrawn, they are completely erased from your credit report as if they never happened.



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