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Topics addressed on November 12, 2008:
Getting your own report, paying credit cards won’t hurt your credit scores
Why are you penalized for trying to be an educated consumer by making our own credit inquires? Why are you also penalized for paying down your credit cards?
Sadly, I hear far too often from people like you who have received the same bad information. In fact, you are not penalized for checking your own credit report or for reducing the balances you owe on your credit reports.
You can get as many copies of your personal credit report as you want without having any impact on credit scores or lending decisions.
Inquiries are simply a record that someone has accessed your credit report. Every access is recorded and remains for two years. Inquiries showing you requested a copy of your personal report are not provided to lenders and do not affect credit scores. They only appear on your personal credit report so that you have a complete record of requests, including your own.
The important distinction is that it must be a personal report. You can get a free personal report once every 12 months through www.annualcreditreport.com. Other personal reports are available directly from Experian. You can get free personal reports if you have had adverse action taken, such as having your application declined. Free reports also are provided if you are a victim of fraud or identity theft, are unemployed and seeking employment or receive welfare assistance. Some state laws provide for additional free reports for their citizens.
When you subscribe to credit monitoring services, like Experian’s Triple Advantage, you are provided unlimited access to your personal report without a single one of those inquiries being visible to anyone but you
However, if you work for a bank or other business that utilizes credit reports, you cannot request your own report through the business’s system. Doing so creates two problems. The first is that there must be a permissible reason for the bank to access the report both by law and by their contract with Experian. For example, their contract may be for accessing reports for processing loan applications.
If you or your employer are violating those policies, in the worst-case scenario you could lose your job and cause your business to have its access to credit reports cut off by Experian. The other immediate impact is that the inquiry created will be part of your credit history that is shared with other lenders and can affect credit scores.
If your bank accesses your report for legitimate business purposes, they may share a copy with you, but please remember that it is in a format designed for that business and not for consumer review. Experian cannot assist you with questions based on that report.
You also received false information about reducing your credit card debts. The opposite of what you were told is true. Reducing your debts will, over time, almost certainly result in improving your credit scores, as long as you are making all payments on time.
For the majority of consumers, reducing balances will result in an immediate improvement in scores. Depending on other factors in your credit history, if you reduced them substantially within a short time, you might see an initial decrease in your credit scores. That happens because a substantial change creates instability that temporarily affects scores as your credit history adjusts.
When your reduced balances are maintained over time, your credit scores very likely will bounce back up and get better than they were before, assuming there were no changes with other aspects of your credit history. For instance, you could open a new loan or become late on another account, which could offset the reduced credit card balances.
Thanks for asking.
- The "Ask Experian" team