Credit Bureau Files: The Truth is Out There

Do you know every detail of your credit history? The credit bureaus do. But don’t panic, credit bureaus don’t just collect the bad, but also your positive credit history too. Here’s what you need to know:

“If you sign up for one of our credit cards, you can get 10% off today’s purchase. Interested?” Remember those cool cargo shorts you bought at Gap your freshman year? Good, neither does anyone else. But if you’ve ever opened up a retail store credit card for that quick, instant discount, and then forgotten about it as soon as you left the store, that unpaid purchase could haunt you for up to seven years. Why? Because of the credit bureaus.

So what is a Credit Bureau and why should we care?

A credit bureau is a company that collects and organizes credit information and payment behavior and reports it to creditors like banks, lenders and other organizations. So if you bought those cargo shorts and then forgot to pay the balance on your card, that negative information—or black mark on your credit history—gets collected by a credit bureau and reported.1

This can impact you directly in ways like higher interest rates and lower credit limits. (And it can get so much worse: If you have bad credit, you’re more likely to fall victim to companies marketing bad credit loans and no credit check loans—often dangerous and predatory financial products designed to trap you in debt. You can learn more about predatory lenders in our OppLoans ebook “How to Protect Yourself from Payday Loans and Predatory Lenders“.)

The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These are for-profit, private corporations cast a wide net (going back as far as seven years into your financial history), looking for information about your purchasing and repayment behavior, constantly asking questions like: do you make your payments on time, do you make your payments at all, have you ever experienced a bankruptcy or negative judgement?

Once they’ve compiled all of this data, they analyze it and produce a credit report. The free credit reports you get often do not include your score, but the ones you get from your bank, credit card company, or the ones you pay for most frequently do include the score. You can learn more about what type of information is included in your credit report here in this Experian post.

The credit report is then sold to third parties like, say, a landlord. The landlord wants to check your credit because he wants to know if you’re responsible with your payments. If you have a history of paying your bills on time and not exceeding your credit limits, then you are a lower risk candidate and more likely to get that sweet apartment with a roof and everything.

This whole business with the credit bureaus sounds kind of impersonal and judgy, doesn’t it? It is. To the credit bureaus, consumers are really just a sum of positive and negative payment histories that equal either high or low risk individuals.

But if the process is so impersonal, isn’t it possible that there are inaccuracies in my credit report? Absolutely. What’s more, credit information can differ between the credit bureaus: information reflected by one company’s report can vary from another’s. It’s important to check your credit reports annually so you can spot fraud and errors faster.

It might all sound like doom and gloom, but remember, positive paying information gets reported too. The best way to improve information on your credit report is through regular, positive payment behavior. If you take out a loan, make sure you can afford the payments  and then repay them on time. Don’t panic, you can always overcome a negative credit history with positive paying behavior. Learn more in The Journey to Turn Your Credit Around.

OppLoans can help you with affordable and strategic installment loans. OppLoans reports your payments to the credit bureaus and offers credit education to help you repair and improve your credit. Click below to get started today!

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Works Cited:

1 “Credit Bureau.” Investopedia.com http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/creditbureau.asp. Accessed September 11, 2017.