Credit Score FAQs

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What is a Credit Score?

  • What is a credit score?
    A credit score is a number that summarizes the historical credit information on a credit report. The number reflects the likelihood that you will become delinquent on a loan or a credit obligation in the future.

  • What is VantageScore®?
    VantageScore is a credit score developed jointly by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This score uses the same formula across all three credit reporting agencies, resulting in a more accurate and consistent picture of your credit history.

  • Why don't I have a credit score?
    Credit scoring models cannot generate a score without enough credit information. If you have little or no credit history, you probably will not have a credit score available.

  • What are score factors?
    Score factors or score factor codes are provided with a credit score to explain how items in your credit report influenced the score. These codes can help you understand which items had the greatest impact.

  • How often do credit scores change?
    Your credit score changes as your credit report changes. Therefore, it can change often since new information is added to your credit report all the time.

Credit Range — What is a good score?

  • What is the credit score range?
    There are many different credit scores with differing ranges. As a result, it is possible for two different scores to represent the same level of lending risk. When you request a credit score from Experian, you will receive not only a score, but also an explanation of what the number represents in terms of how lenders will view your creditworthiness. If you have a good Experian credit score, you likely will have a good score with lenders, even if the number is different.

  • What is the score range for VantageScore®?
    VantageScore 3.0 has a familiar score range of 300 to 850, where the higher the score, the lower the credit risk. While each lender determines their own risk categories, for the U.S. population, the following general credit tiers can be identified by these score ranges:

    Credit TiersVantageScore 3.0
    Super Prime781-850
    Near Prime601-660
    Deep subprime300-499

    Keep in mind that there are many different credit scores in the market and the score range will vary by model.

  • What is a good credit score?
    Because there are many different credit scoring systems with different scales, a "good" credit score depends on the scoring system used by your particular lender. However, you can get a very good idea of whether you have a "good" credit score by getting a credit score and report from Experian. If you have a "good" credit score from Experian, you likely will have a "good" credit score with your lender.

  • Is there just one credit score?
    One of the most common myths about credit scores is that there is only one credit score. Web sites or financial advisers who claim there is only one "real" credit score either are misinformed or are being misleading. In fact, there are many different credit scores used by lenders (according to some estimates, more than 1,000), although some scores are used more than others.

How is my Credit Score determined?

  • What information goes into calculating a credit score?
    Credit scores use information from three key areas of your credit report: account information (such as credit cards, auto loans, student loans, mortgages and rent), public records (such as judgements or bankruptcies) and inquiries (requests by lenders to view your credit). Information such as race, gender, where you live and marital status are not used in credit scores.

  • Who calculates credit scores?
    Credit scores may come from several sources. Lenders may request that a credit score be provided along with your credit report. Credit reporting agencies provide the service of applying the credit scores from a number of credit score developers. Lenders specify which credit score they want delivered with the credit report. Credit scores may also be calculated by mortgage reporting companies that compile your credit reports from each of the national credit reporting companies and then deliver the combined reports and scores to the lender. Lenders may also apply their own, proprietary scores after receiving your credit report.

What affects my Credit Score?

  • Will I be penalized for shopping around for the best interest rate?
    Too many inquiries may have a negative impact on your credit score. However, most recently developed credit scores recognize when a consumer is shopping for the best rates and either ignore multiple inquiries or count them as only one inquiry if they occur within a specific period of time. In such cases, shopping around will have little or no impact on a credit score.

  • Do lenders and creditors look at all three credit reporting agency reports and credit scores calculated using information from each report before approving a credit or loan application?
    Not always. Most mortgage lenders will look at reports from all three credit reporting agencies and credit scores calculated using information from each, but other lenders may use reports and scores from two or just one of the credit reporting agencies.

  • Do inquiries for preapproved offers affect a credit score?
    No. Only applications for credit initiated by the consumer will affect your score. Inquiries into your credit for account review purposes as well as preapproved offers of credit have no effect on credit scores.

  • Do finance companies have a negative impact on a credit score?
    The presence of a loan finance account can negatively affect your score because these accounts often carry high interest rates which may hamper your ability to repay and which many lenders view negatively. However, when paid on time, these accounts can also have a positive effect on your score (if the loan helps you to make your payments in a more timely fashion, for example).

  • Why does Experian need to see my marketing offer?
    The privacy of consumers is important to Experian. That's why we take extra care in certain areas we consider sensitive. This sensitive data might include, but is not limited to children's data and ethnic data. Our goal is to partner with you to ensure that consumers continue to benefit from our sharing of data for marketing purposes.

  • Does having too many credit cards affect a credit score?
    Having too many credit cards with either high balances or large amounts of credit available can negatively impact risk scores, depending on the overall credit history.

  • If my spouse had bad credit before we were married, will that affect a credit score?
    If you hold a joint credit account, have cosigned a loan or have authorized use of another person's credit, these items could affect a score if they appear on your credit report. It's important that joint account holders or authorized users understand that their credit behavior does affect the other joint account holder or main account holder.

    A credit account held solely in the name of your spouse, your child or any other family member cannot impact your credit score. However, in community-property states, all debt acquired during a marriage is considered a joint debt, regardless if the account is joint or in the name of an individual spouse.

  • Does cosigning for a loan affect a credit score?
    Absolutely. By cosigning, you are accepting full responsibility for the debt if the other person does not pay as agreed. A cosigned account will appear on both your credit history and the other person's. All loans and credit card accounts that appear on your credit report will impact credit scores.

  • Do late payments affect a credit score?
    Paying bills on time is generally the single most important contributor to a good credit score. Being late on any bill, for any length of time, is a possible indication of future nonpayment of debt and is almost always viewed negatively by lenders. Any late payments will remain on your credit report for up to seven years.

  • Does renting or leasing a home affect a credit score in any way?
    Yes, because your rental payment history is now part of your standard credit report, it may be incorporated into certain credit scores, such as VantageScore® and FICO® Scores .

    This will allow many who previously didn't have a credit history to become scoreable for the first time and begin building and rebuilding credit through the responsible payment of rent.

  • Do inquiries affect a credit score?
    Inquiries placed on your credit report when you apply for new credit can impact your credit score. However, inquiries have a relatively small impact on your credit score. In a credit scoring model, there are stronger indicators of future payment performance, such as past payment history and use of credit. Inquiries are rarely, if ever, the only reason for poor credit scores. They become significant only if there are other issues already lowering your score, such as late payments or very high debt.

  • Does every inquiry affect a credit score?
    Anytime your credit report is pulled—including when you order a copy of your credit report directly from the credit reporting agency—an inquiry is added to your report. Inquiries made when you applied for credit cards or loans, called hard inquiries, are counted in a credit score. Inquiries made by companies making promotional offers of credit or your lender conducting periodic reviews of your existing credit accounts, called soft inquiries, do not affect your credit scores. Soft inquiries also occur when you check your own credit report or when you use credit monitoring services from companies like Experian.

    When you request your credit report directly from Experian, it shows you all inquiries. This is done so you know who has been looking at your credit. Some inquiries on your report are accompanied by a description of why the report was pulled.

How does my Credit Score affect my ability to get credit?

  • Can I use a credit score as leverage for a lower interest rate when seeking a loan or line of credit?
    It is never a bad idea to work with issuers and lenders to reduce your interest rate. You definitely have more leverage if a credit score puts you in the low-risk range. However, because there are many different credit scores, the model used to calculate the score you obtain, and the score itself, may be different than the one the lender uses in making its decision. For instance, you may get a generic credit risk score from Experian, but an auto lender might use its own custom scoring model with a different scale. Consequently, the numbers won't be the same but will likely represent a similar level of risk.

  • Who or what decides if I get my loan?
    Banks, credit card companies, auto dealers, retail stores and other lenders decide if you get your loan. Most businesses that issue credit or loans use credit scores to quickly summarize a consumer's credit history, saving the need to manually review an applicant's credit report and providing a better, faster decision. Although many additional factors are used in determining whether or not you receive the credit you applied for — such as an applicant's income versus the size of the loan — a credit score is a leading indicator of one's basic creditworthiness. Credit reporting agencies do not make lending decisions.

How Good Is Your Credit Score?

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